Where in the past people tended to leave their dogs at home, it’s now much more commonplace to take your pooch with you wherever you go.
Let’s face it, even if you have a great bark collar and you’re happy to leave your furball behind, chances are he would sooner go along with you!
What can you do if you need to stop off for some food or a coffee on your errands, though?
Well, luckily you can find more and more dog-friendly restaurant chains, but it pays to have a shortlist of go-to options when you’re out and about.
Before we give you a breakdown of K9ofmine’s favorite, what is a dog-friendly restaurant chain, exactly?
I. What Makes a Restaurant Dog-Friendly?
The first thing you’ll discover is that there’s no industry-standard definition of what constitutes a dog-friendly eaterie.
Typically, you won’t be able to stay inside where food is being prepared with your dog. Regardless of the sensibilities of the restaurant owner, health inspectors take a dim view of animals in close proximity to food prep, so consider this pretty much a universal no-go.
Many restaurants with outside spaces will welcome you and your dog, though.
At the upper end of dog-friendly establishments, you’ll find thoughtfully-distributed water bowls around the place, and at least some dog-friendly treats. In the best cases, you’ll even find a small canine-friendly menu.
Now, so you have a quick list of restaurant chains where you can take your dog, here’s the top 15 chains according to K9ofmine.
II. A to Z of Dog-Friendly Restaurant Chains
- Baja Fresh
- Bruster’s Real Ice Cream
- Dairy Queen
- In-N-Out Burger
- Joe’s Crab Shack
- Johnny Rockets
- Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar
- Noah’s New York Bagel
- Olive Garden
- Outback Steakhouse
- Panera Bread
- Shake Shack
- Sonic Drive-In
Applebee’s is a classic chain that continues to go from strength to strength.
If you’re a fan of simple pub food and beer on the side, your local branch of Applebee’s can provide this along with a dog-friendly environment for you to relax in.
In some spots, you’ll even find random Yappy Hours expressly designed to give discounts to dog owners. What are you waiting for?
2) Baja Fresh
Are you a sucker for fresh, traditional Mexican food in an atmosphere that’s welcoming to dogs, check out Baja Fresh.
Poles apart from dry instant Mexican grub, you’ll be delighted with the quality of the food on offer, while your hound can explore the patio area in many of these dog-friendly restaurants.
3) Bruster’s Real Ice Cream
Since the majority of Bruster’s Real Ice Cream spots are walk-ups, you can simply grab your ice cream then take full advantage of the outside seated areas. Some locations benefit from a patio, too.
Nearly all these ice cream stores welcome dogs. In some locations, your pooch will even be served up a free cone of vanilla ice cream with a dog biscuit on top. How’s that for service?
4) Dairy Queen
Before you get too excited about heading down to Dairy Queen, be aware that most of their locations won’t allow dogs inside. That said, many stores will let you take your pup with you to the outside seating area.
Just like Bruster’s, many Dairy Queen outlets provide free puppy cones for dogs, so it’s not all bad even if you can’t sit inside. Best reserved for a nice day when you want some fresh air with your best friend by your side.
5) In-N-Out Burger
Arguably the best-loved burger chain on the west coast, almost all In-N-Out Burger locations are not only dog-friendly but also offer some food tailored at canines. Unseasoned burgers will guarantee your pup is as happy as you are tucking into a lip-smacking lunch.
You’ll need to take advantage of the drive-thru if you have your dog in tow, but In-N-Out Burger remains a solid dog-friendly option when you’re out and about in the car.
6) Joe’s Crab Shack
Are you a seafood lover? Us, too!
Joe’s Crab Shack doesn’t stretch to a canine menu, but most of their locations are dog-friendly and allow you to relax on the patio. Remember to take some food for your dog or give him some of your salad.
7) Johnny Rockets
Johnny Rockets is a slick and popular burger chain based in California. The chain boasts many dog-friendly locations, and some also offer dog-appropriate foods.
