Table Manners: Tips for Dining Out With Your Dog

Table Manners
As someone who loves babies and dogs, I would have to say that my dog would be way less disruptive (and germy!) at a restaurant than most 3-year-olds. We’ve all seen those little tots in restaurants that reach for everything, smack their hands on the table after smearing them through ketchup, toss their cheerios and other food into the floor, stick their hands into their water and pull out the ice, bang on the table with a spoon, and heaven forbid there are no French fries on the menu because they will likely throw a fit! Oh, those poor moms! My dog, on the other hand, when allowed on an outdoor deck to have dinner with the family, sits quietly and patiently.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, some would say), the FDA prohibits live animals inside retail establishments where food is being served. Each state has their own health code, but they generally will adopt the FDA ruling. I have to admit… I get it. I mean, it would be gross if a dog decided to do his business in the middle of the restaurant floor. Plus, I understand the health concerns of restaurant employees petting the dogs and then maybe not washing their hands. And then there is the whole fur-allergy issue… But I would love to be able to take my dog to any restaurant with me… seated inside as well.

Dog-Friendly Restaurants with Outdoor Dining Areas

The good news is, Health inspectors in many areas of the country now allow dogs in a restaurant’s outdoor dining area. The state of Florida, with its year-round outdoor dining, was the first to enact a law explicitly allowing dogs in outdoor areas. Many other states have followed-suit. There are a lot of great Richmond area restaurants that have pet friendly decks and patios. Maybe someday, if we continue to enforce good dog training and doggie table manners, we will have all the freedom that dogs enjoy in some areas of Europe, to come and go in restaurants and grocery stores. Wouldn’t that be so cool?

In the meantime, we need to be good advocates for our dogs by making sure they know how to behave in [outdoor] restaurants, where allowed, so that the public perception of dogs in restaurants is not so negative. What can we do to assure our dogs know how to behave at pet-friendly restaurants?

Your dog must have good manners

First of all, as always, your dog needs to be taught good basic manners. Amanda, our dog trainer at our Richmond location says, “’Sit’ and ‘down’ [commands] must be solid and reliable for public outings. I also have clients use the ‘climb’ command when out in public. Clients often take towels or mats for their dogs to lay on, so they can use the climb command and trust their dogs to stay on the object.”

Like flies to honey, the accidental dropping of food from the table could have some disastrous results if your pup is not properly trained. If your dog has been instilled good basic obedience, you will not have to worry about him/her racing for dropped food, barking at other dogs, begging, whining, or becoming rambunctious, especially beneath a table filled with glassware. Part of our Holiday Barn Pet Resorts Dog Training objective is the development of good impulse control. Good impulse control will kick-in to help your dog resist those things that would normally be enticing… dropped food, other dogs, or squirrels!

Like Mom always said, “Wash up” before mealtime

You wouldn’t go out in public without cleaning up (I hope!), and Fido shouldn’t either. Even for the most zealous dog lover, smelling “dog” while eating isn’t very pleasant. Loose shed hair floating through the air is a little gross too, so a good brushing beforehand is a good idea. Make sure your dog doesn’t smell bad, and make sure he is current on his flea meds.

It just makes good sense

If you notice that your dog does seem a little impatient while dining, take him away from the area for a little walk. He may have to go potty. Or, maybe he just needs a little “time-out” … just like your little human when they start squirming at the table. Also, this is one of those times when retractable leashes are not advisable. You should have complete control of your dog, and these types of leashes are not adequate to do so. A good 4 – 5-foot standard leash is best.

Lastly, try not to be imposing…. Pick a table in the corner, away from others if possible. Make sure your dog isn’t impeding on the walkways. We always need to be considerate of those who may be squeamish by the idea of dogs around their food, or just plain afraid of dogs in general.

Finally, here are a couple of ideas you might want to think about before taking your dog to a restaurant: Make sure he’s good and tired and that he is not hungry. Take your dog for a long walk and then feed him his meal before leaving to go to the restaurant. If he’s hungry, he is more apt to become anxious around food and a full belly will make him less so. And if he’s had a good walk, he should rest well at your feet during your meal.

Bone Appétit!

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