As the weather warms up, you may be inclined to dine outdoors at your favorite neighborhood restaurant — along with a four-legged friend.
It’s increasingly common for people to bring their dogs with them everywhere, including restaurants, cafés and other establishments that serve food. Luckily, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently updated its food code, signaling it’s OK for diners to bring dogs to restaurants’ outdoor seating areas “where allowed” by state, local and restaurant policies.
That's a good thing, since more Americans own dogs than any other pet. Dog ownership boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic, so now more than 65 million U.S. households own a canine, according to the American Pet Products Association.
“The human-canine bond is extremely unique,” says Brandi Munden, a vice president of the American Kennel Club (AKC). “A dog becomes part of the family,” including for family outings, she adds.
Health codes keep most restaurants from letting dogs inside, but many permit them in outdoor seating areas.
Overall, 20 states have laws or regulations allowing restaurant patrons to bring pet dogs to patios, but policies vary widely by locality. The exception is service dogs (but not emotional support dogs), which are allowed inside any restaurant or on a patio if they accompany people with disabilities. Owners of service dogs must comply with local licensing and registration requirements, but no documentation or certification is needed. As always, make sure your dog is up to date on vaccinations.
When taking your dog out, be prepared so you can enjoy yourself, your pet is comfortable and other patrons won’t be disrupted by frisky Fido.
Sheryl Gadol often travels with her three American cocker spaniels — Elvis, Larry and Ladybug — and doesn’t think twice about bringing them to restaurant patios. But she’s also aware of the social compact that applies when she does so.
“It’s wonderful to bring your dog with you, but they must be able to stay quiet and calm,” says the 58-year-old resident of North Smithfield, Rhode Island. “They can’t be jumping up and trying to eat your food or someone else’s food.”
Follow these nine tips to ensure you and your furry friend are prepared for any situation.
1. 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. Older adults may want to consider clicker training — a positive reinforcement training technique — because it helps pet owners control dogs without much physical exertion and it’s easy to use.