My two dogs Charlotte and Georgia sitting near an outdoor dining table with leashes on.

How to Enjoy Lunch with Your Dog at your Favorite Cafe

You may want to want to head out to your favorite restaurant and enjoy lunch with your newly adopted dog. But is this a good idea? You may be concerned that your dog may be disruptive or will not sit quietly while you eat lunch.

With a little bit of effort, most dogs can be coached to sit quietly at your feet while you enjoy your lunch together. You will want to take some precautions to ensure that your dog will remain calm and content. I recommend that you do not attempt this if your dog is a very young puppy or has severe behavioral problems. However, most mature dogs who have received some minimal basic training will be ready for this next step. When set up correctly, you and your dog can have a pleasurable and enjoyable lunch as one of your new adventures together!

Practice at Home with Your Dog before Heading Out

To begin with, start having lunch with your dog at home both inside and outside. Your dog should know a couple of basic commands such as “sit” and “off” at a minimum. You don’t want your dog to jump on the table, and you want him to sit or lie down while you eat. Do not feed your dog from the table. Encourage him to lie quietly next to you or under the table while you have lunch. You can give him treats or a special toy to keep him occupied.

Do not feed your dog from the table! Human food is not always good for dogs, especially from restaurants. See my post about feeding your dog kibbles. Additionally, you want your dog to be focused on something other than the food on your plate and to not have expectations about getting scraps. This is a good rule in general at home and while eating out. Otherwise, you may get a beggar who whines and paws at you each time you try to eat.

Find A Dog Friendly Restaurant

Next, you will need to find eating establishments that allow pets. Be sure to call ahead of time to find out about their pet policies, and if they have outdoor dining areas available. Obviously, time of year is important, and you should find out if their patio areas are shielded from the elements with umbrellas, overhangs, or heaters as needed. Fortunately, many restaurants have these accommodations and gladly welcome you and Fido as long as you follow their guidelines for bringing pets. Some restaurants even have doggie menus! But just be sure to call ahead first, so you don’t risk getting turned away.

Make sure your dog is leashed at all times and under control, and abide by the eatery guidelines. The staff may place you in a corner or other area away from the crowd. Be polite and also be prepared to leave in the event your dog is having a bad day and becomes disruptive are barks excessively.

Be Prepared Before You Go to Lunch

Take your dog for a long walk and potty break before driving to the restaurant. You may also want to give him a small meal before your lunch together, so he is not overly excited from all of the aroma of food cooking when you arrive. This will help settle him down and avoid potential accidents like peeing on the patio.

You can also pack a small water bowl and dish for treats. Although some pet friendly restaurants offer water bowls for dogs. You may also want to pack one of his favorite chewy toys or a small Kong toy (Amazon, affiliate link) with almond or peanut butter inside. Any of these can be a very nice distraction to keep Fido busy for several minutes.

I usually take my dog’s favorite treats and just keep doling them out if they start to fidget. But their favorite is a big carrot. The crunchy carrots keep them busy for quite a while, and they are really good for them.

Georgia is enjoying her carrot at lunch.
Georgia really loves carrots!

Be prepared for the weather. On a chilly day, some smaller dogs may need a sweater. The heat lamps may not reach them. You may also want to take a dog blanket for your dog to lie on if the ground is cold. But also make sure that there is shade if it is a hot day, and plenty of water. A good rule of thumb, is that if you are too cold or too hot, your dog may be as well. So, make sure you all dress accordingly.

How to Navigate and Enjoy Your Lunch Together

Once you are finally at the restaurant, let the greeter seat you in their designated pet area. I find they often led us to a corner area or a table away from other dogs and large groups, which is what I prefer. I often go during off hours when possible to avoid a crowded space, so I don’t have to manage my dogs as much.

Once we are seated, I immediately tuck both of my dogs under the table and ask them to sit. I usually secure their leashes to my belt or wrap it around my left wrist (since I am right handed). Never tie your dog to the table or chair! Your dog can easily tip over a table or chair if they decide to take off. Instead, I secure their leashes to me and then step on their leashes giving them only a few inches of lead. This will force them to lie down after a few minutes, and then you can let up a bit on the leash once they are down.

Keeping them tucked under the table keeps them calmer. I usually feed them treats throughout my lunch to keep them content. If another dog walks by, I may need to reposition them and give them their carrot to distract them.

Going to Lunch Together Can be One of Your Most Enjoyable Adventures!

I have a favorite restaurant near me that has a large outdoor patio overlooking a large pond. It is a very popular place that is very pet friendly. I was required complete a registration form. Then they gave me a pass to present each time we came. The first time I took my dogs, they were really excited and very hyped up despite our long walk before hand. They were six years old at the time and apparently had never been in a restaurant prior to my adoption of them. It was a little hard to get them to settle. But eventually they calmed down with the help of a lot of treats! Each time it got a little easier.

Now, when I take my dogs to lunch we all can enjoy it!

Preparing your dogs for luncheon outings can be the first step to taking your dog on a trip. Just be sure you check ahead for pet friendly motels and cafes, so you have options while traveling. With the abundance fast food drive-ups and Starbucks coffee houses, you should have plenty of options.

So go ahead! Get out with your dog and have a fun and enjoyable lunch, dinner, or breakfast together!

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