An increasing number of restaurants in our country are taking a tip from the French (even if they are reluctant to admit it) by embracing the idea of pet-inclusive dining. Welcome news indeed for the many pet-lovers who travel with their best friends in tow, or for those who rely upon service dogs! But what about our fellow citizens who expect to enjoy some peaceful time in an environment that in no way overlaps with domestic life? To them, dogs might mean begging, barking and slobber. We can all get along in pet-friendly restaurants if dog owners observe the proper dining etiquette, and encourage their dogs to follow suit.
- Begging for food. If your family has ever included an aging, hearing-impaired dachshund pleading with you at the dinner table, you might have wished that his affliction were contagious (based upon personal experience). Before bringing your dog into a public dining environment, you must first teach your dog not to beg for food in the comfort of your own home. Exercise your own judgment as to when the time is right to introduce society to your doggie debutante. Otherwise, you risk giving dog-friendly dining a bad reputation among the uninitiated!
- Rules of the restaurant. Familiarize yourself with the restaurant's policies regarding carriers, leashes and the acceptable locations for your pet. For public health reasons, many restaurants will not allow dogs to sit on chairs or eat off plates. Though these policies are an affront to your dog's refined sensibilities, you must set a proper example for your dog and accept the rules of the house. If your dog is to be kept on a leash or in a carrier at all times, or must remain under the table, observe these rules with poise and grace. And if your dog may enjoy supper free from leash or carrier, see to it that she nevertheless respects the private space of other restaurant patrons.
- Diplomatic dogs. Many restaurants designate a section for dog owners and their dogs. If you undergo such sequestration, graciously accept your table. You will likely find yourself next to other friendly dog owners. To ensure that your presence does not become a disturbance, your dog must become accustomed to interacting amiably with other dogs before dining out.
- Proper appreciation of the cuisine. Set an example for your dog by demonstrating your respect for the establishment.
- To avoid unseemly displays, never talking with your mouth full.
- Eat your food in small, polite bites.
- Never season the food before first tasting it.
- Ask for a doggy bag rather than engaging in an act of gluttony.
- If you drop a utensil on the floor, do not expect your dog to retrieve it for you.
- Second-hand smoke is hazardous to your dog's health and will detract from the wholesomeness of her dining experience.
- Potty break. Do you find yourself jaunting off to the restroom for some freshening-up mid-meal? Your dog might be in dire need of freshening-up as well. As chaperon of your pooch, you must vigilantly provide relief away from the dining area. If you are enjoying brunch on the outdoor patio of a French bistro, for example, you should always conduct your dog a courteous distance from the dining area before encouraging the furry guest to do her business. Thusly, you respect the dining tranquility of fellow gourmands while, above all, respecting the privacy of your dog.
To reduce the likelihood of such interruptions, we suggest you lead your dog on a preemptive potty walk prior to entering the restaurant.
- Indecorous dog flatulence. If your dog suffers from food allergies at home, he will suffer from the same allergies in a restaurant. As always, attend to your dog's culinary preferences while observing proper dietary precautions. If certain foods provoke your dog to fits of gassy exclamation, proclamation or recitation (less likely), avoid such foods in a restaurant. We encourage you to exercise similar restraint with regard to your own public consumption.
Right now, my friends, you are the ambassadors of a friendlier future; your proper conduct can help to transform our public experience. Perhaps someday, the vast majority of restaurants, hotels and offices will adopt a hospitable approach to dogs. Even when that day comes, etiquette must guide our behavior, as well as that of our pets. Bon appetit!