7 Cues To Teach Your Dog BEFORE Eating at a Pet-Friendly Restaurant

Honey the golden retriever at BlogPaws.

Okay, I was good during dinner. Now let’s head to the bar and look for that handsome poodle who winked at me a little while ago.

I can hear some of you now. “If I took my dog to a pet-friendly restaurant, the video of him misbehaving would go viral in ten minutes.”

Have some faith. It might be easier than you think. Especially if you teach your dog some basic cues before you try it for the first time.

Here are some I’ve found invaluable when we take Honey out to eat.

Cues Your Dog Should Know Before Eating Out

If your dog can do these things in a distracting environment (that means practice at home and work your way up), any pet-friendly restaurant should be happy to seat you on their deck or patio.

Sit and Stay – This cue is especially useful when you’re asking the hostess if dogs are welcome on the patio. This is where you send the message that your dog knows how to behave herself in a restaurant.

Heel (or By Me) – Just because a restaurant’s management likes dogs doesn’t mean all the other diners do. But making a neat entrance with your dog might win a few people over.

Honey the golden retriever eats out.

It’s hard work to find just the right table so the Mom can sit in the sun and the Dad and I can sit in the shade.

Go to a Place – For Honey, this means find the nearest rug or bed and settle on it. When we go out, I take a compact, outdoor bed like the Kurgo Wander Bed. (affiliate) It keeps her comfortable and she knows it’s where she must stay if she wants yummies.

Leave It – If a child at the next table drops her food, you don’t want your dog pulling over the table to snarf it up. A strong “leave it” cue is crucial.

Drop It – And if you’re too busy with your margarita to notice that your dog snuck up to get something on the ground, your next line of defense is the “drop it” cue.

Honey the golden retriever at a pet-friendly restaurant.

I love a corner table. It’s easier to protect my floofie from being stepped on.

Put Your Tail Under Your Body and Keep It There – Okay, this isn’t a real cue. And I have no idea how to teach it. But it sure would be valuable. Even if I put Honey’s tail under her body to keep it safe from people walking by, it comes out wagging every time someone walks by. If you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments.

Let’s Go – If your dog has sat quietly at her place while you ate, seeing her spring to her feet to follow you out when you say, “Let’s Go” will impress everyone.

Heck, if your dog can do all these things beautifully, most pet-friendly restaurants would be happy to seat her without you. Now you just have to learn your own cues and you’re ready for a summer of pet-friendly dining with your dog.

Honey the golden retriever eats out.

Mmmmm, smells like BBQ.

Cues to Teach Yourself

It’s not all about the dog. Set her up for success.

Here’s my short checklist of cues I need to follow so we have a good dinner.

Walkies – It’s unfair to expect your dog to sit quietly for an hour or more in a place that smells like food if you didn’t give her a chance to walk and sniff first. Walk first. Dinner second.

Pack – Bring everything your dog needs to be comfortable: food, water, and collapsible travel bowls; a comfy bed; a chewy like a stuffed Kong or bone. (affiliate)

Watch Me – When your dog is sitting by your table, it’s not all about you. So be prepared to split your attention between your meal and your dog to make sure she’s still having a good time too.

If your dog is comfortable out in public and you follow these cues, you’ll have a great time.

If your dog is uncomfortable in public, you can still eat out together. But you’ll need to adjust a few things.

You see, I didn’t always live with Little Miss Perfect, Honey the golden retriever. I know a few things about traveling with reactive dogs.

And if you can vacation with a reactive dog (without pooping in the woods), you can eat out with one too. I’ll share my secrets if you help to advance Cape May, NJ to the next round in the Best City for Pet Traveler’s contest.

Cape May.

Cape May seen from the Ocean – on a dog friendly boat ride.

Cape May, NJ – Best City for Pet Travelers

I’ll tell you later why Cape May is such a charming place to visit with your dog. But for now, I’ll just share a few reasons why you should NOT vote for our competition in the first round, New Smegma (oops, sorry) Smyrna Beach, Florida.

  • The earliest settlers couldn’t get away fast enough. In the late 18th century, several of them walked 75 miles to St. Augustine looking for a new home.
  • It’s hot. And humid. And hot. No cooling Cape May breezes to make it anywhere you’d want to be in the summer.
  • It’s the shark bite capital of the world. Let me repeat that. IT’S THE SHARK BITE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD! Yes, more than Australia! New Smyrna set a record for the most shark bites in 2007. Then they beat it in 2008. Oh. My. Dog!