If you like the idea of treating your pooch to a Pupcake – and who wouldn’t, right? – then head down to Johnny Rockets and feast on succulent burgers while your hound joins you!
8) Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar
All Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bars come equipped with a patio welcoming you and your pet.
A quick tip: even though all these branches should offer a dog-friendly environment, call before visiting just to check up.
You can also find a range of canine-friendly foods from brown rice to chicken breasts so you won’t feel guilty eating while your dog goes without.
Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bars are only located on the west coast, but there are plans for expansion nationwide so watch this space.
9) Noah’s New York Bagel
If you’re a New Yorker, head to Noah’s and see if your local outlet allows you to take your dog into the outdoor seating area. Some (but not all) locations offer this facility.
Some of the more enterprising locations have recently started selling dog biscuits shaped like bagels, and it’s standard to find water bowls for your pup scattered around the locations.
10) Olive Garden
If you’re looking for some casual Italian dining in a dog-friendly setting, call your local Olive Garden and see what their dog policy is. This varies from location to location, but some provide expansive patios where dogs have recently become welcome.
11) Outback Steakhouse
Most Outback Steakhouses are not dog-friendly, so this is not a go-to option. That said, some locations with patios outside are beginning to encourage diners to bring their pets along with them.
Can your pup be trusted to walk nicely past the sizzling steaks and wait for his food? Head to Outback Steakhouse and find out!
12) Panera Bread
If you want some simple soup and salad but you have your dog in tow, pop to Panera Bread. Most of their locations have a patio that’s dog-friendly, so wrap up warm and enjoy!
13) Shake Shack
Shake Shack is among the most pet-friendly chains you can find. Not only is your pup welcomed on the patio, but all locations also provide a dog-friendly menu.
The majority of these restaurants are located in Las Vegas, Texas, Chicago, and South Florida. Here’s hoping the chain continues to expand, bringing with it love for dog lovers from all over.
14) Sonic Drive-In
When you’re crunched for time and only a drive-thru will do, head to Sonic and get some dog-appropriate treats along with your burgers and drinks packed with that trademark nugget ice.
Many of these locations are not so dog-friendly when it comes to the patio, so check on the rules before getting out of your car with your hound.
As you would expect from a laid-back company like Starbucks, your dog will be welcomed in the patio in the majority of locations.
Some Starbucks branches serve puppuccinos, small cups of whipped cream, to liven up your dog’s visit.
Relax with your favorite blend and pastry while your furball slurps down all that delicious cream.
III. Don’t Forget to Patronize Small Businesses
All our lives have changed over the past year with a global pandemic changing the way we socialize and do business.
Now, while all the above chains are continuing to thrive in these challenging times, we’d ask you to spare a thought for all those mom-and-pop stores out there who are struggling.
Take the time to locate some smaller establishments that might be very welcoming of both you and your canine. When you have some downtime, try tracking down local businesses so you can help them to thrive in these tough times.
If you fancy doing a small sales pitch, you could potentially interest owners of eateries that don’t currently invite dogs inside to consider changing their policy and targeting pet owners looking for a new patio to relax on.
That’s not the extent of your options if you’re looking to give your pup a treat, though.
IV. How Else Can You Find Dog-Friendly Places to Eat?
If you get creative, you can unearth some more options in your area if you are getting restless and want to take your out for a bite to eat.
