Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Good “café dog” manners

We just spent four magnificent days in Santa Barbara, and almost every meal was eaten outdoors at a lovely restaurant. The tables at these restaurants are very inviting to dog owners, and knowing that registration was open for my “Creating a Café Dog” intermediate training class, I was keen to notice examples of good and bad café dog behavior. Here’s what a I saw:

Owners clueless to their dog’s behavior
The owner was a young man very intent on his laptop screen, while his dog (on a flexi-lead no less!) was walking over to other tables and bothering the diners and their dogs. The owner was clueless to his dog’s location or behavior.

Dogs reacting in a loud and scary way to waiters or other dogs nearby
This dog barked so viciously that a child at a neighboring table started sobbing. The owner should have removed the dog immediately, but this was allowed to go on at least 3 times. This is a great way to get dogs banned from an outdoor restaurant. Sheesh.

Dogs getting wound around the chair and stepped on
Again, a clueless owner. This was a very small dog who looked terrified the whole time and got bumped and kicked around as chairs moved. If the dog is given enough leash to move around, and the owner is not paying attention, it can wind around the chair leg and as soon as the occupant of that chair scoots out, the dog is being dragged with the chair. This can actually be dangerous for a dog.

Dogs laying quietly, watching the action nearby
Yes, this is what we like to see. Non-reactive dogs who can chill out while Mom enjoys the best buckwheat blueberry pancakes this side of the Mississippi (at the East Beach Grill, on Cabrillo Ave., in Santa Barbara. OMG. To die for.)

Dogs positioned out of the traffic areas, under tables or chairs
I take credit for this one. In my class we’ll train our dogs to scoot under the chair (I had my Lab with me that morning) where they’re out of the way of the harried serving staff. As we got up to leave, the people at the table next to us gasped and said they had no idea we had a dog with us, she was so discreet.

Dogs who clearly get out in public a lot with their owners
This goes along with the good behaviors above—a dog has to get out in public a lot with its owner in order to develop the “ho hum, here we are again” attitude that makes a good café dog. The more your dog is out in public (assuming he’s not reactive) the better he’ll become at taking new and potentially scary or distracting things in stride. It’s like a behavior muscle that needs lots of repetitions. This became really evident as I was raising guide dogs and service dogs. Getting them exposed to the world and teaching them to behave appropriately in all kinds of public settings is extremely important and valuable. It’s a bit harder to do this with our own pet dogs but with some effort it’s very do-able.

My "Creating a Cafe Dog" training class will be offered again in the Fall. It's a series of 4 classes designed to create a dog with excellent manners in an outdoor cafe setting.

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