So run. Don’t walk to vote for Cape May as the Best City for Pet Travelers at Go Pet Friendly. You can vote for your favorite places once each round. And Cape May is currently ninth up from the bottom.

Thanks for supporting Cape May.

Your Turn: Do you eat out with your dog? Any tips you can share?

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Comments

  1. We’ve only been to the bar in Arizona. Not a lot of food there though. Just tons of people and they both did pretty good.

  2. My guys are incredibly patient with sitting under the table. A few well-timed tidbits and they aren’t going anywhere!

    After years spent going to agility trials, being in public is a breeze for them!

    • I also taught Honey to sit under the table at home. I can’t believe more people don’t train this basic skills. It’s much less problematic than having them putting their heads on your table (although I guess that’s not an issue with Corgis, huh? ).

  3. Great tips there. i have no idea about the tail thing, mine sticks out all over the place and someone invariably steps on it lol

    • I’m thinking I should get one of those yellow caution signs they put up in stores to warn people about wet floors. If I make one that says “caution: tail underfoot,” I’ll send you the husky version.

  4. Mom had three restaurant mishaps in Germany, here we haven’t gone out to eat with Mom really. One time her dog stood up to turn around but unfortunately was taller than the table so when the table tipped everything started sliding off. They only lost one drink, caught the other drink and food. Second, they were ready to leave and the dog was just gone. She got up at some point and went to the entry door to the hotel next door because she was tired and wanted to go to bed, and lastly, she was MIA once again but found under the table…just the table next door where the kids were tossing food on the floor. That dog was so well behaved, these three incidents were nothing and no harm done.

  5. Vlad & Barkly's Dee says:

    Very good information! Thank you so much for writing this! There aren’t a lot of options around here that are dog-friendly. But I’d like to be prepared for the occasional places we might find when traveling. This is of great help!

    • Some places don’t advertise that they’re dog friendly. But if they have outdoor seating you and ask, many times they’ll say okay. And you can always practice at your local ice cream stand. That’s a great way to work up to dining out with pups.

      Please let me know if you get a chance to take the pups out for dinner and how it went.

  6. Dog friendly patios are something I wish were more common, but I don’t think I’d ever dare to dine inside with Moses or Alma – too much fur, way too much drool. I can’t imagine the spectacle they’d cause – no thanks!

    Also – what’s with all the shark bites? What kind of sharks? Is there some sort of weird New Jersey dress-like-a-seal-and-go-for-a-swim festival?!

    • I can’t imagine how big a restaurant would have to be to accommodate two Newfies indoors. As far as I know, no where in Canada or the U.S. do they allow indoor dog dining.

      I have no idea what’s up with the sharks. I was as surprised to read that as you were. I would have sworn the shark bite capital would be somewhere in Australia. But maybe sharks prefer flabby white meat. :)

  7. Margaret T says:

    It’s possible the dog would be better-behaved than I am, when a stranger allows her dog to run up to mine and shove its face in hers. A friend and I regularly meet for breakfast at Egg Harbor when the weather is nice; they have an outdoor seating area where dogs are allowed. It’s always fun to hear the nice things people say about us. I always take a towel I fold up as her designated place to lie. Afterwards, we stroll the nicely landscaped mall area, and if I stop at my insurance agent’s office, he manages to end up on the floor with my dog. To protect tails, we try to get a table up against a rail or wall, put my golden retriever between the two of us, and her tiny dogs are protected by their stroller. She walks the dogs, but the stroller carries all our stuff!

    • So people with dog strollers do the same things that people do with kid strollers–use the stroller to carry the gear and make everyone else walk. :)

      Sounds like a lovely way to enjoy a spring day.

  8. It still boggles my mind to remember that we took Silas to the local pet-friendly coffee place, with a busy street-side patio, once upon a time. But he was a wee fellow then and less obviously (and vocally) anxious. He did insist on sitting in my lap the whole time, which prompted the couple next to us to have a rather loud talk about teaching your dog who is the boss.

    In reality, I think he would do fine at a quieter restaurant even now, but the dog restrictions here are pretty tight and there aren’t many choices.

    • I love eating outdoors with dogs. And Honey is my first dog to tolerate regular social situations without being anxious. So I’ll be writing a post soon on way to enjoy dining with your reactive dog. I hope you’ll chime in with your comments.

