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Dog-Friendly Restaurant Etiquette: 20 Rules for a Well-Behaved Pet

Chris Dinesen Rogers

By Chris Dinesen Rogers

A dog at a restaurant

Dogs and humans have been companions since at least 27,000 years ago. Food was likely the bridge between us. So, it only makes sense that you’d want to take your pet with you when you go to a restaurant. It’s a trend that more establishments are becoming more dog-friendly to match the rising consumer demand. It’s a product of the humanization of the pet industry.

However, it still behooves dog owners to do their part to ensure it’s a pleasant experience for everyone. Remember that businesses can shut the door on this perk anytime if it becomes a problem. Our guide will help you ensure the light stays on and the door open.

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The 20 Rules for Dog-Friendly Restaurant Etiquette

1. Call the Restaurant Before You Bring Your Pet With You

Dog-friendly restaurant etiquette begins by letting your fingers do the walking. Call the restaurant if you’re not familiar with its pet policy. It’ll take less than 5 minutes to find out if they welcome your canine companion or not. It’s worth noting that local ordinances may play a role in whether businesses allow dogs. The choice might be out of the restaurant’s hands.

2. Feed Your Pup Before Going Out to Eat

Going to a restaurant is for you to get a meal, not your pup. Feeding your dog before you go out will likely ensure your pet sleeps while you eat. After all, there’s nothing better than a nap when you have a full belly. It’ll also make the experience less distracting for you. You’re going out to eat to have a good time. It’s better spent enjoying your food than minding your pooch.

3. Take Your Pet for a Long Walk Before You Dine

man and dog walking
Image Credit: Jaromir Chalabala, Shutterstock

Likewise, a long walk or a lengthy play session will tire out your pup, just like our previous tip. Remember that a restaurant is a hub of activity with lots of different scents and new friends to make. The distractions can overwhelm a dog, especially if it’s a new experience. Seasoned restaurantgoers won’t have a hard time. If it’s new to your pet, ease it slowly into dining out with this simple tip.

4. Pack a Water Bowl

Dog-friendly restaurants with steady canine traffic will likely have dog bowls available. However, not every business will. Make it easy for you, your pup, and the wait staff by bringing your own to the restaurant. You probably should have a dog bowl with you in the car, anyway. Many dog parks don’t provide water or will have it available for your to supply the bowl.

5. Keep Your Intact Pup at Home

We don’t want to get into the neuter/spay issue. However, it’s worth dealing with this issue at a restaurant that is not much different than the dog park. The latter probably has rules about it. Remember that it’s not all about your pet. Be considerate of others who may also be bringing their dogs to the restaurant.

6. Let Your Sick or Injured Dog Heal Completely

A pup that isn’t feeling well is probably cranky with a shorter fuse. The last thing it needs is a stressful environment with loads of stimulation. It’ll interfere with your pet’s healing. It’s not going to “cheer up” your pup to get out and about if it’s under the weather. Your dog is better off at home, curled up in its bed and recuperating.

7. Don’t Bring Puppies Under 4 Months Old

There’s a good reason many doggie daycare facilities or off-leash parks prohibit puppies under 4 months old. They are not fully vaccinated and, thus, are more vulnerable to disease. Dogs of this age don’t have the street smarts to keep them from tangling with older animals that won’t put up with their roughhousing.

8. Keep Your Pooch Up-To-Date On All Necessary Vaccinations

dog getting a vaccine
Image Credit: Syda Productions, Shutterstock

Restaurants that do a brisk business with canine guests will likely have rules about vaccinations. The same courtesy applies to those without these policies. It’s also a part of being a responsible pet owner. Many will specify rabies only. However, we suggest including canine distemper and bordetella, too. You should also ask your vet about any other necessary vaccines.

9. Avoid Happy Hour or Other Busy Times

Even if your dog is a pro, we recommend avoiding high-traffic hours, like happy hours. Lots of people in a closed environment is a recipe for disaster if your pup is sensitive to overstimulation. Besides, patrons indulging in the perks of happy hour might make your pet more excitable. You’re better off avoiding times when a restaurant is likely to be crowded.

10. Keep the Barking Under Control

No one likes a barking dog, no matter where they are. A loud canine can push the noise level to 110 decibels (dB) and can cause hearing loss in as little as 2 minutes if it’s going off close to anyone. The chances are the business doesn’t get a lot of dog patrons. Your pup is an ambassador for canines. Do your part and make a good impression.

