How to get your dog ready for the pub

canagan dog in a cozy pub

A trip to the pub is a great social activity, for us and our dogs; but in these strange times, it’s understandable that our canine friends may be a bit rusty on how to behave in social situations.

Now that summer is upon us and pub gardens are soon to be opening, it’s time for a refresher on getting your dog pub ready. Or, for the many people who have welcomed new dogs into their homes during lockdown, preparing them for what could be their first social outing.

It’s such a joy to visit the pub with your dog – even more so as you’ve spent the last few months with them (much to their delight). However, it does require some preparation to make sure it’s fun and relaxing for everyone involved.

Make sure you’ve done some basic training

It’s important that your dog has a basic level of training that you’re confident in – recall, sit and settle for example – and, of course, is toilet trained. The more familiar they are with these commands, the more likely they are to translate into the wider world, such as a pub where there is a lot more to distract them.

Training your dog to lie and settle on a designated floor mat is an excellent transferrable skill that you can teach your dog for when you’re out and about. This is training you can start at home, before venturing out of the house. It requires consistency, patience and hard work to get your dog to a point where they can settle on command, but it’s worth it. It’s a comfort to them to know that no matter where they are, that’s their ‘area’ where they can be calm and enjoy rewards and treats.

There are some bonus commands you could teach your dog, such as “drop it” and “leave it” – just to protect them from swallowing anything that could be harmful to them. Walking to heel could also be handy, to make sure they stay close in distracting environments, so pulling and dragging on the lead is avoided. It’s also ideal if your dog is used exercising a bit of impulse control, like resisting the urge to play with other dogs or jumping up on people to say hello.

Table manners are certainly important, whether you’re eating at home or in a public place. Make sure they don’t beg you (or other diners!) for food, and they’re not scavenging for scraps and bits that fall to the floor either. Make sure whoever you’re eating with knows what the ‘rules’ are when it comes the dog and make sure they stick to them. They’re not helping and just encourage that type of behaviour – if the dog was successful once, they’ll keep trying their luck; the clever things can always sense where their best chance of scoring some scraps is within a group!

Ask yourself, is your dog ready?

If you know your dog has issues with being reactive, anxious or even aggressive whilst out on a walk or around other dogs, then assume they’re not ready for the pub just yet. Your stress and anticipation mixed with other dogs and potentially confined spaces could exacerbate some of these behavioural issues. You’re not in complete control of your surroundings either, which would make it a stressful and negative experience for both of you, so it’s best to get these under control first.

If you are struggling to make progress with your dog (for example, if they are a rescue dog or they’ve missed out on key socialisation) then it’s worth getting some extra, tailored help from a trainer or behavioural expert; this will pay off in all areas of your lives, not just the pub.

Be prepared... and make sure the pub is prepared too

Before you leave, make sure the place you’re going to is dog friendly. Give them a call, check their website and maybe even read some reviews to put your mind at rest.

Double check whether there are things like water bowls available and dedicated areas of the pub for dogs (and if food is still served in those areas). Some pubs really go the extra mile as well, offering things like dogs treats at the bar, a ‘doggy menu’ and complimentary waste bags.

If your dog is new to these kinds of trips, start slowly; take them with you for short periods of time – perhaps just a drink rather than a meal – and try and get there for quieter times. This will give both of you the chance to get used to the surroundings without too much extra stimulus that will distract or agitate your dog. Then build on this and grow your dog’s confidence – go with a larger group of people, stay at the pub for longer, or go at different times of day. Go each time with the mindset that if it all gets too much for your dog then you’ll calmly call it a day.

On the day, before you go, try and make sure they’re tired and fed, as this will increase the likelihood that they’ll settle down more easily. That’s why there are so many dog-friendly pubs on walking routes – it’s the perfect combination. You could also bring a travel bowl and a portioned-up meal for them to eat on the go if you’ll be out during one of their mealtimes.

What to bring with you:

  • A towel to dry off any muddy paws. This is a good idea especially if the weather is miserable, but equally you’ll need it if it’s a hot day and your dog can’t resist diving into streams and rivers given half the chance!
  • A mat or blanket to lay on the floor. This will give them some familiarity, but it also tells them it’s ‘their area’ is to settle down.
  • Bring treats and toys. Smaller treats can be used to reward your dog when they are displaying desirable behaviour. You may also want to bring something more substantial and ‘durable’ if you’d like to keep them busy for a longer period of time, like when you’re eating yourself. Toys are good for keeping their mind busy too - best to leave the squeaky ones at home so they’re not too noisy!
  • A lead. This is for both your peace of mind and that of the other pub-goers. You can always tuck the lead under a chair leg so it’s secure (and doesn’t give them too much room to roam and get under people’s feet). Also make sure that they’re wearing a collar and their microchip information is up to date, just in case.

Be a considerate owner during your visit

The location of your table is really important, so choose carefully. If you’re making a booking in advance, let them know you’re coming with a dog and make any requests then. Outside is ideal, weather permitting of course.

Think about how much space you’ll need, how big the walkways are between tables, and consider going next to a wall or a corner so that your dog doesn’t become a trip hazard; they will settle more easily this way than if they’re worried about people coming and going.

Be aware of where you’ll be in relation to other dogs and be considerate of others around you – not everyone likes dogs, some may even be scared of them (both adults and children).

It’s very natural for people to want to come and say hello to your dog – they’re extremely cute after all! Take care that your dog is enjoying themselves, that they don’t get overwhelmed and that it’s all positive, welcome attention. Be prepared to act as their chaperone and ask people to give them some space if that’s what is needed.

Keep an eye on your dog’s behaviour; you know them well so you should pick up on warning signs of agitation or anxiety. If they are showing any of those signs, like excess yawning, excessive barking or pacing, it may be time to leave in a calm and positive way. Better to leave before they get too wound up to keep the associations with the trip as positive as possible.

Finally, enjoy it! All the planning and preparation will hopefully pay off, your dog will be relaxed, and you can reap the rewards of a great social experience for both of you.