By Tim Falk
Published: 03/11/2022, edited: 03/11/2022
The only thing better than eating out at a nice restaurant is eating out at a nice restaurant with your dog. Taking your doggo for a dinner date is not only a lot of fun, but it’s also a great way to spoil your deserving fur-baby and spend some quality bonding time together.
But dining with a dog isn’t as simple as just showing up to your favorite eatery with your pooch in tow. Instead, you and your pup will need to do a little prep work to ensure that your restaurant rendezvous goes off without a hitch. From following dog-friendly restaurant policies to observing the proper etiquette for canine diners, here’s how to make your doggy dinner date a success from start to finish.
From Chicago and New York City to Seattle and San Francisco, there are “pawsome” dog-friendly dining spots to be found right around the country.
The exact rules that apply to dog-friendly restaurants can vary from state to state and from one restaurant to the next. However, as a general rule, only service dogs are allowed inside at most venues; your doggo will typically only be permitted on the restaurant’s patio or in other outdoor areas.
Pets need to be leashed and well-behaved, with excessive barking or any sort of aggressive behavior simply not tolerated. You must also never leave your pooch unattended at any time.
Before dining with your dog, research just how pet-friendly a restaurant actually is. For example, some restaurants will merely accept pets in their outdoor areas, but others welcome pups with open arms by offering doggy water bowls, treats, and even special canine menu items.
Research is also important from a practical point of view. Let’s say you plan on dining alone with your dog. If the only bathrooms in the restaurant are indoors, which means they’re off-limits to your pup, what will you do if nature calls mid-meal?
A little basic preparation is vital to avoid any of these unexpected pitfalls, so phone ahead or maybe even do a "dry run" without your dog to find out if a restaurant is suitable for dog-friendly dining.
If you’re visiting a dog-friendly restaurant, it’s essential that your fur-baby’s manners are impeccable. Remember, being allowed to dine out with your dog isn’t something we should take for granted, so a little common courtesy will go a long way toward ensuring that your fur-baby (and other pet parents and pups) continue to be welcome in restaurants.
Some of the dog restaurant etiquette tips below are basic common sense, but all are worth remembering for a successful dog-friendly dining experience.
Find a quiet spot
A restaurant can be a stimulating environment with a whole lot of distractions for your dog. This can cause too much excitement for your pup, which isn't what you want, so search for a table in a quiet corner away from other diners. Doing so will also ensure that your dog doesn’t get in the way of other diners or servers.
Keep them leashed
No matter how well-trained your dog is and how good they are at staying right by your side, keep them on a leash at all times. It’ll keep your dog and other diners safe, and it’s a rule in pretty much every dog-friendly restaurant anyway. Another bonus tip: don’t tie their leash to furniture — this is a recipe for disaster if your dog decides to make a run for it.
Don’t let them beg
You might think your pup is simply adorable when they beg for food, but other customers might not feel the same way. Training your dog so they understand that begging won’t get them what they want will help ensure that they’re on their best behavior in a restaurant setting.
Keep them off the furniture
Don’t invite your dog to sit on your lap or in a chair next to you. Not only might this be against the restaurant’s pet policy, it will also put your pup within easy reach of food on the table.
Prevent repetitive barking
Repetitive barking is a sure-fire way to annoy other customers and staff may even ask you to leave the restaurant. You might be wondering, "How do I get my dog to stop barking at restaurants?" Check out our stop barking guide for a detailed breakdown of the steps you can follow.
Be considerate of other customers
A little bit of common courtesy goes a long way in any social situation. So make sure your dog doesn’t jump on people or be a nuisance to other customers, and make sure your pup doesn’t get in the way or inconvenience anyone. If you can show that you’re a responsible pet parent, you and your pup will be welcome to dine again anytime.
Finally, it’s also important to know when it’s time to cut your losses. If your dog isn’t in the mood to sit quietly or if something about your dog-friendly dining experience isn’t going to plan, don’t try to force things. Instead of sticking around for dessert, call it an early night and try again another time.
Being a polite and well-behaved restaurant customer isn’t something dogs automatically know how to do. In fact, staying calm and relaxed in such an exciting and distracting environment is a difficult skill to master, so training your dog will take time. Here are some simple tips to help your pup learn excellent table manners.
Work on essential training commands
Your dog will need to be able to reliably perform a few basic commands before you can even think about taking them to a restaurant. "Sit", "stay", and "lie down" are all musts, while "leave it" will ensure that your fur-baby doesn’t eat something they shouldn’t. Of course, they’ll need to be able to respond to these commands even when there are a lot of distractions going on around them.
Feed them first
A hungry dog sits on a restaurant patio surrounded by delicious-smelling food — what could possibly go wrong? To minimize temptation, feed your dog before you head to the restaurant. A full stomach will reduce the risk of them trying to steal your food, or someone else’s.
Tire them out before you go
The old saying that a tired dog is a good dog applies here. Treat your dog to a nice long walk, play time, or a training session before heading to the restaurant. This should make them much more likely to lie quietly at your feet while you enjoy a relaxing meal.
Bring distractions (and snacks)
Don’t let your dog become bored at the restaurant. Take along a favorite chew toy as a distraction, or maybe a snack or food-stuffed puzzle toy to keep them occupied.
Keep a close eye on your dog at all times. While they might be dozing peacefully at your feet, if a waiter comes past with a tasty steak or a couple of excited kids from a nearby table race by, your dog could be up and on the move before you know it.
Even with perfect preparation for your doggo dinner date, everything might not go according to plan. When your dog is in a new environment interacting with other people and pets, all manner of mishaps can occur. For example:
Another dog starts barking at your dog. In this scenario, rely on your usual training cues to get your dog to stay calm and seated by your side. You can also talk to the other pet parent about the best solution — for example, maybe taking the 2 dogs outside for a quick meet-and-greet sniff will ensure that their pup settles down and you can both enjoy your meals in peace.
A stranger gives your dog food without asking you first. This shouldn’t happen, but it does. It can be quite a frustrating situation, so try to keep your cool. Thank the person for showing an interest in your pup, but explain to them as politely as possible why it’s not a good idea to feed a stranger’s dog (it could have been prepared with unsafe ingredients, it’ll encourage your dog to go looking for more food, etc.). Hopefully they’ll think twice before doing it again in the future.
A family with noisy kids sits near you and your dog gets agitated. There are plenty of people out there who’d be much happier sharing a restaurant with dogs than noisy children, but we’re not going to start that argument today. The family has as much right to be there as you do, so sometimes the easiest solution is to ask the staff for a doggy bag and make a hasty exit. Getting your dog away from the uncomfortable situation is usually the best course of action.
Is my dog suited to dining in a restaurant? You’re the only person who can answer this question. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always yes. If your pup can’t sit still for more than a few minutes, or if a restaurant environment is just too exciting or overwhelming for them, you’re better off leaving Rufus at home.
But if they’re a well-mannered pooch with all the right skills to eat out at a dog-friendly restaurant, then yes — you absolutely should take them with you. Your dog will love to join you, and even grabbing a quick bite to eat is so much more special when your fur-baby is by your side.
Just remember that every time you and your dog eat out, you’re representing all pet parents and pups. So do the rest of us proud — follow the simple etiquette tips above and you’ll enhance the reputation of doggy diners everywhere.
Do your dog’s table manners leave a little to be desired? Book a training session with a 5-star trainer on the Wag! app to turn your pup into a delightful doggy diner.
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