After a long day of dog and puppy obedience training in Miami Florida, I’m finally home with my feet propped up on my coffee table. My husband is in the kitchen cooking and my dogs are all laying near me.
Yesterday was my day off, and to my surprise some of our best friends were in town for the holiday weekend. My husband and I made a lunch date to meet them directly following mine and Marty’s (my 3yr old Border Collie) competition obedience drill class. With Marty in tow, I headed to Town Kitchen & Bar in South Miami for what I thought would be a relaxing lunch. After parking a few blocks away I leashed up Marty, put his gentle leader in my pocket just in case and threw a small bag of dog treats in my purse. With a loose leash, we trotted together over to the restaurant and found my husband already seated at a large four person table. After asking the neighboring table if they minded the dog (they didn’t), I asked Marty to lay down, tail out of traffic facing me in-between my table and the neighboring table. He quickly settled and was content to watch foot traffic and the servers moving to and from the table.
About 10 minutes into lunch service, my should have been relaxing lunch with friends turned into an annoyance. Out of sight a few tables down, a dog was barking and whining. The gorgeous breeze and afternoon was being ruined by a nuisance dog that someone insisted on bringing to lunch. Marty’s ears perked up at hearing the dog, but he quickly re-settled per my request. For the next several minutes the dog was persistent. Then, I see a young woman dragging an adolescent Rodesian Ridgeback on an ill fitted prong collar through the covered patio. Upon spotting Marty, the dog lunges towards Marty, growls … which in turn causes Marty to defend his peaceful resting spot. The young woman does not apologize but instead quickly drags her dog past and they dissapear.
About 10 more minutes pass and again, the dog is back to barking.
So what’s the moral of the story here? Even taking your dog out to lunch requires training, time, and dedication. Learning to lay quietly for an extended period of time is a skill that isn’t easily accomplished for most dogs, and only with repetition and reinforcement of good behavior will a dog learn to be a good lunch-time companion. I do commend the young woman for removing her unruly pooch, yet the removal affect did little to curb the dogs frustration with having to sit still. Here’s my advice for the woman and her dog:
1. Before you ever attempt taking your dog out for a meal, make sure you have already mastered a good down/stay/settle behavior at home. I suggest training your dog to a bath mat because it’s easy to carry, roll up and wash. Portable, practice, and a defined spot for your dog to be beside your table.
2. Make sure you have the right tool on your dog. Outdoor patios have so many enticing scents, servers carrying things and possibly other guests with dogs. A head collar is the best tool to insist your dog mind his own business, which includes not sniffing or poking at neighboring diners. It’s important your dog learn to keep his nose to himself. It may not seem like a bother to you, but not everyone likes dogs — so a cold nose even sniffing around or poking around someone else’s table is just rude and intrusive.
3. As long as your dog is not protective of food items, take a chewy bone (I personally love deer antlers or the pre-stuffed marrow bones) for your dog to chew on his mat. It’s important your pal keep his mouth occupied while he’s learning good lunch-time-out ettitquite
4. Don’t be afraid to feed your dog from the table. You heard me. You want me to say it again? Don’t be afraid to feed your dog from the TABLE! If your dog is being extremely well behaved, isn’t begging, trying to get up and is behaving himself like a model canine good citizen then why on earth wouldn’t you break off a little piece and pitch it to your pooch? All the more incentive to behave himself while you’re out to eat “What? Holding still, being quiet and not getting up means you’re going to share? I’m game!” <–your dog
5. Last but not least, you should rehearse going out to eat a meal with your dog before you ever actually do it. I recommend an outdoor patio with tables just about anywhere that doesn’t serve food, and doesn’t have servers walking around. My personal favorite is Starbucks. There’s usually plenty of distraction but not at a high enough intensity like a food joint. So get a latte, take some dog treats with you and reinforce your dog for good behavior.
Once you’ve mastered “eating out” by yourself with just your dog, then you can consider subjecting the innocent dining public to your pooch 😉 But always remember, being courteous to your neighboring diners is your priority. So if your dog is disruptive or delinquent, it’s time for you to ask for the check and get back to practicing.
Need help with your dog’s out to lunch manners? Call Applause Your Paws Inc, Dog and Puppy training experts in Miami Florida. 786-529-RUFF (7833). Visit us online at www.applauseyourpaws.com. We create canine good citizens one dog and puppy at a time.