How to Socialize for the Dog Park

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By Michelle Mullins, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP

1Dog parks can be a wonderful place to allow your dog to play and explore off-leash in a safe environment. Once you have established the few important things below, you will be ready to begin socializing your dog to the environment at the dog park.

 

 

  • Your dog has all the appropriate immunizations. Check with your veterinarian.
  • Your dog is usually friendly around other animals. If your dog is shy, reactive or hasn’t been around other dogs you should consider a less overwhelming environment like a training class before checking out the dog park.
  • You are prepared to supervise and interact with your dog at all times while at the park. The dog park is the place to be focused on your dog, not on your cell phone.
  • Your dog has a good recall (come when called,) not just at home, so practice this before heading out anywhere your dog will be off-leash.

What is socialization and why is it important?

So you have determined your dog is a good candidate for the dog park environment and you are prepared to be a great dog park parent. Great, now let’s define socialization.

2Socialization is introducing the dog to novel environments, experiences, objects and others (be it dogs, men, women, children) AND making the introductions enjoyable and as stress free as possible so the dog develops good associations.

We often think of socialization for puppies as it is very important to their development into normal adult dogs. Well-socialized puppies develop far fewer behavior issues. Adult dogs can be socialized to new things with the same process. The important part is to keep the introductions slow and ensure the dog is enjoying the experience. If the dog begins to show signs of stress, anxiety, fear or reactivity slow down, pull back and return to an earlier point in the introduction.

The dog park is not just one thing. It is a new environment filled with new dogs, people, objects, smells, sounds and experiences. The best you can do for your dog is to scope out any dog parks in your area before bringing your dog along. Check the park out at times you are most likely to go. Things to look for:

Park Facilities and Management

  • Does the park have posted safety and conduct rules? Make note of these and whether those using the park are actually following the rules.
  • Does the park have separate areas for small dogs and larger dogs? While this doesn’t ensure safe dog-dog interactions it is definitely a good start.
  • Is the park well kept? It’s a dog park so there will be some dirt but the grass and other areas should be maintained, the fence should be secure, there should be waste stations and secure trash receptacles.
  • Does the park have any equipment or obstacles for agility or play? These should be well-maintained, low to the ground and easy to ensure the safety of all the dogs. Dogs not trained for these things can be injured.
  • Who manages the park? It could be the city, a private group or even volunteers. Check out any resources they have online.

People and Dogs

  • Are the pet parents supervising and interacting with their pets? If they are spending more time chatting with each other and texting they are not going to be able to control their dog if play gets too rambunctious. They should be monitoring their dog at all times.
  • Do all the dogs rush the gate when a new dog is entering? The pet parents should be encouraging their dogs to stay clear so others can enter safely.
  • Does the dog play look friendly? Dogs who are playing are loose, wiggly and bouncy.

Once you have found a good dog park, plan a short first trip. You may not even go inside the park the first time. Pick a time when the park is not too busy. Early mornings are usually good. Evenings and after 9 am on the weekends are usually swamped. Start by walking your dog on- leash outside of the park and let him check out all the sights, sounds and smells. If he approaches the fence calmly and looks happy to be there, feed him some treats. Careful with the treats as it’s safest not to take a bunch of treats into the park as some dogs may mob you or display guarding around the treats. Practice a few behaviors like sit or down. Practice approaching the gate calmly. If it is going well, take your dog in for quick off-leash lap around the inside of the park. Walk around with your dog. Talk to him, play and have fun. The dog park should always be fun for you and more importantly your dog. If at any time your dog seems, uncomfortable in the park or with any of the dogs or people you should leave. Even if it is going well, keep this first visit short, no more than 20 minutes. Next time you can plan to stay a little longer if your dog is enjoying himself.

As your dog interacts with the other dogs at the park pay close attention to the dogs he enjoys playing with and which ones he ignores, or runs away from. Just like we don’t like everyone we meet, your dog won’t like every dog he meets. Introduce yourself to the pet parents of the dogs your dog likes to engage with and find out when they visit the park. It’s a great way to ensure your dog has a good time and make some new friends. The best dog parks have a community of pet parents who are regulars and help watch out for each other’s dogs.

