Pups on the patio: Tips for dining outdoors with your dog

by Kira Garrett | August 21, 2013

There’s just something about a restaurant with a good patio – and that’s clear for anyone who’s ever tried to make a reservation for some of those coveted spots on a glorious summer night. Dining out in the fresh air is an almost perfect experience – especially if you can bring your best four-legged buddy along for the outing.

The rules vary from state to state – and sometimes by municipality – about whether dogs are allowed on restaurant patios, and under what circumstances. It’s important to look up information specific to your city – and, of course, contact the restaurant - before you head out with dog in tow. However, there are some good rules of thumb to make the most of the experience.

* Set your dog up for behavior success. First, make sure that your dog is trained well enough to keep the experience from becoming stressful for you – or him. Ensure that he knows and always responds to cues like sit, down, stay, leave it and so on – anything you might need to ask him to do in a crowded, busy space full of strangers. If your dog is energetic, take him for a good walk, jog or park outing before going to the restaurant. It’ll help him be more calm and collected.

* Don’t allow your dog to eat directly from the plate, silverware or table. Even if it’s OK in your own home, respecting the restaurant’s property and rules will keep everybody happy. If you’d like to give your dog a taste of something, make sure it’s a whole food and not heavily seasoned – think of what you’d include in his normal raw food diet at home.

* Avoid leaving your dog tied up alone. Resist the urge to simply tie up your dog – to the table or a chair – and step away, even briefly. Doing so can be dangerous in a number of ways – he could flip over the object he’s tied to or even strangle himself. All in all, it’s a stressful situation that you don’t want to put your dog through.

* Make sure your dog is clean and groomed. A clean, nice-smelling dog will be much more welcome among your fellow patrons. If you dog is going through a shed, make sure you brush him thoroughly ahead of time to cut down on hair that could become airborne and land on someone else’s table (or your own!).

* Don’t forget the call of nature. If you’re enjoying a long, leisurely night on the patio, be sure to remember that your dog might need to visit his version of the restroom. Encourage him to do his business before you sit down, watch for signs indicating that he needs to go, and always pack baggies for clean-up.