Dogs in Restaurants: Yay! Or Nay?

When dogs are banned from outdoor dining places, insensitive dog owners are certainly to blame.


I’m generally a fan of places or experiences that dog owners can enjoy with their well behaved dogs—but not so much when it’s with other people’s unruly, reactive, or loud dogs. Couple any of that with owners who make no effort to limit their dogs’ intrusion into other people’s space or hampering wait-staff, and any progress that has been made to include dogs goes out the window.


I was visiting my sister-in-law and niece in a nearby town recently when we decided to walk to a nearby burger-and-brew sort of place that has an outdoor patio. It was a lovely evening, so we weren’t dismayed when we were told it would be at least a 30-minute wait for an outdoor table; we were catching up and in the meantime we could enjoy the view of the sunset and the perfectly lovely early-summer temperature. When I glanced around the patio, to see how far along most diners were in their meals (and gauge how much time we might have to wait), I was surprised to see a dog at nearly every one of the eight or nine outdoor tables—but hey, I’m a dog lover! No problem!

However, when a server directed us to a table on the far side of the patio and we made our way across the area, I had an immediate instinct that the situation was borderline dangerous. Several of the dogs in the patio were standing or sniffing at the end of fairly long leashes, which were being loosely held (or sat on) by people who looked frankly inattentive to their dogs. I thought to myself, “This situation is ripe for a dog fight!”—and that was before I saw, lying flat in the space between our table and the one next to it, a very large dog, taller and heavier than my own 70-plus-pound Pit/Lab-mix, whose leash wasn’t being held or tethered at all!

To take a seat on the picnic bench for our table, my niece and I either had to step over the dog, or ask the owner to ask his dog to move. My niece, who loves dogs, was about to do the former when I gently arm-blocked her; there is absolutely no way to know how a strange dog would respond to opening his eyes in time to see a strange person stepping over him! I made eye contact with the dog’s owner and said, “Do you mind asking him to move so we can sit down?” He looked down at the dog, and then at us, and said in a slightly annoyed tone, “He’s OK, he won’t do anything.”

I could have been argumentative and said, “Hey, you know, I’m not going to put my beloved niece’s legs at risk of a dog bite,” but instead I took a more direct approach: I whistled to alert the dog, who immediately sat up. I smiled at the dog and his owner and said, “Oh, what a good dog!” and slipped past the dog so I could pull out the bench for my niece and I to sit on. I didn’t think the guy would have brought an aggressive dog to a crowded patio, but I wouldn’t ask any snoozing dog—and especially one who probably outweighs my niece—to tolerate being stepped over by strangers!

I gained more and more sympathy for the servers every time I saw them wend their way through the crowded patio, pausing for owners to pull their distracted, restless dogs back toward their tables so the servers wouldn’t have to step over (or trip over) the dogs’ leashes—but I also wondered: How do these owners not see how they are inconveniencing (at best) or endangering the wait-staff and other diners?

The last straw (for me, personally) was provided by a couple who seemed to be waiting for a take-out order, accompanied by a clearly dog-reactive Husky-mix. They were lurking near the edge of the patio, and every time the Husky caught sight of one of the patio dogs, she would start barking—which would set off a wave of barking and active reactions from the dogs on the patio. Why couldn’t that couple have waited with the dog a few yards farther away, within sight of the restaurant door, but where their dog wouldn’t keep being triggered by the sight of the other dogs (and thus, triggering all the other dogs on the patio to react)? The entire experience was not dissimilar to eating dinner in the kennels at an animal shelter.

Personally, I’m mortified when my dogs do anything in a public setting that could inconvenience or concern other people; for me, it’s an indication that my management and training of my dogs is not as good as it should be in order to have my dogs in public. But none of the people dining on this patio with their dogs seemed to be conscious of their dogs doing anything wrong at all. Perhaps they rationalized that since all the dogs were being loud and obnoxious, theirs wasn’t standing out in any way?

Have you had a bad experience with other people’s dogs in public? Or would you admit it if your dog may have been problematic for people around you?


  1. We have always taken our fairly small dogs to restaurants, except for one senior rescue who barked incessantly. But I am reminded of a restaurant we went to with a dog-friendly outdoor deck. A couple near us had a well-behaved, quiet, senior dog who suddenly but discretely peed right at the table. I don’t think the couple even noticed, but a nearby diner was (understandably) very put off. What to do? NO dog is perfectly behaved 100% of the time, especially as they grow older. I would hate to think of that dog being left home alone but I’m not sure what I would have done in their persons’ place.

  2. We lived in the UK for 3 years. In the UK dogs are welcome inside restaurants and most stores (not butchers or large groceries). UK dogs are almost universally well mannered, and people actually teach their dogs how to behave. We NEVER saw an incident or problem, with dogs ranging from our Newfoundland through the ever popular Labs, lurchers, and terriers. Our UK friends have commented that ‘Americans say they love their dogs, but they don’t let them go any where’. I’m sure that part of the difference is that dogs in the UK are exposed to multiple indoor settings from an early age, and proper behavior is expected. Living in the US we are ultra cautious about where we take our dogs because there are simply too many people who are inconsiderate / clueless. (It isn’t the dog’s fault, is it?) This is likely preaching to the choir, as people who are reading WDJ are probably rather more aware of how to teach appropriate behavior, and the importance thereof!

  3. My rough collies are extremely well-behaved (therapy dogs). However, I would never take them to a restaurant, brewery, etc, because I won’t risk their safety. Too many humans are inattentive (cell phones, conversations, etc) and their dogs haven’t been properly socialized and/or trained.