Every time you visit the dog park do a quick check before you go in the gate. Note any dogs, people, objects and sounds that may be new to your dog. Each trip will have a different set of variables and may present a socialization opportunity. Keep each interaction positive for your dog. Be prepared to leave or play away from some dogs if the situation is uncomfortable for your dog. With proper socialization your dog should become happy to play at the park with other well socialized dogs. That doesn’t mean he will get along with every dog especially if the other dog doesn’t have the best doggie manners. Not every dog enjoys the dog park and that’s OK. There are plenty of other options like agility, tricks, hiking, etc. that you can do with your dog.

While it’s great to practice some basic behaviors at the dog park, away from other dogs, and this can help build your dog’s confidence, I don’t recommend training new behaviors in midst of all the other dogs. Asking your dog to sit and stay while all the other dogs are sniffing his butt and in his face can be overwhelming and scary for any dog. If you need to get in some off-leash training head to the park very early and do it before everyone else starts arriving.

So take it slow, observe your dog’s comfort level and have fun!

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Get Humble. Adopt a Shelter Cat.

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By Jim Tedford, Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives and Alliance

cat-150x150First…the disclaimer…at the present time I do not share my home with a cat. Wow. It sure felt good to get that off my chest.

Now…the back pedaling commences…I love cats. I really do. I got my first cat when I was six-years old. I just don’t happen to have one at the moment. We lost our last kitty at the ripe old age of 20. She was adopted from a Tennessee shelter when she was almost too tiny to climb into the litterbox on her own. My youngest daughter, who was also quite tiny at the time, chose her from the crowd in the cat room. That same daughter now has a baby of her own. Chloe was there through it all…three teenagers and several cross-country moves.

But, I digress…the reason I have no cat presently stems largely from the fact that two out of three dogs currently living with me are quite predatory. They feel it’s their responsibility to chase any small, furry thing that moves fast. A mountain lion may survive in my house, but I’m not liking the odds for the average Felis catus!

So, back to my roots as a cat lover. When I was six, my mom answered a free-to-good-home ad. When we went to see the kittens they were being proudly displayed to potential adopters – in a trash can. I have often wondered if that experience, that image seared into my six-year-old psyche nearly 50 years ago, is one of the factors that steered me to a life in the field of animal sheltering. That kitty lasted a long time…her ninth life came to a close during my sophomore year in college.

feral catIf you are considering adding a feline to your household (and, why wouldn’t you be considering that?), please visit your local animal shelter immediately. Did you know June is national Adopt a Shelter Cat Month?

Why should you adopt from a shelter? I’m so pleased that you asked! Here are my top 3 reasons to adopt a cat from your local shelter:

1)      SAVE a LIFE! And, I don’t mean that in a theoretical sense. That statement is meant to be taken literally. Even in communities where shelters have a near 100% success rate at placing healthy, behaviorally sound dogs, most still struggle with the cat numbers. There are lots of reasons for that, but the most significant may be the amazing rate at which cats reproduce. They are extremely resourceful and most manage to find ample food on the streets and safe shelter from the elements and other worldly dangers. And, they are very efficient at reproduction, often bringing two or more litters into the world annually. This brings me to my second point…

2)      SPAY or NEUTER ALL CATS! If you adopt from a shelter that is a guarantee. Nearly all shelters these days ensure that all pets are spayed or neutered before they are released to new homes. But, even if you end up choosing another source, please make sure to have this life-saving surgery performed ASAP! In the sheltering world we have a “technical” term we use often…the “OOPS” Factor. “Oops…Fluffy got out of the house just once and now she’s pregnant!” At the risk of lapsing into a basic biology lecture here, it only takes ONCE.

3)      ENRICH YOUR OWN LIFE! Cats are amazing companions who will in one moment entertain you like crazy and in the same moment teach you a lesson in humility. Dogs are awesome, but sometimes it pays to have a pet who will remind you that you are not a supreme being and who will completely ignore you when you call her.

Hopefully by now you are convinced that a kitty would make a fantastic addition to your family and you are on your way out the door to make a trip to your local animal shelter to look for a love match. Heck, I’m thinking about it myself. I bet the shelter has one of those tough cats that would simply stare at my dogs with that “I dare you” look. Maybe a cat is exactly what those haughty canines need to take them down a peg. If I don’t want to have their gourmet meal prepared promptly at 6 I shouldn’t have to, right? Never mind. I don’t want to have to sleep with one eye open for the rest of my life!

