Summer is here! What better way to enjoy the nice weather than to grab coffee or lunch with a friend at one of the many restaurants or cafes in town? Wilmington, NC is VERY dog friendly and many local bars, restaurants, and coffee shops allow you to bring furry friends with you (on leash of course) if you choose to sit outside. Now we just need to make sure your pup understands that table manners don’t just apply to humans. After all, dog training should be FUN and we want our well-trained dogs to get to enjoy the perks!
The following steps will help you build up to this experience and have you successfully dining together in no time:
1. Teach sit, down, and stay – Your pup needs to know basic commands and manners before they can be expected to behave in such a yummy and distracting environment!
If you haven’t done so already, consider taking a group class to help build these skills in a distracting environment with other humans and pups. If many people in the class have the goal of eating out with their dogs as well, ask the instructor if you can spend a class simulating this environment for practice!
2. Teach “leave it” – There will be many tasty things around including food that is not for them and people who may not want a dog joining them at the table.
Building a solid “leave it” for human food that is on a table as well as on the ground will make your dining experience more enjoyable. It’s easier to work on this at home first before bringing you pup to a situation where they are surrounded by it and excited by all the sounds and smells.
3. Practice “go to your place” and down/stays on a comfy mat or towel – It will be easier for you pup to behave while you eat if they’ve got a soft spot to hang out on.
Teach your pup that a certain towel or mat is their “place” and teach them to go there by luring them to it with food, getting them to sit or lay down on it. Once they have the idea, move their place and ask them to go there from different locations in the house. This helps them understand that no matter where they are, if you ask for “go to your place” means “lay down on this mat.”
4. Practice outside of your house or apartment - On a porch, patio, or even the front lawn.
It just needs to be somewhere that is outside, where you can sit with a drink and a chair, and that will be more distracting than being in your house. The idea is to test the waters in a distracting environment that’s more forgiving than the real thing in case you run in to any snags in the training.
5. Time to go grab lunch – That’s it. You’re ready to go make reservations or grab some coffee!
If you’ve mastered the steps above you are now ready for some frustration free trips out with your pooch. Enjoy!
Remember – you’re asking your dog to sit still for an extended time in a very busy, delicious smelling area. You want to be considerate of the fact that they’re working hard to be good for you! To ensure success consider the following when you’re planning to head to lunch:
· Make sure you leave a little early, walk them for 20-30 minutes, and make sure that they go potty.
· Make sure that they enjoy the meal too. Bring a dog appropriate food to reward them as they continue to behave and small dish for water. Use the food as treats every few minutes for staying and leaving the people food alone. Be sure that you are not allowing people to feed your pup off the table.
· Consider their comfort – how would you feel laying on the concrete for 30 minutes to an hour at a time? Talk about a stiff back! Keep a small pad, very fluffy towel, or a yoga mat that you can double over in your car so that you can always offer your friend a soft spot to stay.