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Doggie dining: 8 Questions to ask when bringing a dog to a restaurant

Kim Grundy is a mom, writer, expert laundry folder and sandwich maker, not necessarily in that order. Raised in Oklahoma, she is now a West Coast gal and lives in California with her husband and two sons, along with one dog, two fish (oo...

Dog restaurant etiquette

We know your dog is part of the family, so when you go to a restaurant, you want him to go with you! Before you get Fido dressed to impress in his favorite collar and sweater, get the 411 on all the etiquette you need to know before dining with your doggie.

Woman at outdoor cafe with dog

Photo credit: Kondoros Éva Katalin/E+/Getty images

How do you know if a restaurant allows dogs?

If you have a service dog, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows you to take your dog into public places such as restaurants. If you don't have a disability, however, you'll need to do a little legwork before bringing your dog.

Unless you see a sign on the door that says "No dogs allowed," how do you know if your restaurant is pet-friendly? "If you see another dog there, it is dog-friendly," says Michelle Schenker of CanineJournal.com. "Many dog-friendly places are proud of this aspect of their business and will promote it on their doors, website, Facebook wall and even as a tip on Foursquare. You could also go old-school and pick up the phone to ask."

You can also check online for dog-friendly establishments at BringFido.com or PetFriendlyRestaurants.com. If you are traveling, download the Dog Friendly app to your mobile device to find pet-friendly restaurants nearby.

When should I bring my dog? Should I avoid certain days or times?

After you have determined that the restaurant is pet-friendly, be considerate of other diners and try to steer away from taking your dog during busy times or romantic date nights, unless there are several other dogs there as well. In general, try to stay away from fancy restaurants and take your doggie to more casual dining spots.

“If your dog is new to the pet-friendly restaurant scene, call ahead and ask the restaurant for days or nights they’re least busy,” suggests Mark Brown from Carolina Prime Pet and Blue Ridge Naturals dog treats. “Those would be the best to introduce your dog to the concept and your expectations.”

OK, but should you bring your dog?

You found out that your chosen restaurant allows dogs, but should you bring your dog? Make sure you have brushed up on your "doggie manners" before dining.

"Make sure your dog is well trained, well behaved and well socialized. They have to understand that this isn't a trip to the dog park or a 'doggie play date.' That sort of training starts at home, of course," says Brown.

You should also take the size of your dog into account. In general, small dogs have more flexibility than larger dogs when it comes to doggie dining.

Are you prepared with the dog essentials?

Make sure you come to a restaurant prepared for your dog's needs. Bring along his leash and collar as well as a bone or toy to keep him occupied.

“Always, I repeat, always have poop bags and water for your dog. Also, if you have a dog that tends to drool (like some of the larger breeds), make sure to bring an extra towel," says dog trainer and Pawtopia founder Colleen Demling. She adds that you may not be bothered by dog slobber; however, others may feel differently.

How can you keep your dog happy and calm while dining?

A happy and calm dog is a happy and calm dog owner — so how can you keep your pup well behaved while you are dining? "Bring along a toy that they love, or maybe even a bone to chew on," suggests Schenker.

Her top tip? "Give them a little taste of what's on your plate, and they will be thrilled!"

How do you keep your dog from bothering other diners?

"If it is a place that is well known for being dog-friendly, then most patrons will not mind your pup at all," says Schenker. "In fact, many may even come over to meet them. If you are concerned, you may just ask the host to seat you in an area with like-minded dog-friendly guests."

You should also make sure your dog is well socialized. If your dog has a tendency to growl or snap at people, it may be best to leave Fido at home when dining out.

How do you keep your dog from barking at other dogs?

Your dog is well-behaved around people, but how can you ensure she is on her best behavior around other dogs?

"Keep a close watch on them to make sure they are staying entertained in the way you plan for them to versus with external stimuli, like other dogs, and keep them on a tight leash. If you have them under your full control, then it will be very tough for anything to happen that you cannot manage," says Schenker.

Is your dog healthy, with up-to-date vaccinations?

Lastly, for the health of the diners and other dogs, make sure your dog is healthy and up-to-date on all of his vaccinations.

In general, keep this golden rule in mind when dining out with dogs: "When you take your pup in public, the ultimate compliment is for someone to say 'Oh, I didn't even know there was a dog here!' If your dog is barking or acting unruly, he isn't having fun (and neither are you), so remove him from the situation and try again later," says Demling.

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