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Bark For What You Love

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PetSafe-Concord-Dog-Park_-Photo-Credit-Patrick-Mahaney-VMD-CVA-at-www_PatrickMahaney_com_By Robin Rhea, Senior Brand Manager

2014 marks our 4th Bark For Your Park contest. It was only 4 years ago that we sat around a conference table, with dogs in laps, wondering if we offered communities the opportunity to compete to win funds to build dog parks, if anyone would bother…barking.

Much to our pleasant surprise, communities across the US were just as passionate about dog parks as the PetSafe® Brand employees. Just as our dogs have always helped us connect with each other, the pursuit of a dog park has the exact same effect on community members. More and more dog-loving communities have found a common goal with their fellow pet lovers through the process of participating in the contest. Whether a community completes a dog park with help from the Bark For Your Park contest, or the contest simply gives cities a way to gauge their local commitment to a park and they complete the park on their own, more dogs are enjoying parks and each other.

We often speak of the benefits of dog parks to a community; fewer owner surrenders, lower euthanasia rates, lower crime, increased tourism, more green space and a better quality of life for the whole community. However, the ultimate benefit that communities take from building a dog park or joining in the Bark For Your Park contest is the positive energy that comes from doing something good for your community. It is literally contagious.

Each of us has a choice every day if we are going to add to our community in a positive way or not. Bark For Your Park is just one way that you can positively impact your community with two simple votes. The energy that comes from inspiring a neighborhood to win a dog park continues well after your dogs have worn down the grass in your dog park. While communities are taking the best care of our dogs and making great use of their green space, we are also learning how to care better for ourselves and each other. As we do this, the wonderful waves of positivity will only serve to help us see what else we can do for the betterment of everyone – in and outside of the dog park.

When we commit ourselves to being great pet parents, we are saying to our pets “I promise to pet you for the rest of your life.” It’s not too much to ask for us to promise to love our community for as long as we have the privilege to be a part of it too. We have the ability to duplicate this energy, and with it, change the world. We never cease to be amazed at how many passionate citizens are committed to making life the best it can be for their community and their pets. When we hear you Bark for Your Park, we know it comes from the heart. We also know that a community that loves its dogs enough to go after a dog park will always be an inspiration to keeping on barking for what we love the most.

If you haven’t nominated your city to win a dog park, what are you waiting for?

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How a Remote Trainer Helped My Dog

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By Jessica Medlin, Marketing Research Specialist

Emmitt2When my dog, Emmitt, was named, we thought we just named him after a legendary football player. Well, this football player was a top-notch runner… so we quickly found out that Emmitt was the same – a top-notch runner, and a very stubborn one.

Don’t get me wrong…he was and still is trainable. With the help of Lickety Stik®, he picked up “sit” on my 15-minute lunch break when he was about 6 months old. A few weeks later, we taught him “lay down.” A few weeks after that, he picked up “stay” in one evening. He learned all 3 commands within about 2 months. There was just one obstacle – he was untrainable to recall. The dog ran. He’s the shorter, more furry version of Forrest Gump…with an under bite. He just. Kept. Running. We got an Elite Little Dog Remote Trainer and tried training him with the remote trainer, using a few different approaches. Yeah…he still just. Kept. Running. So, I gave up.

emm at workAt work, he constantly whined and played the damsel in distress card and the other dogs came running to play. Body slamming and growling, like that sound Chewbacca makes, were his specialties. Try being in a meeting and having yet another weak moment and letting him off leash, only to have been duped by his good looks and charm, then immediately regretting it when he starts running laps around the meeting room table.  He was NEVER allowed off-leash in public, at the park, at the home of friends or family, outside OR inside at work. I had come to terms that he was going to be “that dog” and I’d just constantly be embarrassed by his behavior.

Until the day he ran out our front door, about one year old, and ran for the super busy road we live on. My boyfriend and I sprinted after him, screaming at him at the top of our lungs. It was like a game to him. Finally, Emmitt got close enough for his dad to dive after him, catching him by the tail. Crisis averted.

