In recent years, it’s become increasingly more common for people to take their dog along while running errands or getting a bite to eat, rather than leaving them at home.
But you can’t take your dog with you just anywhere, and waiting in a hot car is neither fun nor safe for your pooch.
Fortunately, there are a number of national or regional restaurant chains that have pet-friendly policies. You’ll always want to call ahead and verify that your pet will be welcome before heading out the door, but most of the restaurants listed below will be delighted to meet your furry friend!
What Does “Dog-Friendly” Mean?
Dog-friendly isn’t an official restaurant-industry term, so it means different things to different restaurants.
Because health code inspectors tend to frown upon pets hanging out in places where food is prepared, very few establishments (if any) will allow you to bring your dog inside.
However, many places with patios welcome well-behaved dogs, and encourage owners to bring along their pup, who can then sit tableside.
The most dog-friendly restaurants even provide drinking water and other amenities for visiting four-footers. Other places don’t even have seating areas, but they still provide treats or special menu items that your dog is sure to love.
Again, you’ll always want to call ahead and verify the dog-friendly status of any restaurant you intend to visit, as some chains are individually owned or have location-specific policies that prohibit pets.
However, the following 15 places are great places to start your search for a dog-friendly eatery.
1. Dairy Queen
Although you won’t be allowed to bring your dog into any Dairy Queen location, many of the stores allow pets to hang out with their owners in the outside seating areas. Additionally, many locations offer free ice cream cones for dogs!
2. In-N-Out Burger
Perhaps the most beloved burger chain on the left coast, most In-N-Out Burger locations offer dog-friendly food options, such as unseasoned burgers. You’ll need to use the drive-through when visiting with your pooch, but it is still a great restaurant for dog owners on the go.
3. Sonic Drive-In
Alright, listing a drive-in as being dog-friendly is kind of cheating, but most Sonic Drive-Ins provide dog-appropriate treats upon request. Note that different locations have different rules regarding the patio seating area, so always check with the staff before letting Fido out of the car.
4. Bruster’s Real Ice Cream
Most Bruster’s Real Ice Cream locations are of the walk-up variety, and customers simply take their cream and go, or hang out on the patio or sitting area outside.
Most locations welcome dogs – some even offer a free puppy cone of vanilla ice cream (which may even be topped with a dog biscuit).
5. Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar
Not only does every Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar feature a patio, each one welcomes pets (it’s still a good idea to call ahead and verify) and serves up a number of dog-safe foods, like chicken breasts and brown rice.
Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar locations are only found on the West Coast, but they plan to expand the number of locations in the near future.
6. Shake Shack
Shake Shack is one of the most dog-friendly chains in operation. They not only welcome dogs on the patio, but every U.S. location offers a dog-friendly menu too.
There aren’t a million Shake Shacks out there, but there are quite a few in the North East, Las Vegas, South Florida, Chicago and Texas, among other places.
You may think of Starbucks as a coffee house more than a restaurant, but since you can get food there and many people hang out in the establishments for restaurant-like periods of time, so we’re including it on the list.
As you’d probably expect from such a laid-back company, most locations with patios will encourage you to hang out on the patio with your pup. Some even serve “puppuccinos” – little cups full of whipped cream – on request.
8. Outback Steakhouse
While most Outback Steakhouses kindly request that you leave your dog at home, a few locations with patios are beginning to encourage guests to bring along their pet.
Just be sure your dog can keep his composure when sizzling steaks are parading by, before taking them to a carnivore’s paradise.
9. Johnny Rockets
A popular California-based burger chain, Johnny Rockets has a number of dog-friendly locations. Not only are dogs welcome to hang out on the patio, they even offer several dog-appropriate menu items. Come on, what dog wouldn’t want a “Pupcake?”
10. Olive Garden
Fancy some breadsticks and pasta? Give your local Olive Garden a call and ask if dogs are welcome. Although the dog policy of each restaurant differs, several Olive Gardens with large patios have begun allowing dogs to hang out.
If you are a sucker for pub grub and a cold beer (I know I am), you may want to check out your local Applebee’s. Many locations with patios allow dogs to hang out with their owners. Some locations even host periodic “Yappy Hours,” especially for local dog owners.
12. Panera Bread
Thinking about grabbing a nice soup and salad while hanging out with the pooch? Panera Bread may be just what you need – most locations with a patio welcome dogs.
13. Noah’s New York Bagel
A few Noah’s New York Bagel locations with outdoor seating allow dogs to sit alongside their owners. Some locations reportedly sell bagel-shaped dog biscuits and leave out a water bowl for visiting pups.
14. Baja Fresh
If you are ready to enjoy a little fresh Mexican food while bringing your dog along, consider your local Baja Fresh. Many locations with patios welcome well-behaved pups.
15. Joe’s Crab Shack
Seafood lovers needn’t feel left out of the pup-friendly restaurant experience: Many Joe’s Crab Shack locations allow dogs to hang out on the patio. They don’t appear to have any dog-approved treats on the menu, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give your pup a carrot or cucumber from your salad.
