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Shopping With Pets

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yorkie dog in a shopping cart at the store

When you go out to run errands or just shop for fun, it’s always nice when your four-legged best friend can join along for the adventure. Before taking your dog or cat into a store, it’s essential that you are aware of that store’s pet policy.

What Stores Are Pet-Friendly?

Although in a perfect world for pet parents, every store would be pet-friendly, the reality is that each store has its own rules. You may find with large chain stores as well, the rules can vary from one location to the next, so it never hurts to call ahead and double-check that individual store’s policy.

Are you curious which popular stores do and don’t allow pets?

  • Is Lowes pet-friendly? Sometimes. The rules for whether pets are allowed typically vary per location, so you will need to contact your local store beforehand and check to see if your pet is welcome. You may also inquire if they have separate rules about their “Outdoor” department. While your pet may not be allowed in the main indoor area, they may still be OK with your pet staying in the outdoor garden section.
  • Is Kohl’s a dog-friendly store? No. Similar to many clothing stores, Kohl’s does not allow either cats or dogs (of any size) in their stores, except for service animals.
  • Is IKEA pet-friendly? No. IKEA is not a pet-friendly store, so if you’re going on a fun furniture shopping trip, your pet will need to be left at home. Keep in mind IKEA does not make any exceptions for emotional support animals, but service animals are welcome.
  • Is Walmart a pet-friendly store? No. Walmart is not a pet-friendly store, and neither is practically any store that sells groceries. Not allowing pets in grocery stores is not only a store-bound rule, but there are often state and local laws that prohibit animals from entering these types of stores. Since food is being handled, made, and stored, an animal in the store could pose a problem with sanitation. Of course, all grocery stores will still have exceptions for service animals.
  • Is Home Depot pet-friendly? Yes. Similar to many hardware stores, Home Depot welcomes pets. Whether you are visiting a big chain hardware store or a smaller local hardware store, call ahead to check their pet rules—you may be surprised how many are pet-friendly.
  • Are pets allowed in Costco? No. Even though Costco does not resemble a traditional grocery store and the warehouse setup may seem similar to a Lowes or Home Depot, Costco still sells food, so animals are not welcome.
  • Is Bed Bath & Beyond a pet-friendly store? Yes. Next time you go shopping for some new bedroom, bathroom, or beyond items, bring your pal along for the journey. Just don’t forget to do a quick call ahead with the specific store you will be visiting to double-check that pets are still allowed.
  • Are pets allowed in Target? No. Coming as unfortunate news to those that frequent Target’s aisles, this is not a pet-friendly store. Though, of course, Target still cares about the well-being of your best pal. Although your dog or cat may not be able to join you for a shopping trip, you can still do some shopping for your pet while you’re at Target.

Other pet-friendly stores include Petco, PetSmart, Tractor Supply Co., Bass Pro Shops, The Apple Store, Orvis, and Michael’s.

Though the number of stores that are now pet-friendly continues to increase, many stores still do not allow pets. It can be tempting to take your little dog along with you, especially because they can easily be carried or fit in a bag, but it is best to respect each store policy and follow their established rules. Remember, just because a store does not allow pets inside doesn’t mean they don’t care about our four-legged companions.

For instance, grocery stores and restaurants don’t allow animals simply because of sanitation and health reasons. Even at that, restaurants with outdoor dining options often welcome pets in a designated area. Some will even provide bowls of water or a little treat for your pal.

When looking at which stores are dog-friendly, it can additionally be helpful to check if any of these stores are in a mall. Though the individual store you may want to visit welcomes pets, the mall itself may not, which means you will need to find and use the outdoor entrance, or you may not be able to take your pal at all.

Cat-Friendly Stores

Your feline friend will also need to leave the house to run some necessary errands from time to time. When transporting your cat, it’s essential that you have a secure, appropriately sized carrier for them. For instance, if you are the proud parent of a Maine Coon cat, you may need to purchase a larger carrier than usual.

Your cat may be utterly unbothered by riding in the car and being in new environments, but this can be a stressful process for many cats. A great way to limit their anxiety is to leave their carrier in an easily accessible location, allowing them to enter and exit it whenever they please. By becoming more comfortable with it, they won’t be as prone to only associating their carrier with a veterinary visit.

