Dining Out with Fido and Fluffy
By The Gastronomes
Anyone who has walked the streets of Old Town knows how Alexandrian’s love their canine kids and that they like to take them everywhere – including dining out. Much has been written about the many establishments in the area that welcome our furry pals in other local publications – all you have to do is Google “dog friendly” restaurants in Alexandria, VA.
After experiencing a couple of “incidents” ourselves while dining out, we thought we would take this opportunity to put out a bit of a refresher course on what a dog owner should take into consideration before heading out to eat with your pooch in tow.
We consulted Sharon Gadol, who penned a piece for AARP, and she provided us with the information below. The bulk of it is pure common sense but you know how that eludes some people.
Make sure your dog is well-behaved.
Experts say the number one priority is to make sure your dog is well-trained and well-behaved. That means no barking, growling or jumping on neighboring diners. Gadol followed the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen program to train her dogs, including passing a 10-skills test for politeness in public.
You can train your dog yourself, but Tiffany Tupler, a veterinarian at pet site Chewy, recommends dog trainers certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants.
“Learn to connect with your dog when you’re going out,” says Tupler, who has three dogs at home. “Practice, practice, practice. Slowly add in other distractors and keep training when your dog is at home. Go to a patio seating on a Tuesday when there aren’t a lot of people.”
Know your dog.
Experts say it’s important to understand your dog’s body language and know the triggers that make them skittish or anxious and cause them to bark, run or even
Many dogs have noise phobias that are set off by people cheering or large trucks, or they fear unknown objects, such as a bicycle or baby stroller, Tupler says. Make sure you can recognize when your dog feels uncomfortable.
Monitor your dog when out for signs of fear or anxiety, such as cowering, ears tacked back, head lowered, tail low and tucked down, a frozen posture or trembling, which may signal it’s time to go home. “What does a scared dog look like?” Tupler says. “What does a happy dog look like?”
Keep your pup on a leash while dining out. The leash should be 6 feet or less because a shorter leash provides more control of a dog, she adds. Don’t use a retractable leash because it can be a trip hazard for you and other people.
Consider a carrier case.
If you have a small dog, think about putting your pet in a carrier case at the restaurant. Not only will the case contain your dog, but it may make Fluffy more comfortable in an unfamiliar setting.
Gadol does that with her dog, Elvis, at restaurants. “For me, it’s security,” she says. “It’s safe and clean.”
Choose a seat carefully.
Choose your seat at a restaurant, café or pub with the comfort of your dog, staff and other patrons in mind.
Pick a location with low foot traffic, and away from crowds and walkways where your dog may react to other pups, passersby or vehicles. Placing your dog on the inside of patios and walkways also protects it from someone stepping on a paw or tail or other accidents.
Some restaurants allow dogs on seats, but don’t let them on the table or eat off your plate. Make sure your dog doesn’t block walkways so other patrons can pass by and workers can do their jobs.
Take care of business beforehand.
Before going to a restaurant, make sure your dog has peed and pooped to prevent accidents. Don’t use the restaurant’s grounds for this purpose, which “may not make them very welcoming” to you and your four-legged friend. Bring extra poop bags and wipes just in case.
Carry water for your dog.
Some restaurants provide water or a dog bowl for water upon request, but carry your own collapsible bowl and water just in case. It’s especially important on a hot or humid day so your dog doesn’t overheat.
Bring treats and more.
It’s OK to bring treats to a restaurant to keep your dog occupied and stop it from drooling over human food. It may be a good idea to bring a towel or blanket for your dog to sit or lie on, especially if the ground surface is hot.
Some dog-friendly establishments provide treats and even special dog menus for canine patio guests, but call ahead to check.
Clean up after your pet.
Wipes will come in handy if your dog drools or leaves bits of food on the ground. The goal is to make the dining experience positive for you and for your dog, but also for patrons and staff, Tupler says: “Don’t create an inconvenience for restaurant staff.”
The bulk of the establishments listed in the Dining Out Guide in the issue are dog friendly and welcome your pooch. If you are interested in a particular restaurant, it is always good to call ahead or consult their website before you show up at the door.