Don’t Forget the Mom & Pop Shops
In addition to the numerous regional or nationwide dog-friendly chains there are a number of locally owned and operated restaurants that welcome furry four-footers.
Since they are small and local, they can be a bit more difficult to find – but difficult doesn’t mean impossible.
There are a variety of ways you can track down your local dog-friendly, hole-in-the-wall establishments:
Talk to other owners at the local dog park. Most dog-park regulars are happy to share dog-friendly bars and bistros that they’ve encountered in town.
Chat up pet store employees and shoppers. Most pet stores encourage their staff to chat with their patrons and help provide any information that they can. Additionally, some dog-friendly restaurants advertise on the bulletin boards in pet stores.
Inquire with your veterinarian. Veterinarians often serve as the gravitational center of the local pet population, so they learn about all of the neat local tricks, including the best dog-friendly restaurants.
Look on local restaurant review sites. You’ll not only learn the basic information about local restaurants on sites like Yelp! Zagat and Trip Advisor, but you’ll also be able to read the comments and reviews of other customers.
Ask around in the comment section of your favorite dog-oriented website *cough*. We encourage all of our readers to scroll on down this very page and share the best local spots you’ve ever visited. Be sure to include the name of the establishment, as well as the city and state in which it is located!
While it can be a bit difficult to find these types of places in rural or suburban areas, most major urban centers are home to several local restaurants that welcome dogs.
You should also make suggestions to your local establishments. If you are a regular customer and make a compelling case for inviting dogs to the restaurant, you may convince management to open the door to dogs – bow wow!
Restaurant Manners for Dogs and Their Owners
The best dog-friendly restaurants usually embrace a casual atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean you can just let your dog run all over the place. You’ll need to ensure your dog is on her best behavior to avoid unpleasant encounters with the staff or other guests.
Additionally, poorly behaved pups may lead these restaurants to rethink their pet-friendly policies. And that’s not good for anyone!
Accordingly, you’ll want to embrace the following rules, guidelines and suggestions:
Only bring well-behaved and obedient dogs to restaurants. A restaurant is a high-activity location and you’ll want to be sure that your pooch isn’t rushing up to every passerby or trying to sample other diner’s dinners. Minimally, you’ll need to ensure that your dog will lie down and stay on command.
Always keep your dog leashed. Not only does a leash keep your dog safe, it prevents her from bothering other patrons, should verbal commands fail. Not everyone likes dogs, and some people even fear them; so, keep this in mind and keep your pooch leashed and under control.
Keep the leash attached to you, not the table. Unless you are filming a sitcom, you don’t want your dog chasing after a sizzling steak and dragging the entire table along for the ride. A hands-free harness will work great in such cases, or you can just attach the handle of the leash to your ankle (assuming this is safe to do so – this isn’t a great idea for a 95-pound person with a 195-pound mastiff).
Always allow your dog to relieve herself before going to the restaurant. There are few scenarios more horrifying than your dog pooping or peeing in the middle of a restaurant, so be sure that your dog is completely empty before hitting the patio.
Try not to gross out the other patrons. As a dog person, you have probably stopped noticing when your dog drools at the dinner table or decides that it is butt-licking time. But for those that aren’t accustomed to the ways of dogs, these kinds of behaviors are often appetite killers. While it is impossible to completely prevent these types of things, pay attention to your dog and try to limit them as much as possible.
Consider bringing a comfortable blanket or rug for your dog to lie on. Comfortable dogs are far more likely to lie down and sit still than those forced to hang out on a hot, wet, rough or otherwise uncomfortable surface. A simple beach towel will work, as will a quilt or yoga matt.
Bring along a dog-comfortable friend, if possible. At some point, you may need to visit the facilities or go inside to pay your check, forcing you to leave your dog behind. It will be much easier and safer for all parties involved if you can leave her in a friend’s trusted hands.
When possible, feed your dog before going to the restaurant. Taking your dog to a restaurant full of great-smelling food (and remember, she enjoys smells on an entirely different level than you do) and then expecting her to behave is just cruel. But by feeding your fur-kid first, she’ll be much calmer and more likely to listen once you get to the restaurant.
Don’t let your dog eat off restaurant plates or utensils. Many dog owners let their pup “prewash” the dishes at home or even feed their dog via the same fork they use themselves. And while you, me and the other people reading this article understand, non-dog owners, health inspectors, and restaurant staff will frown upon such behavior.
Children should be relatively quiet in restaurants, whether they have two legs or four. Dogs that constantly bark or whine while hanging out at restaurants annoy everyone around them, so either teach your pup a “quiet” command or you’ll need to leave your hound dog at home when you head out to eat.
Do you like having your dog accompany you when getting a bite to eat? What is your favorite restaurant to visit? Let us know all about your experiences in the comments below!