Whether your dog is a Service Dog, Emotional Support Animal, or a regular pet, there are certain faux paws (okay, pas) when bringing your dog to dinner. When bringing your dog to a restaurant, A little preparation goes a long way.
First of all, remember that only Service Dogs must be permitted in restaurants or places that serve food. ESAs and pets may be welcome on patios, but it’s up to the rules at each establishment. Some patios may not be licensed for pets so it’s a good idea to call ahead.
In any case, if you’re bringing your dog to a restaurant, we’ve got 10 tips you can follow to can ensure you have a perfect date.
1) Do restaurant research
Just like you might check out your date beforehand, it’s also a good idea to scope out the restaurant. Call ahead and ask about their dog policy. Check out their outdoor space on google images and yelp to see how big the patio is. See if there is a seat near a fence where you could tie your dog outside. If you let the restaurant know you are bringing a dog, they may have a table that is better suited to your needs.
2) Work up your appetites with a walk
Get some energy out of you and your dog before you sit down. It’s important for your dog to be able to relax under the table and a quick walk beforehand may be all you need. It’s also generally a good idea to give them a bathroom opportunity beforehand so you can be safe for the entire dinner. That kind of accident is not forgiven quickly.
3) Bring treats or kibble to show your dog how to behave at the table
When you sit down at your table, tie your dog’s leash and tell them to lie down. Give them a treat when they do so. Continue to reinforce the behavior with occasional treats. Avoid placing your treats on the table, that’s for people food only.
4) Be smart about where you tie the leash
Your dog be perfectly behaved, but something beyond your control may change unexpectedly. Someone could break a dish and make a loud scary noise, a child could run up to your dog to say “hi”, or another dog could walk by and for some reason something about them sets your dog off. Make sure the leash is tied to something that won’t move, like your chair, or sit on the leash to prevent it pulling anything. We once saw a dog tied to a table get spooked. When he tried to run he took the table with him (coffee mugs, pastries, and all) which terrified him even further. Needless to say, no one had a good coffee date.
5) Bring a bone or chewable to keep your dog busy
A bully stick or alternative chew can keep your dog occupied while you eat. If your dog loses interest in it you can make it seem more valuable by taking it away and making them work for it with a “down” and “leave it”. Once your give your dog the “okay” the treat has become a much more treasured object and they should get right into it. Just make sure to get an odorless kind so as not to disturb anyone around you. We love these chicken chews from Earth Animal.
6) Bring your own water bowl
Dogs are not allowed to share the same plates or bowls that people use due to health code requirements, so make sure to bring something to keep your dog hydrated. If you do need a bowl, you can ask for a to-go container to put some water in. Some restaurants may even have a dog bowl. If you can remember, it’s always better to bring your own.
7) Keep your dog on the ground
Does your dog sit on your lap in your kitchen? Probably not, but if they do, it’s your house and you can do whatever you like there. Bringing your dog onto your lap or giving them their own chair at a restaurant is a major no-no. Doggie noses and paws should not be near the table. That could mean a health code violation for the restaurant. Consider bringing an outdoor blanket for them to lie on so they have a comfortable spot.
8) Don’t share food off your plate
If you just need to share your food with your pup, take it off the plate and drop it onto the ground as if it were an accident and you didn’t even notice. You don’t want to set the precedent of sharing food and you certainly don’t want your dog begging for food in a disruptive way. Especially do not share your food from your plate or fork, even leftovers. These are major health code violations for the restaurant.
9) Dine with a dog person
You are always responsible for your dog. If you have to use the restroom, you are still responsible for your dog and anything that happens while you are gone. If your dog is a Service Dog and accompanies you to the restroom, no problem, but if you want to leave your dog at the table, it helps to leave them with a dog person who can keep them calm while you’re away.
10) Bring identification
If your dog is a Service Dog, it can be helpful to bring identification such as a vest or ID card. While not legally necessary, identification can help you have a more hassle free dining experience. You can obtain an ID card and certificate here.
It’s in everyone’s best interest for your dog to be well behaved when you bring them to a restaurant – you, the restaurant staff, fellow diners, and even your dog. If your dog is disruptive you may be asked to remove them, even if they are a Service Dog. Disruptive behavior may include barking, pacing, standing or begging, paws on table, or aggressive behavior. Barking may be acceptable as long as the barking is controlled within the first or second bark.
So, if you want to bring your four-legged friend as your dinner date, follow these tips and you’ll be ready to have a perfect evening.