26 Sep 2022

A dog's dinner? Canine restaurant etiquette

The pandemic made the British more soppy than ever about dogs, and pandemic puppies were seen as a salvation for house-bound, lonely self-isolators. But how do we accommodate our pampered pooches into our post-pandemic lifestyle? Restaurants, anxious to make up for pandemic losses, are falling over backwards to attract customers, and are more willing than ever to accommodate dogs. It is completely legal for dogs to join their owners in restaurants and cafés in the UK, as long as hygiene protocols are respected. However, whether your favourite restaurant chooses to admit dogs is a matter of discretion, so it’s always advisable to check first.

How do you prepare for a dog’s dinner? As with all social encounters, it is important that you are observant and self-aware; you will need to monitor your dog’s behaviour and also check that there he or she is not upsetting fellow diners. If that is the case, you will have to accept it with good grace – not everyone is a dog-lover, hard as you may find it to believe, and some fastidious people may be offended by your dog’s behaviour.

Ten Restaurant Etiquette Rules for Dogs

1. Dogs should be well trained before you even consider taking them out to eat. This means that they respond to commands like ‘sit’ and ‘stay’. They should be used to lying quietly or playing with a dog toy at home while you are eating.

2. It’s a good idea to take your dog for a walk before you go to the restaurant – it will wipe them out and with any luck they’ll sleep peacefully under the table.

3. It’s also a good idea to feed your dog before you take him/her to a restaurant. You may still have to contend with longing looks at your plate, but the dog will feel more lethargic about jumping up and begging for morsels.

4. Come well prepared with a dog bowl (the waiter can fill it with water for you), dog treats (great for distraction and reward) and a dog toy.

5. Keep your dog on a short leash while you are in the restaurant, and attach it to something solid like a table leg.

6. Choose your position carefully ­ – ensure that your are away from doggy distractions such as small children and other dogs, and also make sure that your dog doesn’t sprawl between tables, creating an obstruction.

7. You might think your dog is a miraculous near-human, but your fellow diners are unlikely to agree, so don’t let your dog sit up at the table, sit on your lap and put its paws on the table, and under no circumstances should you let it lick your plate – many people will be grossed out by the sight of a dog slobbering on the tableware. Do not feed your dog with scraps from the table – you can always ask the restaurant for a doggie bag.

8. Be very alert to your dog’s behaviour – you need to look out for doggie hazards such as other dogs, toddlers, and – if you’re eating outdoors – wildlife such as squirrels. If someone accidentally drops a tasty morsel on the floor nearby, your dog is liable to become over-excited and begin straining at the leash.

9. Be very aware of the fact that not everybody is an ardent dog-lover. Small children may be very scared of dogs, and some people are a bit phobic. Complacently making pronouncements like “he’s just being friendly” is really not good enough.

10. If your dog becomes over-excited and starts barking, be aware that diners who are hoping to enjoy a quiet night out might soon start to feel frazzled. In these circumstances it’s a good idea to take your dog outside for a quick break, or even admit defeat and leave.

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