That was the day his remote trainer came out of retirement. At this point, he was a little older – about 1 year old. It was a completely different experience than when we initially tried the remote trainer. It took a few weeks, but he became trained with the help of the Elite Little Dog Remote Trainer. Don’t stop believing’, people! Emmitt is now about 2.5 years old and is [mostly] an angel at work.

Emmitt1For over a year now, he’s been going to work with me once or twice per week and has been able to be in the building wearing his remote trainer, free of a leash. He wanders off every now and then, but doesn’t go far and all I have to do is press the “tone” button on the remote and he comes back right away. He runs and plays with other dogs in the office, but the moment he gets loud or starts body slamming dogs, I press “tone” and he immediately comes to me. He also allowed off-leash outside at the office. Not kidding (I must get this on video so people will believe me) – when I get to work and park the car, I then turn on his remote trainer and hold it in front of him and he leans into it, basically putting it on himself, because he KNOWS he gets to be free from his 6-foot leash. To this day, people STILL see us at work and say in amazement “gosh, he’s such a different dog now, he’s so good!”

We owe it all to patience, persistence and the Elite Little Dog Remote Trainer. The Elite Little Dog Remote Trainer has changed our lives and dog’s life for the better, and probably the lives of all my coworkers and joggers at the park, too. Slightly unruly or highly unruly, I highly recommend trying a remote trainer for your dog, and your sanity.

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Why You Need a Dog Park

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By Jessie McDowell, Content Marketing Specialist

PlansThe dog park seems to be my go-to place to fill time or to procrastinate tasks I don’t really want to do (i.e. cleaning, dishes or anything house work). Who can fault you for taking your dog to play and socialize with friends? It is the perfect excuse. This may not be the use a dog park was first intended for, but neither are the other 6 benefits that come to mind when I think of a dog park!

1. Tire your dog out before a big trip

sleepBefore every pet-friendly road trip, there is a long trip to the dog park. I have had enough of the 15 licks to the ear and the puddle of drool on my arm that I have to endure on a simple trip to visit my parents. Why my pup wants to breathe right in my face for 6 hours, I will never understand. I much prefer the adorable sleepy puppy that barely moves, tired from a great day playing with friends.

2. Meeting other people who are just as obsessed with their dog as you are

It’s weird, as soon as you step foot in a dog park, baby voices are accepted, everyone speaks like they know what their dog is thinking and cute dog stories are a dime a dozen. Fellow dog lover, you have found where you belong. The dog park is the mother ship for us freaks that genuinely enjoy seeing our dog have a good time and run free.

3. Feeling like you got exercise, even if you were just watching your dog runrun

I might be the queen of this tactic. Watching your dog run tricks your mind into thinking you had a workout as well. Though most of the time you were just standing there, you did have to throw the ball a couple times, and I consider that a workout.

 

4. Finding ways to feel your dog is superior to everyone else’s dog

Being a proud pet parent is one of the best feelings ever. When you see a rowdy puppy going berserk around the park and your dog is sweetly playing, “good dog,” smugness comes over you. The idea of “Ha, my dog would never do that,” lets you leave the park with a new-found pride in your awesome dog and even more awesome training skills.

little dog5. Your dog will be able to deal with unfamiliar situations

I love to take my dog everywhere with me. I don’t want to have to wonder how he is going to react when he sees an elderly man, a child, a Great Dane or Chihuahua. At the dog park, you are in a controlled situation, and you can introduce your dog to unfamiliar people and situations. If you start your dog young, they’ll only embarrass you once by running away from a Yorkie (true story).

6. Your dog loves it

Really this is the only reason you need to understand the benefits of a dog park. As pet parents, we love to see our dogs happy. That’s just how it is. If a park makes your dog have slobbery smiles like this: it’s the best place in the world.

mooseDid you know you could win a dog park for your community? Join us for the 2014 Bark for Your Park contest, and vote for your community to win $100,000 for a dog park!

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The World According to Cooper

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By Stacie Greene, PetSafe Supply Chain Specialist

Terror in the Garage

CooperI have a story to share with all of you out there that read my blog. I recently had one of the scariest mornings of my life. I mean it was horrible and has taken me a couple of weeks to try and put it behind me. Here is my story:

It started off like any other weekday. The only difference was that it was raining, but other than that it was business as usual getting ready to come to work with mom. I was wasting time outside getting wet and so was mom. That kind of makes her mad, so I took extra time. I got back in the house and got dried off and harnessed up and was ready to go. Mom, however, looked like she had stood in the shower with her clothes on. We headed out to the garage. We have a breezeway between our house and the garage. There are 3 steps that go down into the garage. Here is where the terror began.

