Ask The Dog Trainer: Options for dining out with your dog

Dear Kendall,
We recently adopted a two-year old miniature schnauzer named Betsy and she has been a fun and loving companion. I would love to take her out to restaurants with us and was wondering if you had any advice. Thanks!
-Breakfast with Betsy
Dear Breakfast with Betsy,
Our beautiful city has many wonderful cafes, diners, eateries, bars and restaurants, and dogs can greatly benefit from the socialization found tableside as they soak up the sights, sounds and smells.
Most restaurants are not pet-friendly and only allow task-trained service dogs accompanying their disabled handler. However we live in an area with some great pet-friendly venues, Call the staff and ask if they are pet-friendly and if they have any other requirements or rules to observe before you bring Betsy. Some places only permit dogs in outdoor patios or in certain areas for sanitation reasons. They may provide amenities such as water, treats or even offer a doggy menu so Betsy can snack alongside you. I find restaurant staff a wonderful resource, as they may have additional insights unique to their venue. They may offer special pet-friendly events or even suggest other local establishments to visit.
Some of my personal favorite pet-friendly restaurants in Carson City are the Fox Brewpub and Mom and Pop’s Diner. When I’m in the mood for an adult beverage, the Bank Saloon hosts Puppy Hour on Tuesdays from 2-7 p.m. which includes a free pup “cocktail” and a bandanna. In Reno, the Wild River Grille or Squeeze In are always great options, and when I am in the Minden/Gardnerville area, both the Minden Meat and Deli and Jerry’s are local favorites. It is important to remember that the vast majority of pet-friendly dining takes place on outside patios, so expect to be exposed to the elements.
When I am going to a pet-friendly restaurant, I bring a small tote bag with a bottle of fresh water, a collapsible bowl and a few treats or a long-lasting chew. Even though staff may offer water and treats for your dog, I prefer to provide my own. My German short-hair is allergic to chicken, which is a common ingredient in many treats, and my Lab delights in snorkeling in water bowls, so to avoid a digestive upset or turning the restaurant floor into a slip ’n’ slide, I bring my own rewards and a deep, slosh-proof container.
You may also wish to bring a mat for Betsy to lie upon. I prefer the beds that fold up into a neat, small bundle that can fit easily in my bag, but even a towel or a bathmat will suffice. A leash that can easily be buckled about a table leg or a chair is also a wonderful convenience so that your hands can be free while Betsy remains safe and secured.
There is some specific etiquette that I observe when dining at a pet-friendly restaurant. After all, sharing a meal with your pet should be a relaxing and enjoyable experience for all parties present. It is advisable to make sure that Betsy is comfortable and confident in outdoor dining environments. Dogs that become stressed or over excited by loud noises, crowds, other dogs or by remaining stationary will appreciate being left at home with a tasty chew and their favorite soap opera on television. If your dog is barking, pacing, panting excessively or displaying other signs of anxiety, then it is best to remove them from the situation until they can be happy and relaxed. Dogs that nip, are not potty trained, bark or lunge at other dogs or people should undergo further behavioral training before they can safely thrive in a restaurant setting.
Some obedience-specific training I would suggest would be a prolonged down-stay at your feet or under a table, as well as polite greeting of other people and dogs.  I encourage my clients to practice first at their own homes or in training sessions before venturing out into public, so that you can judge your dog’s patience and pinpoint any areas that need attention.
Additionally, I recommend being able to walk calmly on leash without your dog pulling you before visiting a pet-friendly restaurant, so that you can weave through tables and sit down. Other dinners and the restaurant staff will be very appreciative when your dog strolls alongside you to your table and waits quietly while you eat.
I strongly discourage allowing your dog to eat from your plate, be given food from the table, or urinate on the premises as this may result in fines from the health inspector and the restaurant changing its pet friendly policy.
By starting with shorter excursions to a couple of pet-friendly locations, getting to know the staff and perfecting your restaurant etiquette, you and Betsy can become wonderful ambassadors and welcome guests.
Have fun and enjoy your summer!
Kendall and Chandler Brown are owners of Custom K-9 Service Dogs, a dog training business serving Minden/Gardnerville, Carson and Reno. For information go to or email


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