11. Never Leave Your Pet

Any doggie park likely has a rule that you must be close at hand to your pup. The same applies to restaurants. Your pet will obey you and your commands. Your absence changes everything. We love dogs that will behave even if their owner isn’t present. However, don’t push it. A child running by or up to your pooch may be too much for it to handle.

12. Don’t Offer Your Pup Food Off of Your Plate

Wife and husband sitting at table at the cafe
Image Credit: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

We don’t recommend giving your pet food off your plate anytime. Too many things are problematic for canines that aren’t for people. It’s one thing when it’s something you’ve prepared. After all, you know what’s in it. Hopefully, you are aware of the foods that dogs can’t eat. Restaurant fare is a wild card. Besides, it’s rude. Don’t let your pup beg at the table, and certainly don’t reinforce bad behavior.

13. Only Bring Well-Behaved Pets to Restaurants

You know your dog better than anyone else. If its canine manners are spot-on, then a restaurant visit is on the menu. Its etiquette should be impeccable before you take them out for a meal. We suggest being realistic about how well you think your pet will behave. Dining out is a treat. You don’t want to ruin anyone else’s experience with your unruly pup.

14. You Should Have Your Pup Under Your Control at All Times

We’ve probably all have been to a restaurant where the adults are having a pleasant chat while the kids are running the muck around the place. Don’t be that guy with your dog. If you’re going to bring your pup, it must be under your control at all times. Many businesses have similar requirements. Remember that it’s a liability issue for the establishment.

15. Ask Before Letting Your Dog Meet Other Canines or People

Permission is vital, whether it’s your dog meeting others or them petting your pup. You know your dog best. You are aware of the signs that your pet is uncomfortable. You also understand its limits. It’s always best to ask first before approaching anything unfamiliar.

16. Opt for a Short Leash to Keep Your Pet Close to You

Couple sitting with dog at restaurant
Image Credit: sirtravelalot, Shutterstock

A restaurant is not the place to use a retractable leash. Keep your pup close to your table with a shorter lead. A longer one will only get in the way and become a tripping hazard. We don’t recommend tying it to the table or a chair, either. Instead, put your foot on the end of it or place the chair on it. Hopefully, your put is so well-behaved that neither one are necessary.

17. Choose a Table Away From Other Diners, Particularly Kids

A dog is a distraction. They call them people magnets for a reason. Therefore, it’s best to sit at a table away from the crowd to keep your pup calm. It’s also a courtesy to other diners, particularly those with children. You know the kids will want to pet your dog. The parents probably just wish they would finish their meal. Make it easy for everyone.

18. Chairs and Benches Are Off-Limits

A restaurant is a different story, even if you allow your dog to go on the couch at home. Keep Fido on the ground or floor. Remember that a dog may topple a chair if something grabs its attention. Think of it as playing it safe.

19. Tip Your Server for Providing Extra Care for Your Pup

We always like to show our appreciation for the wait staff. They deserve an extra tip if they go out of their way to get a water bowl for your pup and keep it filled. Even if the restaurant doesn’t have a dog menu, it pays to let them know that opening up their business to pets is important to you and other pet owners.

20. Stay Only as Your Dog Is Behaving Itself

Dog walker strides with his pet on leash while walking at street pavement
Image Credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

The fact that some people refer to their dogs as fur babies might not be too off the mark. Canines are like kids. Research suggests they have the mental abilities of a child 2 to 2.5 years old. And we all know what that means—the terrible twos. Just as you would with an unruly toddler, when your dog gets bored and starts to act up, it’s time to go home. Don’t overstay your welcome.

Benefits of Taking Your Pup to Dog-Friendly Restaurants

We hope you’re not discouraged from taking your dog out to public places because of our rules of etiquette. It’s all about cultivating good canine manners. It is actually beneficial for you to expose your pup to new experiences and meet different people and dogs when it’s a puppy. Puppies go through critical periods in their young lives until about 7 months.

The accepted adage is to expose them to lots of new things to prevent them from becoming fearful.

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Going to a restaurant is fun. It’s even better if you can take your canine companion with you. However, it’s essential for your pup to be on its best behavior when out in public, despite everything going on around it. Remember that it’s not just about you and your pet. Be considerate to others by following the common-sense rules of etiquette.

See Also:

See Also: Are Dog Cafés Ethical?

Featured Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock

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