Dog-Friendly Patios: Top 6 Patio Etiquette Tips for You and Your Dog
With warmer weather and summer travel plans just around the corner, it’s about that time of year when people get excited about outdoor dining again. There are few things as fun as enjoying a relaxing meal out in the summer sun with friends and family. Perhaps the best part is that more and more restaurant patios have become dog-friendly over the years. Now bringing your furry best friend with you for outdoor dining can be an exciting new activity to share together.
Of course, there are some best practices you and your best friend should follow if you are headed to your favorite local restaurant or stopping somewhere new while on vacation. It’s time to brush up on a few dog-friendly patio rules you should know to ensure everyone has their fun, whether they have two legs or four.
Make Sure to Train your Dog the Basics
If your best friend is just a puppy, it’s best to wait until they have completed their basic puppy training and have had all their necessary vaccinations before you introduce them to a new environment. Dog-friendly patios can get loud, busy, and overstimulating if a pup is not fully prepared. You will want to make sure your dog is able to hear your commands and act accordingly.
Fortunately, Bil-Jac and Professional Animal Trainer and TV Show Host Joel Silverman teamed up to create several training videos and articles to help you teach your dog some new tricks and good behaviors. Some basic skills your pup should know before you head to the restaurant are:
You might want to practice some of these commands outside in a park or other public place so your dog can get used to ignoring distractions. If you want to take it one step further and have a trial run, visit a busy outdoor spot and sit on a bench. Run through your basic commands and note how well your dog listens when surrounded by other people and dogs. If they are easily distracted or don’t respond, they aren’t ready for a patio visit.
Test For Food Aggression
In addition to brushing up on basic commands, you will want to ensure your dog doesn’t exhibit any kind of food aggression. There will likely be snacks around a public patio, so knowing ahead of time how your dog will respond is key to ensuring everyone has an enjoyable experience.
According to Silverman, there four different levels of reactive behaviors and food aggression:
- Level one: As you approach, your dog glances toward you, but continues eating. You can walk all the way to him and even pet him.
- Level two: The dog continues eating as you approach, but he looks concerned and starts to eat faster. This level is most common level of reactive behaviors for dogs.
- Level three: The dog stops eating as you approach and looks directly at you. He’ll continue eating once you stop, but he’s clearly concerned. As you get closer, his hair might hackle on his back and around his shoulders.
- Level four: The dog growls when you approach, and may even freeze or nip at you if you get close enough.
If your dog meets the requirements of level one or two, they are pretty relaxed and only mildly reactive over their food. Dogs at level three and four, however, have some degree of food aggression issues. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help your dog relax and be less protective about their meals, but until you practice those steps, it is best to stay away from restaurant patios.
Burn Off Some Energy Before Your Visit
As humans, it can be hard to sit still when we have a lot of pent-up energy. This phenomenon can be true for our furry friends as well, especially with active breeds like Australian Cattle Dogs, Golden Retrievers, Jack Russell Terriers, and German Shepherds.
Before you head out to the patio, consider a walk around the neighborhood or a trip to the park for a game of fetch to burn off some steam. Exerting your dog’s built-up energy will help your furry friend be more calm and relaxed when other people and dogs are around.
Here’s a chart that provides an approximate indication for how long and far your puppy can walk, depending on their age and health.
Make Sure to Come Prepared
As fun as it may seem to split a meal with your four-legged companion, it is never a good idea to give dogs human food. Additionally, some dog-friendly patios may have either a communal water bowl or personal water dish you can borrow for your dog, but others may not. Before you head out, make sure you are prepared with your own water, treats, and dog food along with your own dog bowl just in case. Communal bowls can unintentionally spread germs, so having your own bowls is best.
Using a harness and a short leash is best when dining out with your dog. The harness will stop them from pulling on the leash and choking, while a short lead will minimize trip hazards if you dog tries to wander from the table. Tying your dog’s leash to a table or patio chairs can cause furniture to tip or spill dishes, so it’s best to keep hold of your best friend through the meal.
You may also want to consider bringing a favorite toy or two to help distract your pup if they start to get restless or distracted. And of course, don’t forget to reward your pooch for being well-behaved. At just three calories per treat, Bil-Jac Dessert Jacs are a great, tasty option to pack along to reinforce your furry friend’s good behavior.
Check Out the Patio Beforehand
No one knows your dog better than you do, including their likes and dislikes. Do they get stressed when there is a lot of noise and commotion? Do they enjoy pats from strangers, or do they prefer to be left alone? Before you pack up your doggy travel bag, consider making a visit to the patio without your pooch. Is it busy? Is it loud? How many dogs and people are there? These factors may help you better understand how your dog may respond to this new environment.
It is also helpful to scope out the seating situation. Is there a shady spot where your dog can lay down and hang out that won’t be in the way of staff and others passing by? A corner table can be a cozy place that will help minimize distractions. It is important to consider all the factors that will affect whether or not you, your pooch, and the people around you have a good time.
Stay Alert and Know When it is Time to Leave
When out in a public place like a dog-friendly patio, it is not only important to know your dog’s limits, but also crucial to respect the limits of the other people around you as well. That is why when you head out for a meal with your pup, remember that you will need to stay alert and split your attention. If you notice your dog start to get agitated, restless, or reactive, it is most likely time to leave. This is not only a way to protect your dog, but also a precaution to protect the staff and patrons around you as well.
Remember, the opportunity to visit a dog-friendly patio is a privilege, so it is important that we all do our part so the restaurant doesn’t have to change their pet policy. With a little practice and patience, your best friend could end up being a true patio pooch all summer long!
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