Dogs that Dine Out

By Lambeth Hochwald

Dogs that Dine Out

Jacqueline Whitmore is not only an etiquette expert -- she's also the owner of two dogs, one of which, a 22-pound King Charles, pretty much goes everywhere she goes. She's taken him to Bloomingdale's, Office Depot and even to her local grocery store, so long as he's hanging out in his comfy black dog carrier.

But Whitmore, the Palm Beach, Florida-based author of Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work (St. Martin's Press), says she draws the line at dining out with him if she hasn't had time to check out the restaurant's pet policy in advance, either with a call or a visit.

Here are five other tips for having the best dining experience possible with your dog:

  • Know your dog To have an enjoyable meal out, your dog has to be okay around crowds, noises and strangers, Whitmore says. "A lot of people will come up and pet my dog while I'm dining out, and that's okay because my dog is docile. But you have to know your dog's personality before you head out to eat." The last thing you want your dog to do is to snap at a couple at an adjacent table while they are eating, or to spend the entire meal sniffing around a fellow patron's ankles. If your dog might be a snapper or a sniffer, consider enrolling it in a basic obedience class before you venture out.
  • Keep your dog's needs in mind "Your dog is your dining partner," Whitmore says. "When you order water, order water for your dog. Just don't assume the restaurant will supply a bowl. Be sure to bring one yourself." Or, if you've forgotten one, most servers will bring a take-out container filled with water. Be sure to tip them for the effort.
  • Mind your and your dog's manners "If your dog isn't well-trained and won't sit quietly by your side or at a safe distance, don't bring him," says Daisy Okas, a spokesperson for the American Kennel Club. "Your dog shouldn't lie in the way of the wait staff, bark, jump on people, beg for food from other patrons' tables or pull at the leash." In addition, your dog should never stand on a chair or put any part of its body on the table.
  • Never allow the dog to eat from your plate. "This is a major faux pas," Whitmore says. "If I don't have my own dish, I'll ask the restaurant for a plastic cup and I'll put that on the floor with food in it." FYI: There are some health reasons to consider if you allow your dog to eat off your plate. "There could be different bacterial or intestinal parasites being spread from the dog to the plate," says Susan Nelson, DVM, assistant professor at Kansas State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Manhattan, Kansas. "Plus, it just plain grosses people out." Consider this as well: If you allow your dog to sit on your lap and feed it bites from the table, this sets a bad precedent. "This will teach your dog that it's okay to be fed from a table and they'll then learn to beg," Whitmore says. "I set boundaries with my dog. His place is by my feet -- always."
  • Make sure you're dining in a safe place. Many city health codes don't allow a dog to be inside any outdoor seating area where food is served, so be prepared to tie your dog to a railing or fence while you eat. "Neither scenario is ideal," says Okas. "I would advise avoiding any restaurant where your dog can't be tied or, at the very least, kept in your direct line of sight. If you are even slightly uneasy about the situation, I wouldn't chance it. No meal is worth the headache of having something happen to your precious pooch."

Lambeth Hochwald is a New York City-based writer and editor whose work can be seen in national magazines. Her adopted dog Ginger is always at her side, especially when she's writing.

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