Mom opened the door, she had a lot of stuff she was carrying and I was already down at the bottom of the steps. I turned around to look at her hoping she would hurry because I couldn’t wait to get to work, and then it happened. My mom somehow missed all 3 steps. She actually took flight off the top step. Her flight didn’t last long because she came down with a huge crash to the garage floor. I was frozen with fear, absolutely frozen. She yelled and then “THUD.” The sight of my mother laying on the floor was terrifying enough, but then something else happened.

My mom always puts me on my retractable leash when we leave the house in the morning. As she was on the floor in a heap in the garage she accidentally let go of the leash. It started chasing me all over the garage and mom was not able to save me from it. It was horrible. It took a long time for her to finally get up and help me. She found me paralyzed with fear with this blue plastic thing sitting close by watching me. I couldn’t move and mom was limping badly. Then she started laughing, almost uncontrollably. That scared me too, cause I thought she had completely lost it!

Mom is getting better now. I am better too. It’s been a long 3 weeks and I still have nightmares about that thing chasing me in the garage. I just had to share my story.

Talk to you soon!

Cooper

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BlogPaws 2014

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By Sarah Folmar, Brand Communications Specialist

Setting up the booth was fun!

Setting up the booth was fun!

The PetSafe® Brand team members were excited to be a part of this exciting event again this year! BlogPaws is a conference attended by pet bloggers, writers and media professionals in the pet industry. Our team went to talk about our incredible brand, and to meet the great people in the pet industry!

The night before BlogPaws launched, the PetSafe team had a chance to officially launch the 2014 Bark for Your Park contest from the beautiful Lake Las Vegas. Our group did a live broadcast at 7 p.m. EST, and we were all so happy to get to launch such a fun contest. Are you barking for your park right now? You have until June 7th to nominate your city, upload your land verification and get as many barks (votes) as possible! The 15 finalist communities will be announced June 13th, and then the official Bark for Your Park 2014 contest winners will be announced on August 7th.

Now back to BlogPaws…

Cardiff belongs to our guest blogger, Dr. Patrick Mahaney!

Cardiff belongs to our guest blogger, Dr. Patrick Mahaney!

From May 8th through May 10th we got to show conference attendees and pet lovers so many of our great products. Our SocialPet™ system got a lot of interest, as this is a really cool way to check on your pets when you are not at home. The bloggers loved the fact that you could give their pets a treat, and that they could set it up for their friends and family to also give treats through our Facebook app. They also loved the Train ‘n Praise™ Treat Dispensing system that can help with unwanted behaviors from their pets.

We even sponsored a pop-up dog park at the conference! It was so much fun to watch all of the dogs in attendance get to socialize with each other, and to watch the conference goers  enjoy the PetSafe sponsored Yappy Hour. We talked to many people about the benefits of a dog park in a community, and it was such a great feeling to know that our brand has been making such a difference in the lives of pets and pet owners. We handed out some pretty adorable Bark for Your Park towels, Lickety Stik® treats and some of our newest indigo™ line of made in the USA treats.

Bow TieMy favorite part of the conference was getting to know the writers and pet bloggers better. So many people shared stories of why they chose to enter this field, and knowing that there are good-hearted people out there makes such a difference. It was nice to be surrounded by people who adore their pets. Some even dressed their dapper doggies up for the closing night awards ceremony.

If you are a writer or blogger in the pet industry, BlogPaws is a great place to meet others in the field, learn about new and upcoming trends and to learn about great brands like PetSafe. Oh, and you may even run into a Capybara…

ROUS

 

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Dog Restaurant Etiquette

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By Roslyn McKenna, PetSafe Web Content Specialist

Spring is here, which means it’s time for more hikes, walks, and swimming. My dog Doc loves going on outdoor excursions with me, especially when he gets to explore new places. I’ve worked on training and socializing him quite a bit, and now he’s well behaved enough to join me for an occasional lunch or dinner at a pet-friendly restaurant. Many restaurants across the country welcome dogs on their patios and rooftop gardens. As part of the initiative to make Knoxville the most pet-friendly community, there are lots of restaurants for us to choose from.

