18 Tips for Dining Out with Your Dog
Springtime heralds the dog-friendly season of open-air dining. At outdoor patios throughout the city, New Yorkers can spot every size and breed of dog wagging their tails and cooling off with a bowl of chilled water at their human’s feet. Somehow, a burger always tastes better when you have your dog along to appreciate the aroma.
An alfresco meal with man’s best friend is also a great way to meet other dog owners. New Yorkers know that having a cute pup is paws-down the best way to make new friends—as long as your dog has good dining etiquette. Here are some tips to ensure that you and your dog have a great dining experience.
1. Call ahead.
Even though the New York City Department of Health now allows dogs in outdoor dining areas, it’s up to the individual restaurant to set its policy. Some eateries may still ban dogs, so make sure to do proper reconnaissance beforehand.
2. Be calm about going out to eat with your dog.
Dogs take their cues from their people. If you work your dog up about how exciting eating out together will be, you will arrive with a dog that’s anything but calm. Don’t make a big deal out of it, and your dog won’t either.
3. Stay up-to-date with vaccinations.
The city does require dogs in outdoor dining areas to be licensed and vaccinated, but you won’t have to bring any paperwork. For your dog’s safety, it’s a good idea to be up to date on “core vaccines,” which include canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis, and rabies.
4. Teach your dog basic commands.
The most important commands your dog will need to master for good outdoor dining behavior is “sit” and “stay.” If you have a large breed dog, “down” is equally important. “Shake” may even get you a free drink if your waiter or waitress is a dog lover.
5. Use your inside voice: no barking.
Few things are more annoying than a dog that won’t stop barking. If your dog reacts to strangers, children, skateboards, or rollerblades, you should work on changing this behavior before venturing out for a meal together. The best place to start is with a “high value” treat, like chicken or cheese. The first step is to get your dog’s attention. Hold up the treat in your hand, and wait for your dog to look at you. Ask your dog to sit, and wait until the skateboarder passes. Only give the treat if your dog manages not to bark. The best place to practice: on your daily walks.
6 . No begging.
It may be cute for the first few minutes, and then—not so much. This type of behavior begins at home and is usually encouraged by family members who think it’s funny. But in a public place, it gets annoying fast, especially if your dog doesn't know when to quit. Not going down this path in the first place is the easiest fix, but if it’s too late for that, stop giving in. Ignore your dog’s begging; consistency is the key. Have your dog sit and stay while you eat, and only reward him away from the table.
7. Keep your dog on a tight leash.
You may get distracted or immersed in a good conversation. Maybe your dog is a Houdini. Maybe a squirrel races by, and your dog’s instincts take over. Dognapping is not unheard of—especially with pedigree dogs that thieves can sell for significant cash, or pitbulls that may be sold to dogfighting rings. Give your dog enough leash to comfortably sit, lie, and turn around, but not enough to explore. And just like a human child, keep an eye on your four-legged kid.
8. Don’t bring a hungry dog to a restaurant.
Even if you plan to treat your dog with a side of grilled chicken, a dog with an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster. She will be less attentive to you and overly focused on food, whether it’s on your plate or the adjacent table. Feed your dog either a treat like chicken jerky or a full meal before taking her to the restaurant.
9. Walk your dog first.
All dogs may have accidents sometime, but a restaurant is the last place this should ever happen. At the very least, you’ll be embarrassed. You may be banned permanently from that restaurant, and the owner may then question the “dogs allowed” policy. Make sure your dog takes care of business before heading over to the restaurant. It’s also a good idea to take some time after to exercise your dog. Even a dog that’s a couch potato usually has a manic spell some time during the day, and you don’t want the crazies to appear at the restaurant. The more exhausted your dog is, the faster she will take a nap under the table, leaving you free to enjoy your meal.
10. Don’t bring a dirty dog to dinner.
Some breeds have more of a noticeable “doggy” odor than others. If you have one of these “stinkers,” you probably already know about it. Breeds with a lot of wrinkles and excess skin, like bloodhounds and basset hounds, are known be more smelly than a Papillon or a poodle. If you have a malodorous dog, it’s helpful to bathe them frequently, but always use a shampoo that won’t dry out their skin, and remember to regularly clean the ears, eyes, and teeth. But even breeds that don’t have an unpleasant doggy smell can get into trouble; hose off the dog first if he’s covered in mud, sand, soil, or any of those unmentionable stinky things dogs love to roll around on.
11. If your dog is aggressive, leave him or her at home.
If you’re one of those dog owners that insist your dog is friendly even though there’s a string of bloody limbs to prove otherwise—stop it! A dog that’s aggressive is not equal to a bad dog. Dogs bite and growl for all kinds of reasons. They may bite out of fear, anxiety, or because they feel threatened. They may be overly protective around their owners. Even if the dog is muzzled, he will probably make other diners (and dogs) uncomfortable. If your dog has a history of this type of aggression, it would be best to let him stay home where he’ll be safe and happy.
12. If your dog is a drooler, make sure to bring a towel.
Some breeds, like mastiffs for example, are major drool offenders. If this is the case, bring along a rag or a towel. A dog slinging drool all over neighboring diners is a real appetite killer.
13. Bring a chew toy along.
An occupied dog is a quiet dog. Bring your dog’s favorite rawhide chew toy, rubber bone, or treat-filled Kong—but be sure to leave the smelly treats at home. Your dog will be content, and so will you. Just don’t bring toys that excite him, like a tug toy or a favorite stuffed rabbit that he loves to shake and attack.
14. If your dog reacts to other dogs, teach him to be attentive to you.
Maybe you’ve read (or seen the scene in the movie) Marley & Me. The family has taken a chance and brought Marley to a restaurant with outdoor seating. At first, the golden retriever is well behaved. And then Marley spots a poodle on the other side of the patio. Although the dog is on a short lead that’s tied to the base of the table, he yanks it from underneath the family’s meal and manages to drag it behind him, knocking over other chairs and tables as he races across the patio to reach the other dog. If you see a little Marley in your dog, invest in some training—and don’t tie your dog to a table that isn’t bolted down!
15. If a child approaches your dog, put on your teaching hat.
It’s very common for dogs to react to children. Even if your dog loves children, it’s always better to be careful. Have the child hold out the back of his or her hand, fingers curled inward, so your dog can take a sniff. If your dog flattens his ears, tucks in his tail, lowers his body into a crouch, or moves away, do not let the child pet your dog. But if your dog licks the child’s hand and wags his tail, he’s giving you the thumbs up. Show the child how to be gentle before petting your dog. Even if your dog doesn’t love kids, you can always find a restaurant that caters more to adults.
16. If your dog is a “hooverer” keep the leash tight.
Some dogs never bother to raise their nose from the ground. To them, everything in sight is edible, from sticks and leaves to discarded chicken bones. If you recognize your dog in this description, check out the area around your table before sitting down, and pick-up anything potentially harmful. This includes foods such as grapes, raisins, chocolate, onions, garlic, cooked bones, avocados, coffee, macadamia nuts, candy, and fruit with seeds or pits. While you are seated, keep the leash short and firmly attached.
17. Prepare for the weather.
If the news predicts soaring temperatures, keep your dog in the shade and ask the waiter for a bowl of water. If you have a breed that doesn’t react well to hot weather, check out a cooling vest or a necktie. Don’t ever park your dog in direct sun on a day that’s hot and humid. And watch for signs of heatstroke.
18. Tip well.
Remember to thank your dog-friendly waiter and waitress with a healthy tip. Many will go out of their way to make your dog comfortable, offering water and maybe even bringing her a side of bacon. Show your gratitude, and you and your dog will be welcomed back warmly.