A DOG cafe with a twist is taking centre stage for this week's trader of the week.

The Chillin' Dog Cafe, in Consett, focuses on mental health and autism, hosting events like dog walks and therapy nights as well as employing both, to support people who would otherwise struggle to "mingle in society just like everyone else".

Emy Jones, director and founder, opened the cafe after a car accident which restricted her in her existing career as a personal trainer.

With Ms Jones' own dogs, some 'house hounds' and room for customers to bring in their pups too, dogs and owners alike can socialise and grab a bite to eat from either K9 or human menus.

The Northern Echo:

"Dogs have helped me in my own life with my own mental health and recent accident, they kept me going when I wanted to give up," Ms Jones said.

"The ethos of my company has evolved to focus around mental health and disabilities. I have a sensory room, hold therapy nights with a registered therapy dog, and now have a mental health evening too.

"We'll soon also have Dementia Friends training and are looking to secure funding to expand and share this unique environment to more communities."

Ms Jones describes one of her most memorable moments as seeing children with autism feel happy and confident around the dogs.

"The cafe has a special room that has a ‘sensory safe’ environment suitable for autism, young children or anyone that needs a more private space. It has fidget toys, colouring materials, soft toys and cushions and low level lighting if needed," she said.

The Northern Echo:

Another is the cafe's first cafe dog walk, which is a weekly walk, at 10.30am every Sunday for one hour.

"The weekly walk is a local walk for cafe visitors and anyone new that wants to get together for a look out with their pooches - it’s a great way for humans and dogs to socialise," she added.

Every week it switches between an off-road walk and a path walk, the latter to enable wheelchair, scooter and slower-paced customers to get out too.

Plans for the future? The Chillin' Dog Cafe hopes to expand across communities to help people access specialist disability and mental health facilities.

The cafe opens 9.30am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Sunday.

The Northern Echo:

Do you have a North-East business and want to be featured? Tell us about it for our Trader of the Week. Email tasmin.lockwood@newsquest.co.uk