Whenever it does come time to take your cat to their veterinarian, you can try bringing along a blanket in their carrier for comfort or some treats or food. If your cat is more anxious around other cats or dogs, you can always call your veterinarian’s office beforehand to see if there are many other animals in the waiting room. Your office may also allow you to wait in your car until your appointment time.

Depending upon your cat’s grooming needs, you may also need to take them to their groomers from time to time. Whether your groomer is located in their own facility or located inside a pet store, it is still recommended that you bring your cat in their carrier, especially since there are good odds you will be passing by dogs.

podenco dog waiting by the door to go out

Before Going to the Store

Ahead of taking your pal to the store, take some time to evaluate whether your pet is ready for this new experience. Here are five easy steps to check off before heading out.

  1. Is your pet OK with crowds? Although socialization is highly encouraged for pets, some do not enjoy being in new environments with new people. Your dog should be OK with other adults, children, or dogs approaching them. While at the store, stay alert to your pet’s body language.

    If you notice them become more withdrawn from people, anxious, or even showing signs of aggression, that means it’s time to call it a day and head home. A great compromise is to head to the store when they are least busy.

  2. Is your pet ready for this new experience? For instance, if they are younger, it’s essential that they are all up to date on necessary vaccinations, are house-trained, and leash trained. If you have a young puppy that is still consistently having accidents indoors, or if you have a large dog that pulls horribly on their leash, you may need to give it a little more time before taking them into public places.
  3. Grab the essentials. One way to help any outing be more successful is to be prepared with any necessary items. Bringing along treats or a small bag of food is a wonderful way to reward your pet when they are behaving correctly, and it’s a great way to keep them focused in a busy store. You will also want to bring some fresh drinking water and a bowl.

    Although these can be kept in your car, your pet may need a quick refreshment between stores. You will also need to make sure that you have the proper leash, collar, and harness for your pal because even the most pet-friendly stores all have strict leash policies. Last but not least, don’t forget to throw in a few poop bags.

  4. Be patient with your pal. Particularly if your four-legged friend is not used to going on too many outings, this will be a new and exciting experience. This means that they take a little longer to use the potty before heading into the store. Even once you’re inside, they may want to stop and smell everything.

    If you have a more sociable pet, then chances are they will also want to greet everyone they see, or people may approach you asking to meet your best bud. In other words, if you want a speedy and efficient run to the store, it may be best to leave your friend at home.

  5. Call ahead and check the pet policy. With the exception of pet stores, it is always recommended that you call ahead and check your store’s pet policy. Even with large chain stores, the rules can vary from one to another.

    It’s always best to play it safe rather than travel to the store and be stuck having to turn around and head back home. Plus, by double-checking the rules ahead of time, you will already be prepared for your next outing with your pet.

Remember, even if you think a store should allow pets, it’s always best to respect the store’s rules concerning pets.

Also, even by being an extra prepared pet parent, sometimes accidents can still happen. However, if you’re in a pet-friendly store, then chances are they have already seen it all and have had other pets have accidents. If you do not have the necessary supplies readily available to clean up any messes, simply find an employee and explain the situation.

Some pets can be sneaky and try to take merchandise off the shelves when your head is turned. Be mindful if your dog chomps down on anything or jumps up on any displays. You may be heading home with some new toys or treats if your pup damages any items.

Store Exceptions: Service Animals

While not every store is pet-friendly, they all legally allow service animals. The American Disabilities Act (ADA) defines services animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.”

Although there are many laws protecting service animals and the rights of their owners (service animals are not considered pets), these laws do not apply to emotion support animals (ESAs). ESAs are differentiated from service animals because they’re not trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities. ESAs are also varied because they can include various types of animals, including some exotic ones, and regular pets can become registered as ESAs.

No matter whether you see a service dog in a non-pet-friendly store or a pet-friendly store, it’s crucial that you do not pet or allow your dog to approach them. When these canines are out in public with their owners, they are working.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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