It’s coming to some places and already here at others. And we are so excited! Patio dining season is here and there have traditionally been many restaurants who welcome well-behaved dogs to dine with you and your family and friends.
 
As a transplant to Wisconsin it’s been hard for me to not be able to eat outside every day and only be able to enjoy al fresco dining for a few months each year. The good news is that more and more places are allowing me to bring my dog with me which makes for a totally different and fun dining experience.
 
Service dogs are still the only dogs allowed inside restaurants, but the views can be quite pretty outside so we’ll take what we can get when we can get it.
 
Want to make the most of your dog dining experience? Here’s a few tips to help you, your dog, and the staff have a fun time.
 
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
 
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. When I have chosen to go at peak time there is often a wait which is not easy with a dog. Service is better and the staff has time to interact with your dog when you come before or after peak times.
 
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.
 
FIND THE PERFECT SPACE
 
I have a medium dog but I still start being strategic about where to sit. If you have large dogs, this is extra important. Always call before choosing a restaurant because since we are still in a pandemic many restaurants are restricting the number of people who can dine at one time and they might not be accepting dogs at this time.
 
LOOK FOR A CORNER TABLE.
 
I try to find a corner table or a spot away from the obvious foot traffic. Sitting in back can also be an option.
 
BRING YOUR OWN WATER DISH.
 
I have two plastic-lined cloth bowls that I keep in the car. They also make popup silicone bowls that are easy to stash in a purse or pocket and some of these have clips to attach to the leash. This way if a restaurant doesn’t have dog bowls, more of them are adding that to their list of dog accoutrements, then you’ll always have a bowl for water. Ask the server to fill the bowl and add some ice cubes on those hot days.
 
KEEP YOUR DOG ON A SHORT LEASH.
 
It’s important to keep your dog on a short leash somehow attached to you are anchored by heavy chair made heavier by your weight. The last thing you want is a too-friendly-pup licking a baby or eating someone’s food.
 
BRING A CHEW AND/OR TREATS.
 
I bring smaller long lasting chews for my dog because he will stay occupied and be less prone to begging. Also, I bring small training treats to redirect their attention if he should become too interested in fellow diners, other doggie diners, or all that food the waitstaff keeps walking by with. The smells must be so hard to deal with.
 
DON’T TETHER YOUR DOG TO THE TABLE.
 
I’ll let you picture that scenario in your mind.
 
CHAIRS AND TABLES ARE FOR PEOPLE, NOT DOGS.
 
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.
 
A cooling mat in the summer or a warm mat in the winter is another idea that might be a good addition to what you carry in your bag.
 
WATCH FOR DISCARDED FOOD BENEATH THE TABLE.
 
Before you sit down check to see if there are any dropped chicken bones or hunks of bread under the table that your dogs would just love to steal. While the hunk of bread would not be the end of the world the chicken wing bone could cause some real problems. Doing a quick sweep could make all the difference in a fun lunch or a dangerous one.
 
NOT EVERYONE IS A DOG LOVER
 
Of course, we find our dogs immeasurably adorable but we know that not everyone shares our feelings. Always ask for permission to approach, especially with small children, and don’t make the meal all about your dog. Your dogs are just happy to be in the sun enjoying time with you. Start small with a dining area of just a few tables and no outside stimulation such as loud music. You can work your way up once your dog realizes that being a good boy has benefits outside of the house, too.
 
Bon Appetite!