Public Places - Pet Friend or Foe?

What keeps you from taking your dog on more outings?

I was thinking about the “Question of the Day” on MDOG’s Facebook page from the other day about where people bring their dogs. It was pretty interesting to find out that I am not the only crazy person who brings my dogs to places that are deemed “inappropriate” for dogs. So, I am going solely on common knowledge and completely of my own opinions and deductions today. In the words of the immortal Sarah Palin, “I’m going rogue.”  Let it be known, I have done no (ok, maybe a little) research on this topic…

To me, my dogs are as close to having kids as I have right now. Like kids, I am happy at times that I can take them to the park for a couple hours and then put them in their crate while I go out. Actually, I probably have the advantage that way because I don’t think you can lock kids in a crate and get away with it long after they start learning how to speak. But there are many times, like normal human families, think to myself, “It’s too bad I couldn’t bring the dogs along.  They would have loved doing this.” 

Usually, the reason I can’t bring them isn’t because they couldn’t participate in the actual activity they would have loved but they couldn’t come on the errands afterward. If I go to the beach on a cooler day or on an outing then want to stop for lunch/dinner or do some shopping after, what would I do with them? I can’t leave them in the car unless it’s really cool outside (but then I would likely not be out gallivanting around anyway because I hate cold). 

Truth is I’m not alone! In 2009, The Associated Press released a statistic that 50 percent of pet owners considered their pet as family members with equal status to that of human family members. In 2011, that number grew to 81 percent!!! PLUS, at least four people who follow the posts on the MDOG FB page. Because of this, there is a growing trend for pet friendly public places…or at least I am going to create one  ;) 

Locally, Evergreen Walk in South Windsor made a big deal a couple of years ago about becoming dog friendly. Now dog owners can clearly see which stores dogs are allowed into and what size dogs are allowed ( I would assume they would not want a bull in a china shop… literally). Landmark Café on Main Street in Manchester and Hartford Road Pizza (on Hartford Road, duh) allow outdoor dining with dogs too. Being a Townie, those are the only three locations that willingly allow your dogs.  I snuck Gryphon into Walmarts for a couple of months when he was a puppy until I got caught one summer day by the manager. They allowed me to continue shopping that day because it was obviously too hot to leave a dog in the car and I SWORE I was just running a quick errand but I stopped the sneaking after that. I also recently brought him along to my appointment at my hairdresser. They fell in love with him and he is welcome back anytime. 

So why don’t most places allow dogs inside? Well, for food places, I would guess it has to do with Health Code Regulations. Although, many places won’t even let you sit outside with your dog anymore. I cannot understand why this is because it’s not like the dogs are going to be in touch with any place the food is prepared and birds can poop on where it is served (which is 100 percent more unsanitary than dog spit). My brother lived in Germany for several years while he served in the Air Force. He said that people bring their dogs to a restaurant more often than they do their children. That could very well be because dogs mature at a faster rate than children and are, when trained properly, more well-behaved. While dogs do not always behave well, I have never seen one barking incessantly while jumping up and down on the chair of a bistro while the owner quietly and politely asked for 45 minutes that they not do that. I cannot say the same for children and parents. Maybe the Germans have it all right. 

As for other stores, I’m guessing they are avoiding liability. Which is kind of ignorant, at least in CT, because rarely would someone win a lawsuit against a store for a dog that is with its owner causing an issue. Since dogs are property, they are treated as such in court. No one could sue Walmart if a little old lady started hitting people with her umbrella just because they let that umbrella through the door.

I will yield to the regulations against dogs in grocery stores or stores that carry groceries (Super Walmart, Target, etc.). My dogs can be sneaky and I would be devastated and completely embarrassed if they stole something. Although, if it were Zuzu, I would know right away because Gryphon would tell on her but I am not blind to his antics either and as innocent as he tends to be, he is not always. I’m done with sneaking my dogs in places they “don’t belong” - they’re too big for it anyway - but not with wishing I could. 

I will also concede that people do not always make the best decisions when it comes to bringing their dogs out in public. I have seen some irresponsible things, not just at events, but in general when it comes to public behavior with dogs. As owners, we need to realize that not everyone thinks our dogs are sweet and cute and fuzzy and bad behaviors that we brush off as loving parents are not as endearing to strangers. 

So today, I vow, I will talk to my State Representative (you know who you are or at least your wife will tell you) soon and see what he can do for us so the whole family can go on outings. I'm not implying at all that people should be forced to allow pet owners to bring their dogs along, simply that businesses that are doing so for precautionary reasons no longer need to be as concerned. I’m pretty sure it won’t be on the list of priorities but it could be one of those feel good things politicians do on occasion. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve sparked a little inspiration in my readers and you will do the same. 

