NutriSource Blogs

Your complete guide to dining out with your canine

August 11, 2021

Dining with your dog can be a delightful way to live the pet-inclusive life you’ve always dreamed of. If your dog is at a stage where he’s great on a leash and doesn’t mind hanging out while you eat and socialize, he’ll probably make a great dining companion. If you’re new to life with canines, make sure you’re in the know by reading up on our helpful guide to dining out with your dog.

Research the restaurant

Before you go, hop online and confirm the restaurant welcomes dogs on the patio, because not all do. Some restaurants with patios welcome non-service dogs as dinner guests. Some have an open-door policy for well-behaved dogs, while others set aside specific days for special “pups on the patio” events. If the website, social media and online reviews shed no light on the situation, ask. In this episode of the podcast, Raising Your Paws, we talk about a great resource for locating restaurants that accept dogs.

Get familiar with the health rules

If you’re new to dining with dogs, get familiar with your state and city’s regulations. You don’t want to step right into a health code violation! For example, in Minnesota, it’s up to individual towns and cities to let non-service dogs hang out in outdoor dining areas. Also, servers aren’t allowed to pet their furry guests. Being informed is the best way to prepare.

Be considerate: Feed your dog

Dining out with your loyal dog by your side is lots of fun for you. But before you go, you’ll want to put yourself in your dog’s place. Dogs have a powerful sense of smell, so just imagine sitting through dinner on an empty stomach — while having no choice but to take in those tantalizing aromas of burgers and chicken! One solution is to feed him before you leave the house. Or, you can bring a serving of kibble in a plastic bag so he doesn’t feel left out when your food arrives. Of course, if there’s a doggy menu, you can always order a special treat or entrée.

Bring your own bowls

Some restaurants provide a community water bowl so their four-legged diners can stay hydrated. Steer your pup clear of communal bowls, which can host any number of infective bacteria or parasites that are easily passed along to other dogs. Be prepared and take along a clean bowl for your pup, along with a travel bottle with fresh water.

Don’t share your dinner, or your plate

That is, unless you’re filming a remake of “Lady and the Tramp!” Seriously, sharing your dinner plate with your dog is never a great idea. Aside from the ick factor, sharing restaurant food isn’t always the healthiest choice for your dog. For starters, your entrée can be hidden sources of high sodium content, which can leave him feeling parched and dehydrated, especially on a hot day. Plus, you don’t want to set the handout precedent when you’re dining al fresco.

Read Why dogs beg and how to end it.

Have your dog lie beneath your table

If you have a small dog, you might be thinking your lap is the best place for your pet. Bear in mind that dogs seated at the table — on laps and chairs — would have a good chance of running afoul of health regulations. For everyone’s sake, the best place for your pooch is under the table, so he doesn’t create a tripping hazard for the serving staff and your fellow diners. Is this new for your dog? Work on training him to do just that at home during mealtimes, rewarding him with treats. Even if the setting is different, this will make the routine more familiar.

Keep your dog leashed at all times

A restaurant patio can hold all kinds of temptations for a curious dog. When there’s dropped bits of food to snap up and new people (and dogs!) to meet and greet, it’s a stimulating environment that can make it hard even for the best-behaved dog to refrain from jumping up and moving in for a sniff. Keeping him leashed lets you keep him under control while you dine.

Dine in the off-hours

Not sure how well your dog will handle a restaurant patio? Start things off with an afternoon appetizer when the patio’s not crowded. Dining with your dog during the off-peak times can provide you and your furry friend with a low-stakes test run.

Have an exit plan

Every dog has his day. Even if your canine companion is typically mellow and well-behaved, a dining patio can be a lot for a dog to handle. Between the new smells and many visitors he’d encounter, it may be a situation that takes his self-control to its limits. Before you head out, just mentally prepare yourself for plan B: the one where you ask for the check and a doggie bag for your meal.

Dinner and a walk: What better way to enjoy some quality time with your best friend. Follow the above guidelines and everyone will have a pleasant meal.

Family-owned NutriSource Soft and Tender Treats are the perfect “good dog” snack to keep on hand. They’re 3.5 calories apiece and fortified with Carniking™, a trusted source of L-Carnitine to help your pet burn fat and maintain a healthy weight. So when you want to reward your pet for good behavior on the patio, you can do so while keeping the calories down. They’re available in three delicious flavors: chicken, lamb and salmon.

Shop local, and pick up a pouch at an independent pet supply shop in your community.