Now’s the perfect time to start bringing your dog to a restaurant too. Follow these tips for taking your dog to a dog-friendly restaurant this summer.

1  Training Preparation

- Practice your dog’s commands. Your dog should reliably respond to commands including Sit, Down, Stay, Leave It, and Come. Do some training at a dog park, which will have similar distractions as a restaurant.

- Exercise your dog. A tired dog is a good dog! Take a walk or play fetch until your pooch is dog tired. Get your dog to do his business before you arrive at the restaurant, and bring a spare poop bag just in case.

- Feed your dog. Your pup might beg or try to get your food if he’s hungry and everyone around him is eating.

- Bring a portable water bowl. Many dog-friendly restaurants have extra bowls for dogs, but it’s better to be prepared. Slip in a few ice cubes from your drink to keep your dog cool.

- Pack a chew toy or frozen treat. Bring any long-lasting chewy treat or a chew toy your dog can go to town on. A Busy Buddy® Squirrel Dude filled with peanut butter and frozen overnight is the perfect way to keep your dog licking while you’re eating. Frozen dog desserts like Frosty Paws (Doc’s favorite) are also great options.

- Stay up to date on shots and flea meds. Your dog might meet other doggie diners, so make sure your dog has had his monthly flea and tick preventative. It’s also a good idea to make sure your dog’s shots are current.

Location, Location, Location

3- Make sure the restaurant has a dog-friendly patio. Check this list from BringFido.com. You should also call ahead to make sure the restaurant’s policies haven’t changed. Mexican restaurants are a great choice for bringing your dog. They often have free chips, which are great for treating your dog when he’s behaving. Just don’t give him too many chips!

- Pick a less busy time to go. If it’s your dog’s first time at a restaurant, have an early lunch or dinner. You can gauge your dog’s behavior when he won’t have as many people or other dogs to interact with. You’ll also have a better chance at picking a good table when it’s not as crowded.

- Choose a corner seat or table. Keep your dog out of the aisle or waiter’s path. Ask for a corner table if you can so your dog is out of everyone’s way.

- Find a well-shaded patio. Your dog will appreciate the shade of a cool patio on a hot summer day. An outdoor patio without any shade won’t be much fun for you either.

Restaurant Rules

- Tie your dog to your chair with a standard leash. Tying your dog to the table is not a great idea. If you go off to the bathroom, your dog might try to follow you and end up flipping the table over. Most dogs will wander a little bit, so check your dog’s leash regularly and untangle him when needed.

2- Tell your fellow diners your dog’s rules. Does your dog have an allergy? Make sure everyone knows not to feed your dog or drop food on the ground. Are you working on training? Tell people a command to give your dog before giving a treat. High Five, Shake, and Bang (like Play Dead) are always crowd pleasers.

- Keep your dog to yourself. Don’t let him hang out with other dogs or diners, especially ones at other tables, unless they ask to say hi to your dog.

- Don’t overstay your welcome. Your dog is like a baby. If he starts to get noisy and disturbs other people, try to quiet him down. You might have to get a “doggie bag” for your food and leave if he won’t calm down.

- Clean up your dog’s mess. If you give your dog food from your plate and he doesn’t eat it, pick it up before you go. And as cute as it might seem, don’t let your pocket pup get on the table. Some restaurants don’t clean outdoor tables after every party, so you may be leaving muddy paw prints on the table for the next diner.

- Tip your waiter for serving you and your dog. Your waiter will probably bring out a bowl of water for your dog or an extra napkin for that spill your dog caused. Since your server will probably have to accommodate for your dog at least a little bit, you should tip accordingly.

Don’t forget the #1 rule: practice makes perfect. Let’s say your dog starts barking when he sees another dog, or he knocks over a glass or plate. Keep training and working on those social skills. Go to dog parks to get your dog used to strange people and dogs. Practice obedience commands until your dog responds reliably. Bring better treats or more interesting toys to keep your dog occupied. Throw a tennis ball for an hour before you go. Pick a quieter restaurant or a less busy day. Try lots of ways to improve your dog’s behavior, and make sure you reward your dog when you get the behavior you want.

Do you bring your dog to restaurants? What are your training tips for a more enjoyable meal?

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