Bringing your furry friend to dog friendly venues (self-assessment)
We are delighted to see more and more establishments open their doors to dogs. It’s fantastic to have the option to bring dogs with us to cafes and bars and on holidays. However, not every dog is comfortable in these establishments, as much as we would love them to be.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a short self-assessment that should help give you an indication if these types of places are right for your dog, or if they might prefer a different activity.
Sometimes our dogs can show little signs that they would rather not be in a situation and it's not until we are familiar with these signs that we spot them and change what we’re doing to help our dogs feel better.
Is your dog comfortable around strangers?
Signs they may be uncomfortable can include:
If you notice your dog displaying any of these behaviours around strangers, it is best to remove them from the situation. Then slowly work on building their confidence up in ‘easier’ situations where they have lots of space, before you consider taking them to dog friendly venues.
See HERE for some tips on building confidence.
Signs your dog may be relaxed can include:
For more information on reading your dog’s body language, please see HERE, or view our detailed poster at the bottom of the page.
Has your dog ever shown any signs of reactivity toward other dogs, people or children?
This can include barking at the dog or person, lunging toward another dog or person, growling, snarling or showing teeth, pulling away from another dog or person, trying to hide behind their owner or even jump into their arms, grabbing at their lead or their owner’s clothing.
If you notice your dog displaying any of these behaviours around other dogs or people, we recommend spending time helping them feel more comfortable around dogs and strangers before you start taking them to dog friendly venues.
It’s also important to note, that while you might be able to help your dog become less reactive, this still doesn’t mean that they will necessarily enjoy being around other dogs, children or strangers so, visiting dog friendly venues may never be something your dog will enjoy.
See HERE for advice if your dog is reactive to other dogs.
Does your dog have all the skills necessary so they can safely enjoy being in a dog friendly location?
- Can they sit or lay down when asked?
- Will they stay if asked?
- Do they know the ‘leave it’ cue?
- Can they calmly greet strangers without jumping up, or can they ignore them completely if they prefer?
If not, we highly recommend ensuring your dog learn all of these skills before you venture out. Check out our Dog School videos or enrol in a class to help teach your dog these important techniques. All of these are important for your dog to know, to ensure they are a polite pup and will be more than welcome in dog friendly establishments. The ‘leave it’ cue is particularly important if food is being served, so your dog doesn’t gobble up anything they aren’t supposed to!
Is your dog able to settle* easily when they are in a new or unfamiliar place? *This is a very important skill for your dog to have learned before they are ready to visit dog friendly locations, as they won’t automatically know how to do it.
- Do they lose the ability to focus on you when asked?
- Do they show signs of anxiety? (see body language image)
- Do they pace around? Are they panting heavily even if they haven’t been exercising?
- Do they turn down food or treats that they normally enjoy?
See HERE for tips on helping your dog to settle.
Other important things to check:
- Is your dog microchipped?
- Are their vaccinations up to date?
- Are their flea and worm treatments up to date?
- If they are on the restricted breeds list or wear a muzzle for other reasons, are they happy wearing their muzzle and does the muzzle allow them to pant and drink easily?
- Is the info on your dog’s collar tag up to date?
- Is there space for your dog where they won’t be accidentally stood on or tripped over and will they be comfortable there?
We hope this assessment will make you more aware of your dog’s body language and help you decide if they are ready to start visiting some dog friendly venues with you! If you feel confident that they are, we still recommend building your dog up to these new situations and monitoring their behaviour and body language as you do so. Here are our top tips:
- As we don’t want to overwhelm our dogs, it’s important to take things slowly. For their first outing, try to make it a short stay at a quieter time for the relevant business. A quick visit to a dog friendly coffee shop to get a take-away coffee for example, would be preferable than a busy dog friendly pub on a Friday night. Don’t forget to reward and praise your dog for calm behaviour during and after the visit.
- We recommend repeating these short visits several times before your dog is ready to take the next step. Again, try to choose a location and time that will be quieter, but this time, try sitting down for a short period and see if your dog is able to sit or lay down quietly beside you? If they can, and they are displaying relaxed body language, fantastic! Don’t forget to reward and praise them.
- Once you’re confident that your dog is relaxed and enjoying their short visits, you can now work on staying for longer periods of time. You can also start to visit at busier times, or go to slightly busier locations, but still remember to take it slow and build things up gradually. Don't try and go faster than your dog is comfortable with, or you may go backwards as they may feel overwhelmed
- When you’re visiting dog friendly venues where you’ll be staying for more than a few minutes, don’t forget to pack your doggie bag. Important things to bring include:
- Refreshments: While some dog friendly venues will have water bowls for your dog, it can be handy to bring your own too, just in case. These combo bowl/bottles from PetStop are a great idea! You’ll also need treats to reward your pup with whenever they do a good job on their settle work!
- A magic mat: This is a blanket or mat that you use when you want your dog to settle. Try to always use the same mat, so that when your dog sees it, they immediately associate it with being calm and relaxed. This video teaches you how to train your dog to settle on their magic mat.
- Some entertainment: It’s good for your dog to have something to do while they relax on their magic mat! An enrichment toy like these K9 Connectables, or a long lasting chew can help beat boredom and make sure they enjoy their time wherever they are.
- Other essentials: Of course, don’t forget your supply of poo bags, a collar, harness (if your dog wears one) and a lead. We recommend a short lead that you can easily hold on to for visiting dog friendly venues, as longer leads can become tangled.
- Always remember to keep a close eye on your dog’s body language and behaviour. If you notice a change in them, or they start to become worried or stressed, it’s best to calmly take them out of the situation as quickly as you can.
- Some dogs, just like people, may never enjoy such activities but that’s okay! They may prefer to relax at home while you go and get a coffee or meet friends for a meal.