We love to dine out with our dogs whenever possible so we’re always on the lookout for dog-friendly restaurants to add to our day trip list. It’s not always possible to take them but a growing number of restaurants are accepting of dogs on their patios and al fresco dining options. Living in Texas, we’re fortunate that our winters are usually mild enough to enjoy at least lunch on the patio (although summer lunches can be quite toasty so we often opt for breakfasts with the dogs during those months!)
(And for those of you wondering if you can take your dog inside a dog-friendly restaurant, the answer is almost always no. In general, U.S. restaurants do not permit pets indoors at restaurants, with the exception of service animals.)
Here are our tips for enjoying a dog-friendly restaurant with your dog:
Eat early or late.
Whether you pick the early bird special or you wait until the rush hour is done, select a time when the restaurant isn’t completely packed.
Make sure your dog is walked before you dine.
If possible, schedule a nice walk and potty break before visiting the restaurant. If your dog is hungry, feed your dog before going in the restaurant, allowing a half hour after the meal for a predictable potty time.
Look for restaurants with some elbow room.
We don’t like to be crowded and neither do our dogs. If you have large dogs, this is extra important. We also like restaurants with very easy to access patio areas (with more than one entrance, if possible). Dog-friendly patio restaurants have to accessible without walking through the restaurant itself.
Look for a corner table.
If you predict that the restaurant will get busy, ask for a corner table or one near the back. You won’t have to worry about one of the dogs being in the way as people tried to walk through the patio restaurant.
Bring your own water dish.
We travel with both silicone water dishes (I purchased silicone cake pans at the thrift store and they work great both in the car and on location) and pop up bowls like this one.
Keep your dog on a short leash.
Unless it’s very warm, our dogs remain in the same dog harness they wear in the car, on a leash attached to me.
Bring a chew and/or treats.
Our dogs love a long-lasting bully stick or esophagus chew when we’re at restaurants–but some city ordinances prohibit feeding dogs on dog-friendly patios (this is rare). Even if it’s fine, be discreet and leave the smellier chews at home. Also, bring small training treats to redirect your dog’s attention if he should become too interest in fellow diners, other doggie diners, or all that food the waitstaff keeps walking by with!
Don’t tether your dog to the table.
This is a recipe for disaster of slapstick proportions. If you have a waist leash, this is a great time to use it to keep your dogs nearby. I have a small coupler that I use to attach the dogs’ leashes to my chair (again, not the table!); it doesn’t provide them any extra room to wander to adjacent tables or the aisle but it keeps my hands free for what we’re here for: dining!
Don’t feed or water your dog from restaurant plates.
We always carry a popup silicone bowl, attached to my dog walking bag, but many restaurants will be happy to bring out a bowl or carry-out container for your dog’s water.
Don’t permit your dog to sit in the restaurant chairs or on the table.
Yep, we’ve all seen the small dog sitting in the restaurant chair, often with his front feet on the table. Don’t be that person. All it takes is one complaint for a restaurant to reconsider its dog-friendly policy.
Bring a mat for your dog.
If the weather’s cold, bring a mat or blanket for your dog to enjoy; if it’s hot, a cooling mat can be a great relief. (Thanks, Something Wagging This Way Comes, for this great tip!)
Watch for discarded food beneath the table.
Let’s face it: even in the neatest establishments, discarded food from previous diners winds up beneath tables. When you sit down, make sure there are no tossed chicken bones or onion rings for Fido to find.
Don’t expect everyone to love your dog as much as you do.
Of course, we find our dogs immeasurably adorable but we know that not everyone shares our feelings. We try to keep the dogs as unobtrusive as possible before, during, and after the meal.
We love it when we receive good feedback from fellow diners and especially restaurant management. After a recent meal in Fredericksburg, Texas, the manager came over to us after the meal and asked to meet the dogs, saying they were “great dogs and so well behaved,” a sweeter end to our meal than the scrumptious dessert we’d just enjoyed!
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Updated and revised. Portions of this post were first published in 2014.