The summer is upon us and hopefully the rain will be stopping soon! This means lots of opportunities for meals at outdoor restaurants, coffee outside of cafes, nice afternoons at the food truck event, or warm evenings at the brewery—all places that people like to bring their dogs.
I personally love being able to bring my dogs with me to these places and my dogs have been trained to be comfortable in these situations so they enjoy the adventure as well. When the weather is nice, I specifically choose eateries based on their dog friendly options. However, since I frequent places that allow dogs, I also see many dogs who are actually not terribly happy or comfortable at the eatery and owners who are not acting in responsible manners.
Since access to these activities can easily be revoked by the establishments that are currently open to dogs, it’s so important that dogs and their owners are model citizens. That doesn’t mean dogs have to be perfectly trained but they need to be comfortable in that environment, be appropriate and safe for that environment, and have owners who are putting their dog’s needs first.
One of the biggest concerns I see are simply dogs that are uncomfortable and not happy in that environment. Dogs who appear fearful or nervous or generally unhappy in the chaos and dogs who are reactive or upset by other dogs or people can cause some serious issues and be a safety concern. Part of the challenge is owners learning to recognize when their dog is worried, concerned, uncomfortable, or stressed. What I look for in a dog who is comfortable is a dog who can sit or lay quietly, who is comfortable eating and drinking, who is okay not visiting people who are walking around, and who can calmly be around other dogs while not greeting them. If a dog is panting heavily when it’s not super hot, is unable to settle down, won’t eat or drink, is frantically trying to get to or avoid people/dogs, or is vocalizing, those are all red flags that the dog is not actually comfortable.
The second biggest concern I see are owners not being responsible. I’ve seen owners allowing their wildly friendly puppy to run up and greet every dog they see or bring a dog who is growling at every dog who walks past their table. They are paying little to no attention to their dog as it stares down the dog at the neighboring table or is wandering out into the aisles looking to get attention from other patrons. Owners turn the other way as their dog lifts its leg on the table leg or pesters another patron for food who was ignoring the dog. I’ve watched a dog on a flexi leash (extendable) wind its way under 2 tables worth of chairs to get at another dog (not in a friendly manner) who had just arrived and have seen countless reactive or aggressive (towards people and dogs) dogs at these places making the environment unsafe.
While you might feel guilty about leaving Fido at home while you go out to a brewery after work, it doesn’t mean that Fido wants to go with you. He may have been just as happy with a walk and dinner at home before you leave. Being smart and making responsible choices for your dog and what they would prefer doing is so important!
So, your dog really does enjoy going on these adventures, that’s great! It’s also really important that if you are going to take your dog, you plan ahead and you prepare them for that environment.
Here is my list of things to do to make your dog a great patio dog!
—Put your dog’s needs first! This is the most important thing you can do. You really have to be prepared to leave early, leave before getting your meal (or get it as take out), stay sober enough to advocate for your dog, make sure they have the safe place and water they need to be comfortable before you get set, and devote part of your attention to your dog throughout your social hour.
—Leave if your dog is uncomfortable! If your dog is showing signs of being stressed or uncomfortable (including from the weather), it’s okay to ask for your check and leave early. Don’t force them to stay in an environment that, for whatever reason, is making them uncomfortable (even if they normally are happy there). These environments can be inherently scary, overstimulating, or overwhelming to dogs—lots of people, loud cheering, drunk people doing weird things, people carrying large trays, etc. all of that can be overwhelming to dogs and it’s okay to leave if that’s the case.
—Train your dog to be comfortable and calm in busy environments. You have to teach your pup that these environments are safe and that their job is to just relax and hang out. I highly recommend teaching your dog to love laying on a mat to get treats so that you can always bring along their safe place with you and they have a place that they can lay down and feel comfortable in close proximity to dogs and people. Teach them to not approach other dogs or people without being invited or told to do so.
—Bring treats, a mat, and water bowl. Much like bringing a baby or a toddler to a restaurant, you should be bringing some things for your dog! Treats to reward them for being good, maybe kong or bullystick if the environment isn’t typically saturated with other dogs so they have something to do, a mat for them to comfortably lay down on in a specific spot, and their own bowl (if your dog is at all particular about drinking water only from their own bowl). I see so many people who go with nothing and when their dog starts getting bored and acting up they just get yelled at, which doesn’t help them actually LIKE being there. One of the reasons my dogs love going with me places is they know that treats will happen for laying down calmly and what’s easier to do than just lay down and eat snacks.
—Leave your dog at home if they are not social with people and other dogs! Busy locations are absolutely not the place to bring your dog who is afraid of people or who is reactive (whether happily or not so happily towards dogs). It’s not worth risking an incident bringing your dog with you—let them stay at home and not stuck with the people or dogs that make them uncomfortable.
It is a privilege, not a right, to be able to bring our dogs to these locations and the more concerning dogs and situations I see, the more likely it is that establishments will start putting up the “No Dogs Allowed” signs.
Want to improve your dog’s patio skills? Keep an eye out for our Patio Pups class at Success Just Clicks Dog Training! It’s a class completely devoted to skills for you and your dog to safely navigate and more thoroughly enjoy time together at dog-friendly establishments!
Article provided by Tena Parker CDBC, CPDT-KA