In the meantime, here are a few tips to make dog outings ok for everyone…

Tips for People Dining With Dogs

  • If your pooch is not ready for prime time, don’t put him on the stage. Train and socialize your dog to behave like it is going to be a service dog, which is generally overlooked by everyone.

  • Sit at a table where your dog can be out of the way, both of other customers and the waitstaff.

  • Be alert for the comings and goings of others so you can anticipate issues before they occur.

  • If your dog acts up, leave. No fuss, no muss. Apologize, if appropriate. Imagine yourself doing better the next time.

  • Patronize dog friendly restaurants, even if you don’t have the fur kids with you, and personally thank management for their policy.

  • And as a general tip for all pet owners, PICK UP AFTER YOUR DOG. This is the one common gripe shared by everyone. The thoughtlessness of some pet owners is extended to anyone and everyone holding a leash.

Tips for People Dining Near Dogs  

  • Ignore the dog. If you see me enjoying a relaxing meal, my dog lying peacefully at my feet, please don’t approach us asking if you can pet the pooch. In exchange, I won’t come over to your table and scratch behind the ears of your kid and get her all worked up.
  • Ask for permission. If you simply can’t resist, please ask for permission to approach us before you stick your hand in my dog’s face. And don’t get hurt feelings if I say no.

  • Be open minded. If you don’t like seeing dogs at restaurants, figure out what really has you bothered and see if it has any basis in fact.

Courtesy GoPetFriendly.com How Friendly are Dog Friendly Restaurants?
Part 2by rburkert.

Until next time... See you at the dog park!

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Chris S July 25, 2012 at 11:13 AM
Alysia, no lie, I actually saw a woman and her husband eating outside at what is a considered a nice establishment (Leunig's Bistro) in Burlington Vt. With their 5 medium to large size dogs and they were perfectly behaved! It was a marvelous sight. Enjoy your pups. : )
John Martin July 26, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Read this in the Wall Street Journal - thought it was timely... http://goo.gl/dhaJS
Alysia Duke July 26, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Thank you John, that was very interesting. Since I was focused on making my own argument, I completely forgot to look at it from a recovering economy point of view. The article read that these restaurants that chose to cater to dog owners have increased revenue 20-25%. As soon as I saw the first numbers, I saw where it was going and I feel a little ashamed for not thinking of that myself. ;) Thanks for sharing, that was a great article.
Beverly Miller July 27, 2012 at 02:14 AM
I would like to comment on pet insurance because my experience has been poor. Have 2 dogs and initially bought the best (most coverage) policy from a well known national company at the cost of well over $1,000 per dog for the annual premium. As a first time dog owner, I wanted to do my best for them. Both dogs were young ( one 2 years and the other 3 months), had no health issues and were quickly approved for coverage. Next, the fun began. Both dogs had their wellness exams, routine shots and monthly doses of heart worm and flea/tick preventative products. All procedures and products covered by the policy. Next, they each developed some serious ( VERY expensive) health issues within that first year of coverage. So, I believed I had been wise to purchase pet insurance. WRONG! Like the government and human insurance companies, the 'approved' payment for each service was predetermined as 'customary and reasonable' which was 20% or more less than the charge. But the big kick in the butt was when the puppy nearly died from what the pet insurance company deemed to be a genetic condition so coverage was a big fat $0 toward the $3,000 + cost billed by the vet, hospital and surgeon. I gladly paid the bills and my puppy is now 2 years old and thriving. So, my point is pet insurance is not very helpful and I have decided the hassle is not worth it so I no longer have it. If anyone has had a good experience with pet insurance, I am happy for you.
Alysia Duke July 27, 2012 at 02:32 PM
Thanks for that feedback Beverly. I have heard mixed responses about pet insurance. From what I have gathered, it sounds like it could be a crap shoot, just like with any other insurance policy. I feel like if I had purchased it, I would have save quite a bit. The problem is that you never know when you are going to need it or what is going to happen. I did do some investigation on it after my puppy had cataracts (I was just curious and under a couple of policies it would have been covered). There are some policies out there that cover many genetic conditions, some under the condition that the dog is pre-tested for that condition and is negative before signing on but not many. All in all it's important to know, do a thorough investigation on what is and isn't covered and under what conditions before purchasing a policy because maybe pet insurance isn't for you. In addition, if your insurance policy does not cover the entire expense, talk with your vet to see if they can help you with the rest (bring the cost down even just a little). It doesn't hurt to at least ask. Thanks again Beverly.


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