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Dog Restaurant Etiquette

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 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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Appreciate the suggestions you have here for dogs that take their human friends to dinner.

Sadly, most who bring their dogs to restaurants and cafes make absolutely zero attempt to keep their dogs from barking.

Those dog owners, also don’t care the slightest whether or not their dog is barking at 6 am in the morning, or barking for hours while they are gone.

Me jaded on this issue?  Absolutely.

When I moved into my neighborhood there were just a few dogs on my block, and both with responsible and considerate owners.

Oh if only that were the case today.  The last four years have been dog hell, as there are now 8 dogs within 50 yards, and two of the owners that have two dogs each could care less how their dogs’ barking affects anyone else around them. 

And yes, I have communicated with them, with great civility on this issue.  I’m left with simply trying to cope with it, as the last thing I want to do is make a bad situation any worse by pursuing noise abatement, as there is no likelihood anything would be done anyway.

Yes, I like dogs.  I don’t have a problem with dogs barking in general.  They are dogs.

What I do have a problem with, are irresponsible dog owners that make zero attempt to curtail their dogs’ barking, let alone be proactive with their neighbors engaging any concern about the nuisance.

If you take your dog to a cafe or a restaurant, and the dog starts barking, do something about it, and if it doesn’t work, leave.

Hi Brian,

Great point about barking dogs! Dog owners should absolutely try to minimize the barking, especially when in public. A little barking is normal, but dogs who seem to bark at everything might not be ready for a restaurant patio.

Living near neighbor dogs who won’t stop barking can be a tricky situation, as you’ve described. Ultrasonic bark deterrents can help teach dogs near your yard to be quiet.

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