Before taking your dog to pet friendly restaurants, teach him some manners. It will make dining out a more pleasant experience for you both!

Golden Retriever dog and man sitting at a table at a pet friendly restaurant

One of the biggest challenges people face when traveling with their pets is figuring out where to eat. Leaving pets in cars – especially in the summer – can be dangerous. But the thought of taking a dog that acts more like a dingo to pet friendly restaurants isn’t ideal either.

Whether you have a pup who’s just learning his dining manners, or working with an older or reactive dog, these tips will help you teach your dog to behave at restaurants.

Start Training At Home

The first rule of being a good dog owner is knowing your pup. So, if your pooch isn’t ready for prime time, don’t put him on the main stage! Begin by working with your dog at home.

With our puppy, Myles, we started by teaching him to lay on his mat while we ate. A toy, stuffed with his food and frozen overnight, kept his attention while we finished our meal.

Puppy eating food from a toy inside

Once he had the hang of that, we took the stuffed, frozen toy outside where there are more distractions. Then we added some friends for even more challenge!

Puppy laying on a mat on a deck with a stuffed toy in front of him and people eating at tables behind him

Asking your dog to lay on his mat while you eat is something you can practice at home multiple times every day for his whole life. It’s a great skill to have when you’re hosting a dinner party or your house is full of holiday guests.

Tips For Dining At Pet Friendly Restaurants

Once your dog is behaving well at home, it’s time to take things up a notch. But, you can’t just decide one day to take your dog for brunch at the hip new place with people lined up around the block! With every new experience, the most important thing is that you set your dog up to be successful.

You could start by going for a cup of coffee at a time when traffic will be slow. If that goes well, choose a quiet restaurant during a moderately busy time of day. Before you know it, your dog will be contently laying under your table for a multi-course meal during prime time.

Woman and two men on the pet friendly porch at Custer Beacon in Custer, SD

Find The Right Restaurant

Choosing restaurants that are truly pet friendly will make for a better experience. When seating you, hosts at pet friendly restaurants will ask where your dog will be most comfortable. They’ll understand if you request a shady spot, or one that limits your dog’s view of other diners. And they’ll bring out a bowl of water for your pup.

You’ll also want to consider whether your dog will be comfortable given the restaurant’s seating arrangement. Some restaurants say their sidewalk seating is pet friendly, but trying to squeeze even a small dog under your table away from busy foot traffic would be difficult.

Other restaurants that call themselves “pet friendly” have a fenced seating area and require pets to be tied outside the fence. We don’t consider that pet friendly and avoid those establishments.

The ideal dog friendly dining area has some shade, enough room between tables that dogs can lie down without being disturbed, and something that screens other diners — like potted plants or a lower level.

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Be A Good Ambassador

Having the opportunity to eat at pet friendly restaurants is a privilege, and we all need to take responsibility for making sure our dogs don’t ruin things for everyone. Doing something that might offend other customers or make additional work for the staff could cause a restaurant to change their pet policy.

So, be sure your dog relieves himself before you arrive at the restaurant, keep him off the chairs and table, and don’t feed him off the restaurant’s plates or utensils — unless they’re provided for that purpose.

Toby the Bulldog enjoying items from the dog-centric menu at Lazy Dog Restaurant

Stay Alert

Patiently training your dog and choosing the right pet friendly restaurants are a good start. But even if you have the perfect dog, eating out together means you’ll need to split your attention. While enjoying the meal and chatting with your companions, you’ll also need to keep an eye out for possible issues.

Another dog could pass by. The waiter might deliver a especially tempting dish to a nearby table. Someone’s toddler could toss food on the floor. A dog lover might decide to pet your pup. It’s your job to be alert and head off issues before they occur. And be sure to have few special treats to reward your dog for not reacting to something that would normally upset him.

Dog Friendly Restaurants in Chicago

Be Prepared To Leave

We all have bad days. Dogs included. And you can’t plan for everything. A squirrel might appear looking for tidbits. A rambunctious soccer team could show up for pizza.

If something happens and your dog starts to react, just get up and leave. It’s best if you have a friend who will pay the bill and have your food packed to go. But if you’re on your own, leave enough cash to cover the check and beat a quick retreat.