      As I said in another comment, even places that don’t advertise themselves as pet friendly are often willing to have a dog on their outdoor patio if you just ask.

  9. I know none of my dogs would make it through a restaurant outing, but even if they could I don’t think I would take them. There is something that bothers me about the idea of seeing dogs if I were to go out to eat. I think it would gross me out in some way. Not sure why, but I find the idea kind of disgusting. I know the dogs would be outside, but the hair for one thing would bother me eating out whereas at home it’s OK cause they are my dogs. Does that make any sense? While we have no dog friendly restaurants around here or even close by, I still think it would bother me to out to eat and see other dogs there. I know, I’m weird.

    • It’s a good reminder to be sensitive to other people when we eat out. I try to choose out-of-the-way spots to sit so people who share your distaste for dogs in restaurants don’t have their meals ruined.

      I can understand what you’re saying. But I figure that if you think too much, everything about dining out is disgusting–the hygiene of staff, handling money and food, the conditions in American slaughterhouses. It’s probably best not to think about it too much.

  10. Up in Gerton (NC), near my girlfriend’s place is a little restaurant with a nice patio. Before Ducky came along, Sam and I used to take Callie and Shadow for a ride up to visit Millie on an early fall Saturday afternoon. Since she couldn’t leave the motel unattended, we would go up the road for a bite to eat. Both girls were very good about staying either under the table or right next to our chairs. The servers would bring out bowls and a pitcher of water for the girls and they were quiet throughout our meal. Then we would head home on the scenic route along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unfortunately, my car is just too small for Ducky’s crate, Callie, and Shadow and the two of us.

  11. I can’t imagine taking our dog to a restaurant, but we have. We ate out the evening we adopted Blue. He was so well behaved for a 4 month old puppy. I sat there watching J fall in love.

  12. I do eat out with my dog, when the weather is nice. This summer will be about teaching Flattery the same good manners the others have worked on learning. If I know we’re going to go out to eat, I take a Kong with me, that’s packed with some good treats and sealed up really well with peanut butter. When we get our food, I put it down on the travel bed so they will be occupied while I’m the most occupied.

  13. I love Cape May and used to take my Cairn (rip) there. Now I have a reactive Aussie and the only place I have been able to “dine” with her is off season outside of Wegmans 😛 So hook me up with your info please! LOL. And yes, I absolutely voted for wonderful Cape May!

  14. When Beamer was only 4 months old we went to the Oregon coast for a week long family get-together. After an hour and a half romp on the beach and an interesting walk through downtown Florence, we decided to try an outdoor area for some libations. Beamer did great! The fact he was tired helped and the chewy, lamb jerky pieces I kept offering for his good behavior did wonders.
    The only little mishaps were his selecting a sweatshirt for me that was on an outdoor clothes rack. He reached up and tried to pull it off; I caught it in time. Then, when we crossed a street he decided that the middle would be a good place to pee. Oh well, better than at the restaurant!

  15. We had a few trips to a dog-friendly, but slightly scruffy, pub first – just to make sure my “down stay” worked with some distractions. As for the tail – no, I don’t know, they have a way of doing what they will!
    Sometimes people don’t even notice me as my bipeds try to find a table where I can get by the wall so I’m out of the way. You should see people’s faces when I suddenly appear when my bipeds tell me it’s time to leave!

  16. Great tips! I’ve been working with Bailey on a lot of this stuff but we have yet to try to use it at an outdoor restaurant. Once the weather warms, I’d like to take her out on a Sunday morning when things are fairly quiet to see how she does.

  17. Great tips, and also what a great idea! We have a “Bark Bar” here in Denver, which allows dogs into a bar and has a area for them to potty/play.

  18. Funnily in this situation it is BD who shines as he sits quietly and watching the world go by, whereas Mity spends the entire time trying to clean the floor of crumbs.

    In other news, and I am going to share this with you, it has just hit me that I am never going to sit in the sun in a foreign country with BD. I don’t think the ex would let me take him out of the country!

  19. I think the number one tip is to exercise the dog beforehand. My dog has such an easier time relaxing and just chilling out and not worrying about other dogs if he’s had a long walk first. I’m lucky to live in an area where we can walk to certain restaurants with our dog. It makes a huge difference if he’s had a chance to burn off any energy before we arrive at the restaurant.