  4. In some countries in Europe, dogs participate in all kinds of human activities. But they tend to be well behaved. The problem arises due to the differences in cultural mindsets. I have traveled a lot, and sad to say, but Americans are a self-centered bunch. They don’t care about others, or who they inconvenience, or even hurt. That’s what your article is essentially pointing out. We’re not all that way, of course, but our individualistic, materialistic culture leads to an empathy-deficient culture. That’s why there are so many problems here, and it encompasses everything, including how we treat and train our pets.

  5. I have a hearing dog, several times, on public streets, a lab attached to man who appears to be blind, came started started across the voting room, pulling the man, barking and snarling. I promptly moved out of the line and out of the door. The police told me they removed to pair and I could return to the voting line. The same pair was walking down the street while I was loading my dog in the car. The lab came after my dog, pulling the man across a busy street. I slammed the car door.

    One other time in public, a dog wearing a service dog vest from a well-known service dog training group, entered a store, pulled the leash out of the handler’s hand and shot across the store to my dog. I put the shopping cart between the two dogs. The handler caught up and pulled the dog away.

    My Belgian Sheepdog did not make ANY aggressive moves toward either dog. However, he gives the impression that he is the boss dog.

    He had two best buddies who were service dogs and they behaved very well when they were together.

    I went to a conference for folks with disabilities. I left my dog home, as it was not the best place for a dog. Two dogs got into a staring contest what morphed into a growling contest. The handlers were NOT paying any attention to the dogs!! I tossed a bottle of water on one dog to diffuse the mess. The dogs were probably stressed beyond what they could tolerate.

  6. I have a 15 month old standard poodle pup & live in a tourist town high in the mountains of NC. Chenoa accompanies us everywhere & all the restaurants/wineries/breweries are dog friendly. I bring a round, baby, play mat w/ me & place her on it, on a down-stay, for the duration of our stay. I try to get her as far under our table as possible & make sure she’s not in anyone’s way. I watch carefully for unattended children running up to her. She’s non reactive to other dogs & I’m SO proud of where she’s at in her training. Frankly, the behavior described your article really ticks me off because I LOVE taking my pup w/ m e & I don’t want anyone to ruin it for us. One final thing tho…. I have yet to be anyplace at all that the dogs are behaving nearly as badly as the children. I’m all for allowing dogs & banning kids at restaurants. 🤷🏼‍♀️

  7. I agree, sadly there are citizens who are clueless, self-centered, lack empathy, “It’s all about ME” attitude who makes it miserable for those around them.
    Lisa Graybeal, I agree about the children. One time we invited our grandson’s young family to dinner. But after they let their children run around and one nearly tripped a waitress, we said “never again”. And it has been “never again”. I don’t understand the parents today not setting boundaries for their children.
    Dogs a resounding YES.

  8. I envy people in Europe, where dogs can travel on public transportation and into stores and shops without incident. It’s only in this country where I see constant issues and potential nightmares because of clueless owners. NO dog should ever be taken into public without proper training and attentive owners. We travel in an RV and have four dogs (Shelties and a Mini American Shepherd), all of whom have solid down/stays and leave it commands. I carry small chews for them to stay occupied with underneath our table if we’re eating. I make a habit of carrying several extra poop bags wherever I go; I have no problem at all walking up to an owner whose dog has just eliminated (but isn’t being picked up after) and saying, “Gosh, don’t they always go when you least expect it? It looks like you probably don’t have an extra bag on you, so here’s one for you, no worries.” Then I’ll stand there smiling while they have no choice but to start cleaning up. People these days are rude and insensitive and quick to blame everyone except themselves. I’m a professional trainer with 28 years of experience in positive force-free techniques, yet ignorant owners will point their finger at me and tell me it’s my dogs who caused their dogs to react. Inexcusable, and in the end, we all suffer when restaurants and stores finally say “NO DOGS ALLOWED” and prevent us from patronizing their premises.

  9. My personal feeling on it is “Know thy dog.” Life is more complicated when a dog is larger or has a bigger “presence” than other dogs. We have a four-yr old Greater Swiss Mountain Dog with a wonderful disposition, but we would never dream of bringing her to a restaurant. Despite her knowing she needs to lie down and stay put during our family meals, her strong ancestral instinct in public is to be alert and friendly, which means, for her, staying close and looking for friends AND possible threats. We would have to be giving her treats the whole time, and she wouldn’t fit well under tables and underfoot. So it is not worth exposing her to the stressful environment of many restaurants, which don’t have adequate space and tables of a size and height good for her. Dinner would not be fun for us as her handlers,

    Our three year old Bernese Mountain Dog, in contrast, is very mild-mannered if a bit more aloof to strangers that most Berners. Despite this, she is very observant without being vocal, seems to appear harmless to other dogs, and she can set aside her aloofness if allowed to pick the humans she wants to approach (and we always ask). At this point in time we know that we can count on her to stay close, quiet and well-mannered under a table, with praise but without constant treats, so we do take her to public places like public parks, shopping areas, and stores which allow dogs. These place allow her to maintain her people and dog skills but they also allow us to make an exit if WE ascertain any possible threats like uncontrolled children or dogs.

    So I say Nay to dogs in restaurants, especially for medium and large dogs, Most owners don’t have the knowledge, patience, and awareness of their dogs’ dispositions and tendencies to do what it takes to have a leisurely meal in a busy restaurant and control what is going on with the dogs at the same time, and I’m not sure that most restaurant staff or patrons have the wherewithal to know what to do if a dog escapes its owner.