Owning a well-behaved dog that you can take along to any outdoor patio, cafe or brewery is wonderful. You can hang out with friends and enjoy great meals, without having to leave your four-legged companion at home.
Dogs enjoy visiting those places with their owners, and with the right training they will be star citizens.
Here’s what to watch out for when training your dog to behave at restaurants.
You should start taking your pup along to pet-friendly restaurants as early as possible in his life. If you wait too long, the training will only become harder. Sitting still underneath your chair is a skill that needs to be learned and practiced. If you buy a young puppy from a breeder, take him along as soon as he has been fully vaccinated (usually around the age of 3.5 months). Should you adopt an adult dog from a shelter, you can also get started quickly in taking him along to different places.
Exercise your dog first
Let’s be honest, relaxing next to your table at a restaurant is not exactly an exciting activity for your dog. If he has not had a chance to get out his crazies before, he will be restless, bored and disruptive.
You cannot come home from a long day at work (during which your pup slept most of the time), grab him and head to a restaurant where once again he should – be calm.
Instead, always provide some physical exercise first. That way your dog gets moving and can be active for a bit, which will set him and you up for success at the restaurant later. A trip to the park, a doggy playdate, a round of fetch or some dog agility will exercise him well before he hangs out with you at a restaurant patio.
Bring a bed
You should always bring a dog bed or mat of some sort that your dog can lie down on. Most restaurants and cafes have concrete patios. Lying on hard ground like that for longer periods of time can hurt dogs’ elbows. This is especially common in small breeds with thin hair (such as Pomchi). They might outright refuse to lie down unless they have a comfortable spot.
By bringing along the same bed or mat to every restaurant, you will also over time condition your dog to lie down and relax on the mat as soon as you bring it out. Keep it in your car at all times so you have it handy when you need it.
Take something to chew
You will be busy chatting with your friends and family and of course eating – but your dog won’t be. Some very calm dogs instantly settle in and go to sleep, but most need a little help to relax. Taking something your dog can chew as he is lying next to you is a great way to entertain him while keeping him calm.
Bullysticks, yak milk chews or Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter or yoghurt are perfect for long chewing fun. Chewing itself is actually a very relaxing activity for dogs. It lowers their heart rate and can help them go to sleep. If you are planning on spending more than one hour at the restaurant, take two or three chew items just in case. You do not want your dog to become bored when he is done chewing and start barking and having a tantrum.
Reacting to tantrums
Sometimes, dogs just do not want to lie still at a restaurant and start having a fit. This could be due to a number of different reasons, such as that:
- They are simply bored and want to do something more “fun” than lying around
- They are scared of something in the vicinity (e.g. another dog at another table who barks at them or traffic noise nearby)
- They are physically uncomfortable
Your reaction to those tantrums needs to depend on why the dog is unhappy in the first place. If your dog is scared, you can comfort him and also ask to perhaps change your table to one further away from his trigger. This is especially important if another dog is snarling at yours – you do not want to make your dog uncomfortable and push him to the point of lashing out at the other dog.
Should your dog be physically uncomfortable, you need to take care of his needs. He might be thirsty (get him a water bowl) or need to use the bathroom. Dogs have a keen sense of cleanliness and will rarely do their business close to their owner’s table, even if they really need to go. When your dog suddenly becomes restless and will not settle down, take him to some bushes nearby to see if perhaps he needs to go potty.
If you know that your dog is neither physically uncomfortable or scared and simply “bored” with lying next to you, you can be a little more insistent. Do not scold or punish your dog, but simply ignore his fit for a while. Chances are that he will settle down again. You can offer him another chew item and pet him a bit, but otherwise don’t pay much attention. If your dog sees he is not getting anywhere with his fit, he will likely stop again.
The bottom line
Taking your dog along to pet-friendly restaurants is a fun experience that lets you socialize and eat out without leaving your four-legged friend at home. Make sure that you always bring a mat for your dog to lay down on and something for him to chew. Exercise him before heading out to the restaurant so that he gets a chance to stretch his legs. The more tired your dog is when you get to the patio, the faster he will settle down and behave.
If your dog has a tantrum and does not want to lie still anymore, carefully assess what causes this: Is he scared, uncomfortable or simply bored? Your reaction needs to depend on the origin of his fit – if he is just bored, you can ignore it. If he is unhappy or afraid, you need to make him more comfortable before asking him to lie down and relax again.