5 tips for dining out with your dog

Few things are better than taking your four-legged family members to a restaurant with you and enjoying a nice meal.

Unless, of course, your dog spends the entire meal trying to steal food, whining, or barking at other guests (human and canine). That can turn any dining experience into a nightmare, and cause you to rush through the meal to avoid further frustration and embarrassment.

Sound a bit like your dog? Well, have no fear. There are a number of things that you can do to ensure that a trip to your favorite restaurant with your best friend is a pleasant experience for both of you, and most of them are pretty straightforward and simple.

Feed them first. How would you like it if someone brought you to a place with all kinds of delicious-smelling food when you were hungry and then forbade you from eating? You wouldn’t — you’d hate it and probably be pretty annoyed with them.

Well, your pooch is having the doggie version of this reaction. The difference is that their solution isn’t to get mad — it’s to act up and keep trying to get food. One way to minimize food envy in your dog is to feed them right before you head out so that they arrive at the restaurant with a full belly.

Wear them out. If your pup is full of energy when you arrive to eat, getting them to sit still is going to be a lot tougher. They have to get that energy out somehow, and if they’re not extremely well-trained, it’s likely to manifest itself in barking, pacing, whining, or other bad behaviors.

Keep this from happening by taking a long walk before going to the restaurant or making a pit stop at the dog park before you eat. This way, your dog will be ready to plop down and rest while you enjoy your food.

Head where it’s puppy-approved. No one should ever just try to head into a restaurant with their dog unless they know the venue is friendly to pets, but hopefully you already know that and have found several places with outdoor eating areas that Fido can enjoy.

Today’s technology lets you take it even further than that, though. With sites like dogfriendly.com, it’s easy to not only find places that allow pets, but welcome them with open arms. How do you think your dog would like being served his own doggy meal?

Bring distractions. Many waiters are happy to bring out a little bowl of water for visiting pooches, but don’t count on it. If you’re headed out to eat with your pup, always take a travel water bowl with you so that she stays hydrated — and has something to do!

Speaking of which, being forced to sit still and do nothing while you eat can get pretty boring for your dog, so why not bring something for them to do? Chew toys and tough-to-chew treats can be fantastic ways to keep your dog distracted throughout your meal and elicit good behavior.

Know your dog. Some dogs are completely calm and in-control about eating out at a restaurant, but it sends others into a frenzy. You know your pooch best. If you know that he or she freaks out at the sight of kids or other dogs and you have difficulty controlling the behavior, eating out together might not be the best idea.

Anyone bringing a dog to a restaurant should always make sure that they are trained in basic commands first, such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “down,” and so on. Your wording may differ, but you get the gist. If your pup can’t follow those rules, heading out to eat with them shouldn’t be an option.

One final, overall rule that you should always use when out and about with your dog — make sure they are leashed! Even if your dog is well-behaved, you never know when a surprising incident might set them off or if you’ll have to pull them out of harm’s way. By keeping them leashed, you’re protecting not only others in the restaurant, but your dog as well.