A while back Bodie & I were visiting Utah and struggling to find a dog-friendly restaurant so I turned to the local Tourism Office for help. ‘You wanna have dinner with your dog?’ the bemused staff member responded. ‘Well not a full-on candelit affair,’ I replied. Though wouldn’t that be nice… I mention this because it seems rare these days to find a state banning dogs from restaurant patios, almost everywhere is so welcoming. But not all dog-friendly dining is created equal – here are 7 tips to make the whole experience more pleasurable for you and your dog!
1. Look for a dog bowl and/or treat jar outside the restaurant – sure fire signs that the place is especially accommodating/forgiving of canine customers, actively luring them over!
2. Before you enter the restaurant, check the spacing of the tables on the patio. If they are packed too tightly and another dog arrives, it can become a little fractious and stressful. Plus Bodie always tries to rear up and sniff passing plates so its best if the waiter isn’t having to constantly step over him. Nobody wants a lapful of linguine.
3. It may be frowned upon to feed your dog table-scraps but it’s a great way to incentivize them to want to divert from their walk and lie under a table for a while. (Bodie now actively pulls me towards cafes where he has previously dined.) Of course you could just carry a bag of treats with you but, for Bodie, there’s nothing quite as delicious as something directly from the restaurant plate, thus extending the ‘farm to table’ motif to ‘farm to table to Bodie’s ever-appreciative mouth’.
4. Better yet… Many restaurants now offer a special Dog Menu. Forge in the Forest in Carmel, CA have everything from Hot Diggity Dogs to Quarter Hounders but its their bowl of sliced chicken breast that brings out a laser-like focus in Bodie (see pic). My tip here is not to actually set the bowl down on the floor as the entire meal will be wolfed in a microsecond. Better to help pace your pup by hand-feeding one piece at a time. It will help hold his attention and keep him sitting nicely. When the last piece is done I make an ‘All gone’ motion with my hands so he knows that he can lie down and relax with his now full tum.
5. Bring your own water bowl. We have a small foldable one from Outward Hound that fits in my bag. It means Bodie can have a drink as soon as we are seated and there is less spillage than if the waiter is trying to customize a plastic or polystyrene takeaway box which Bodie will then inevitably tread in and send a river along to greet our neighboring diners.
6. Make sure your dog is properly secured. 9 times out of 10 it’s just me and Bodie stopping for a snack and if I have to step inside to order he’s typically good as gold, waiting patiently for my return. However. There was this one time outside Starbucks in Portsmouth, VA when a cat scooted by and Bodie took off in hot pursuit dragging the Starbuck’s hefty metal and wood chair with him. I now favor a railing or a sturdy table post where possible. Better to be safe than chasing furniture down the street, as I always say.
7. Introduce your dog to the waiter and any concerned onlookers. It’s a funny thing, though most people see Bodie for the teddy bear that he is, some perceive him as scary or simply don’t like dogs at all so if I catch a glimmer of wariness I try to make a cheery announcement that he’s very friendly and won’t be any trouble. Either that or I’ll take out a tiny training treat so they can see that he takes it from me oh-so-gently (as opposed to savaging my arm) and then a sense of peace and happy dining is restored!
So there we have it, all that remains is for us to wish you: BONE APETIT!
Do you enjoy dining out with your dog? We’d love to hear about any favorite restaurants or handy tips!