Here are some easy ways to come up with even more dog-friendly restaurants:
- Ask your vet: Your first option should be to ask an expert. You can safely assume your vet is a pet owner, and they will also consult with dog owners all day every day, picking up the best local tips and knowledge. Start your quest with your veterinarian
- Check out local restaurant reviews: Yelp and similar platforms offer you the chance to scope out what other customers feel about eateries near you, specifically their policies when it comes to your furry friend
- Chat with other dog owners: Walking your dog in the park gives you the perfect opportunity to mingle with other pet owners. Don’t be shy about asking other dog owners where they take their pooch for a no-hassle and pet-friendly bite to eat
- Check out your local pet store: Speak with the owners and staff to determine where they consider is the best local restaurant for you and your furry friend
V. Dining Etiquette at Dog-Friendly Restaurants
Even if your favorite pet-friendly restaurant has a demonstrably casual attitude toward your furball, this shouldn’t mean you allow him to roam all over. Not all customers will share the same love for your dog as you do, so you should make sure he is on his best behavior. That’s all part of the fun of dog ownership, though. Also, by ensuring your pup is well behaved, the restaurant is more likely to continue with its policy rather than responding to complaints from other diners and rethinking whether or not to allow dogs on the premises.
If you’re struggling to keep your dog in check, we have plenty of tips on dog training here at BarkVA. Check them out right here.
If you’re new to dog ownership and you’re not quite sure what’s expected of you, skim through these handy hints to keep you on track.
- Avoid eating out with your dog if he can’t behave himself: The first pointer can prevent all sorts of problems from developing. If your dog is not trustworthy, don’t take him into a restaurant in the first place Instead, ask yourself why he is unable or unwilling to obey your commands, and make sure you start training him to change that. The bare minimum you should strive for is to guarantee your dog will sit and stay still on command. This is not difficult to achieve with the proper training and positive reinforcement
- Make sure your dog has relieved himself before you enter the restaurant: While this next pointer might sound obvious, ensure your dog has relieved himself so he doesn’t end up grossing out other diners on the patio. A little forethought saves most problems that otherwise occur when your dog is in a restaurant
- Keep your dog on a leash: Keeping your dog on his leash ensures he doesn’t menace other patrons, and the leash is ideal if he fails to respond to verbal commands in a noisy environment. You should attach the leash to yourself rather than the table. Hands-free harnesses are especially good in this regard
- Feed your dog before entering the restaurant: Although this may sound counter-intuitive, it’s a smart idea to feed you dog before you enter an establishment filled with smells that will drive him crazy. If your dog is already feeling satisfied, you’ll have a much easier time managing his behavior
- Pay close attention to your dog at all times: You should remain aware of your dog at all times when you’re inside the restaurant. If he starts drooling or, even worse, licking his butt, it’s understandable if other customers find this unappetizing when they’re trying to enjoy their meal. Interact with your dog and try to minimize these behaviors
- Keep your dog quiet: You wouldn’t expect the table next to you in the restaurant to allow their children to scream and shout throughout the meal. Don’t do the same with your dog. Taking your dog inside to eat should be considered as a treat and should not interfere with the enjoyment of other diners
- Make sure your dog is comfortable: If your dog is feeling comfortable, he’s quite unlikely to start roaming around or playing up in any way. Even a simple beach towel or yoga mat can dramatically improve his comfort levels to your advantage and his
- Don’t use the restaurant cutlery and crockery: Make sure your dog avoid eating with restaurant plates and utensils. This is quite likely to seem unappealing to any other diners looking on who don’t share your love of dogs
This list of advice should not be considered hard-and-fast rules, buy by ensuring your furball behaves himself, your favorite restaurant is much more likely to continue allowing pets inside.
We understand the frustration of spotting that perfect eaterie only to discover you can’t take your dog inside. We also understand that dog policy is down to each restaurant owner, so be prepared to look around and you can come up with plenty of options when you want to treat your pooch.
Stick with any of the restaurants we review today and you know what you’ll be getting. We would still always recommend calling in advance to verify the policy at the location you’re visiting. A couple of minutes on the phone could save you a wasted trip.
The other great way to find out about pet-friendly restaurants is to ask the experts, so feel free to contact us any time here at BarkVA. Comment on the articles in the section provided below and we’ll be sure to get back to you.
Also, we’d suggest bookmarking our blog as we’ll be continuing to bring you fresh content daily throughout the new year. We’ll see you very soon!