By Patricia Stephens, Owner, FloridaPets.net
More and more Florida eateries and pubs are allowing you to grab some grub on their outdoor patio accompanied by your dog.
I always remind people this is a privilege to be honored. Doggie dining has been legal in Florida since 2009, but not all counties or cities around the state permit it. To the many that do, we dog lovers say, "We woof you!" It's important to show our appreciation to the owners of these establishments with good behavior from our pet. For pets and their "peeps" new to the experience, may I offer the following "food" for thought...
First and foremost, only take your pooch on a doggie dining excursion if he's on regular flea preventative. If not, a good grooming complete with flea dip might be in order before leaving your house. You don't want him giving - or receiving -unwanted and problematic pests. And speaking of negative surprises, here's a tip from my own personal experience: give your pup plenty of bathroom time before heading out the door!
Next, your dog should be voice trained to "Sit," "Stay," "Down," and "Come." Remember, she may listen and perform quite well at home in a familiar environment, but when out with you, she could easily be overwhelmed by lots of new people, new dogs, new sounds, and for sure, all those delicious new smells!
In general, please consider your dog's personality before jumping on the doggie dining bandwagon. If your dog is the nervous sort, spooks easily, or is the least bit aggressive toward strange people or dogs, you will want to find an alternative activity to enjoy together.
And may I suggest never leaving home without a backup kit. It's like a first aid kit for doggie diners and contains items such as a copy of his immunization records, an extra leash, a towel or two, a doo-doo bag, antibacterial wipes, and a bowl (because some restaurants might offer free water and perhaps a dog biscuit!)
Doggie dining is a privilege and you must abide by certain rules or you'll find yourself and your pooch getting the boot. Why? Because there are rules placed by the State or city that each establishment must follow or they risk losing the ability to offer doggie dining or being shut down altogether.
And to be honest, there are always certain non-dog lovers around just waiting for an opportunity to complain about "those dogs" who will loudly implore a business owner to discontinue the practice altogether. Please don't give these people any fuel for their fires.
Here are the rules: Doggie dining is permitted only on outdoor patios. You cannot enter the restaurant/pub to get to the patio; enter only from the outside. Your dog must be leashed. Your dog cannot growl or bark at other humans or dogs in the area. Your dog cannot sit on any chairs. You cannot place your small dog on any table or other furnishings. You cannot allow your dog to saunter up to other customers or members of the wait staff.
While it may sound restrictive, doggie dining is actually a freedom that dog-loving Floridians and vacationers can enjoy - if both people and pets remember to mind their manners and leave nothing behind but a good impression.
Editor's note: Check out our list of spots that allow doggie dining. It's incomplete at this point, so if you know of some we've not included, please let us know by writing WebMistress@FloridaPets.net