Brindle dog, woman and two men on the pet friendly patio at Custer Wolf in Custer, SD

Tips for People Dining Near Dogs

Patronizing pet friendly restaurants – even if you don’t have a pet with you – is always appreciated. And don’t forget to thank management for their pet friendly policy! If you’re in this situation, there are also a few things you can do to help support the pet owners dining with their dogs:

  • Ignore the dog. Yes, I know it’s hard. But if you see someone enjoying a relaxing meal, their dog lying peacefully at their feet, please don’t approach them. Disturbing the dog is no different than walking up to a family’s table to give their child a good tickle.
  • Ask for permission. If you simply can’t resist, please ask for permission before you reach to pet the dog. And don’t let your feelings be hurt if the answer is no. Dogs are at different stages of ability. Perhaps it’s taking all this dog’s willpower not to lope over and cover you with kisses. Laying calmly by the table could be really hard work, and something as simple as a quick scratch could set him back in his training.

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Sitting quietly under the table in a busy restaurant is an advanced skill for any dog.

What If Your Dog Isn’t Ready

Let’s face it … being a well-behaved dining companion is an advanced skill. It takes practice, and still doesn’t always go well. Perhaps your dog is still learning, or is too reactive to succeed in that environment. Does that mean you can never eat out with your dog?

Absolutely not! Picnic-style is the way to go when your dog isn’t ready for the challenge of pet friendly seating areas. Look for a deli, grocery store with a prepared food counter, or pizza joint and get your meal to go. A picnic table in the park might be just the step your dog needs to go from your backyard to a pet friendly patio.

Man and dog sitting on the grass with a glass of kombucha at pet-friendly restaurant, Kebaba, in Bend, Oregon

Whatever your dog’s abilities, don’t lose heart. Your pup is doing the best he can. The most important thing isn’t where you eat … it’s that you’re doing more together.

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  • Hey! Wondering if you would have any suggestions for a bit of a challenge we are having with my pup. Anytime we take her to a public place and sit down, outdoor or indoor, she will sit and bark at us. We have tried multiple things to get her to settle in, treats, chews, practicing downstays at home, and nothing has worked. I feel like it could be multiple factors causing it maybe overstimulation or demanding food that we are eating. We would like to bring her out with us but have reached a road block. Any suggestions or advice?

    • Hi Emma! Yes, I can see where that behavior would be challenging at a restaurant. Of course, it’s impossible for me to know what’s causing your dog to bark at you when you sit down to eat, but there are a couple of things you could try.

      The first thing I’d work on is to teach her that she never gets fed from any table. And it’s simple to do – you just NEVER feed her human food from the table, no matter where you are. Dogs pick up on that stuff really quickly, so it shouldn’t take her long. At the same time I’d work on teaching her “hush.” It’s a fun one, because you start by teaching the dog to bark. I use the command “tell me” with Myles — when he’s barking I say “tell me” and then I happily bark along with him. After a bit, I stop barking and hold a treat in front of his nose so he can smell it but can’t take it. When he stops barking to smell the treat (because dogs can’t do both at the same time) I say “hush” and then give him the treat. Then I slowly started increasing the time he had to be quiet to get the treat.

      Once she has those to things down, I’d start packing picnics. Find a picnic table in a park and make the experience as close to a restaurant experience as you can — spread out your lunch, ask her to lay down, keep her on a short leash, etc. If she barks, ask her to “hush.” If she continues barking, put her in the car (as long as it’s not hot) for a few minutes and then begin again.

      My approach is always to take away something the dog enjoys if they don’t obey a command. For example, if Myles is barking at something outside and won’t quiet when I ask him to hush I close the window shade so he no longer gets to look out the window. If he still continues barking, I might take his collar and remove him from the sofa. Generally that does the trick and he quiets down. We have a strict “no barking on the deck” policy because we live in town and I don’t want him irritating the neighbors. If he barks while he’s on the deck, I take him by the collar and he has to come inside for a while. There is no yelling — he just loses his privileges until he remembers his manners. I hope that helps with your pup. Good luck!

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