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Bringing your pet to a dog-friendly restaurant allows you to spend more time together. It also offers opportunities to put into practice your dog’s manners training. Only service dogs have public access to any restaurant, but some dog-friendly restaurants and outdoor dining options allow your pet to come along. But before bringing your dog along, you’ll want to assess if they will enjoy the experience and if they’ll be up for the challenge.

Practical Application of Training Skills

Before bringing your dog to brunch or your favorite patio happy hour, consider brushing up on your dog’s training. For example, has your dog earned their CGC (Canine Good Citizen) title yet? CGC tests your dog’s ability to be an all-around polite member of the community. These are the same types of skills you’ll want your dog to have before going out to eat together.

Chihuahua licking its lips looking at a place of food on the kitchen table.
© via Getty Images

Before heading to a restaurant with your pet, you may want to review the “leave it” cue. Outdoor dining and dog-friendly restaurants are full of distractions, including different foods being carried or even dropped near your table. Making sure your dog really understands “leave it” will allow you to get your pet’s attention and prevent them from snacking on any food that may have fallen.

Another useful skill to practice is the “watch me” cue. This will help keep your dog’s focus on you and prevent them from approaching other people’s tables. A “place” cue can also be helpful. Practice this cue using a towel or small blanket to indicate where you’d like them to settle. At the restaurant, put the towel under your table; use your place cue to tell your dog you’d like them to settle on their “bed” while you eat.

What Should I Bring for My Dog?

When going out to eat with your dog, be prepared with everything your pet will need to be comfortable, such as:

Your dog is more likely to repeat behavior that is rewarded. Therefore, it’s better to praise and treat your dog for lying under the table and being calm than to scold them when they get restless. You can also bring your dog a chew or other small toy to entertain themselves while you are eating.

What to Do With Your Dog at a Restaurant

Always keep your dog under your table or close by; this way, they won’t block aisles or bother restaurant staff or other guests. For everyone’s comfort and safety, avoid letting your dog approach others without their permission. When it comes to interacting with people, it’s up to you to advocate for what will make your dog most comfortable.

If your dog is social and enjoys meeting new people, feel free to allow them to greet a person who asks if they can pet your dog. However, if your dog isn’t a fan of greeting strangers or easily gets overstimulated, feel free to politely decline; you can then explain your dog is shy or that they’re in training and learning to relax in distracting environments.

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Similarly, your dog doesn’t need to greet other dogs at the restaurant. Even if your dog likes other dogs, it’s best to avoid on-leash greetings with other dogs at this time. Instead, we want to encourage dogs to be neutral and ignore any other animals accompanying their owners.

How to Find a Dog-Friendly Restaurant

Many restaurants have begun offering outdoor seating options. Many, though not all, are dog-friendly. Before heading out to eat with your dog, it’s best to check the restaurant’s website or call ahead and ask if dogs are allowed to accompany their owners.

Local and independent restaurants with outdoor seating are often very dog-friendly, but many chain restaurants are as well. A few national restaurants that are usually dog-friendly in their outdoor seating areas include:

  • Applebee’s
  • Baja Fresh
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Dairy Queen
  • Johnny Rockets
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Panera Bread
  • Shake Shack
  • Starbucks
  • Sprinkles Cupcakes

Many restaurants are now allowing you to order before you sit down. If you’re dining alone at a restaurant that has this option (and doesn’t have table service), you can order on your phone. The food can be brought outside to where you and your dog are sitting.

©Yurii -
Poodle sitting at the table licking its lips looking at food.

Dog Menus

Many restaurants also offer dog-specific menus with canine-friendly treats and dog-friendly versions of eateries’ most popular items. Some of these, like Starbucks’ iconic “puppuccino” (small cup of whipped cream), are free when you order other items for people. In-N-Out offers a “pup patty” (a plain burger), and Shake Shack has a dog-friendly peanut butter sundae with dog biscuits! Some independent restaurants offer more elaborate dog menus, including entrees and desserts.

How Can I Ensure My Dog Will Have Fun?

While you might want to bring your dog everywhere with you, your pet might not enjoy every destination. If your dog is reactive, wary, or stressed around other people or animals, it’s best to avoid bringing your pet out to eat. Instead, opt for takeout or delivery. For your first time eating out with your dog, aim for a time when the restaurant will be less crowded. This can also help you assess if your dog needs more training before going at a busier time.

The most important to keep in mind is your dog’s temperament and how they feel around other dogs and people. If you know your dog is stressed about crowds, you’ll want to leave them at home. On the other hand, if your dog is trained to ignore distractions and enjoys new experiences, consider giving dining out together a try.

Related article: How to Help Your Dog Be Less Fearful Of Strangers
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