Pet Travel. Made Easy.

Training Your Dog To Be A Good Dining Companion

One of our goals is to make Take Paws a showcase for people having fun with their pets, and sharing YOUR pet travel experiences is part of the fun! When one of our favorite bloggers offered her insights on training your dog to be a well-behaved dining companion, our tongues were wagging!

One of the biggest challenges pet travelers face is figuring out where to eat when they’re on the road. Leaving pets in cars – especially in the summer – is dangerous … but the thought of taking a dog that acts more like a dingo to a restaurant patio may send your appetite fleeing.

Whether you’re training a dog who’s just learning his dining manners, or you have a reactive dog (like Ty and Buster) who goes off like a time bomb when his circuits get tripped, Pamela’s tips and advice are just what you’ll need to help your pup learn to be a pleasant dining companion.


Honey the golden retriever on the beach at Cape May.

My idea of dog friendly dining is digging for mussels on the beach.

I’m lucky – my dog, Honey, is Little Miss Perfect. I can take her to parades, malls, and even social media conferences without fear of being embarrassed or threatened with doggy jail. But, better than all of that, I can take her out to eat on a pet friendly patio! But I haven’t always had confident and well socialized dogs, and I know from experience you can teach any dog – even one who’s reactive – to eat out without losing your mind.

Reactive Dogs

“Reactive” is a way of saying that a dog has a strong reaction to outside stimuli. If your dog barks at strangers or becomes a fuzzy little psychopath when another dog walks by, you may have a reactive dog – and taking him out to a pet-friendly restaurant may be the very last thing you can imagine doing. But I have some experience vacationing with reactive dogs, and these are tricks I’ve found to work when your dogs is still learning the ropes of dining out.

Honey the golden retriever poses with a whale jaw bone.

Posing me with a whale jaw bone for an article on eating out with your dog? That’s just sick.

Before Taking a Dog Out to Eat

With any dog, training them to pay attention to you is a good idea, but with reactive dogs, it’s the most important thing you can do to help lessen his reactivity. If he’s focused on you, he’s not paying attention to whatever triggers him in the surroundings. If you’re not already doing that, then stop reading this piece and start researching training and treatment for reactive dogs. When you and your dog have reached a point where you can manage his reactions, here’s how to plan a successful meal out:

Dog Friendly Restaurant Research

You can’t just decide one afternoon that you want to go for brunch at that cool place that has people lining up around the block. You’re going to have to do some homework first.

Honey the golden retriever at Sunset Beach.

Thank you for the warm welcome.

Is the restaurant truly pet-friendly?

I remember visiting a restaurant in Cape Cod that advertised itself as having dog friendly dining. As we walked up, the hostess came running with a list of rules and a lecture on proper behavior. She then seated us in a far-off corner. I got the feeling the restaurant’s owners thought being dog friendly was a good business opportunity … but didn’t actually like dogs at all.

In contrast, when we go to Gecko’s in Cape May, New Jersey, the hostess asks where we think our dog might be most comfortable. They understand when I ask for a shady spot, or one that limits my dog’s view of other diners. And they bring out a big bowl of water as soon as we sit down.

Can your dog sit in the restaurant comfortably?

Pet friendly dining on Restaurant Row in my hometown is a joke. Squeezing even the tiniest dog between the overcrowded sidewalk tables would be uncomfortable! The ideal dog friendly dining area has some shade, enough room between tables that dogs can lie down without being disturbed, and something that screens other diners—perhaps some potted plants or a lower level. If your dog can’t relax, he’ll be looking for things to bark at.

Honey the golden retriever looks at Cape May Lighthouse.

Pretty lighthouse. Do you think it has a restaurant at the top?

When is the restaurant least crowded?

If stopping for lunch at 11 a.m. or 3:15 p.m. gives you the best chance of having the place to yourself, take it! Remember, you’re the one asking your dog to eat out with you. He’s not begging you to take him to a restaurant.

Set Your Dog Up For Success

Keeping your dog busy, so he’s not as tuned in to what’s happing around him, is a great tactic. While you’re eating, why not feed your dog at the same time? By packing his meal into a stuffed Kong, not only will your dog be occupied, but he’ll learn that eating out is very rewarding. And, be sure to hold a few special treats back to reward your dog for not reacting if something that would normally set him off should happen.

Plan an Exit Strategy

You can’t plan everything. A woman may walk by with a Yorkie in her purse. A squirrel may appear to look for tidbits. A dog afraid of men with beards may freak out when the Ernest Hemingway club stops in for a few drinks.

If something happens and your dog starts to react, just get up and leave. It’s best if you have a friend who will pay the bill and have your food packed to go, but if you’re on your own, leave enough cash to cover the check and beat a quick retreat.

What If Your Dog Just Isn’t Ready

Let’s face it … sitting calmly under a table in a restaurant is an advanced skill. It takes practice, and still doesn’t always go well. Perhaps your dog is just learning or is too reactive for that environment – does that mean you can never eat out with your dog?

It didn’t stop me from eating out with Agatha and Christie. Picnic-style is the way to go when your dog isn’t ready for cute decks and patios!

Hot Dog Tommy in Cape May.

Honey is in love. What could be better than a man wearing a hot dog on his head?

In Cape May, you have to stop at Hot Dog Tommy’s! Find a quiet spot to click and treat your dog for not reacting to everything happening around him while your partner gets a couple of dogs to share with you on a deserted stretch of beach or a quiet corner of the park. When you’re not in Cape May, find a deli, grocery store with a prepared food counter, or pizza joint and get your meal to go. It won’t be the same as enjoying brunch and mimosas with your best friend sitting at your knee, but you’re eating out with your dog … and what could be better than that?

Training Tips from - Teach Your Dog to be a Polite Dining Companion

PamelaAbout the Author: Pamela has been passionately blogging at Something Wagging This Way Comes for more than four years, sharing the joyful bond she has with Honey, the absolutely-perfect-in-every-way Golden Retriever, and her husband, Mike. You can connect with Pamela and Honey on Facebook and Google+.

Planning a pet friendly trip of your own? We’ll make it easy:
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  • Congratulations on the new addition to your family, Jeanette! We hope you and your pup have a fantastic time in Cape May. Waggin’ trails!

  • I was drawn to this blog article because of the picture with your dog at Sunset Beach. I just became an owner of a golden retriever puppy and I can’t wait to take her to Cape May! Cape May is my favorite place to visit and taking my golden down. The island is very dog friendly.

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