We’ve all been there. Watching the dog owner who decides to tie their dog’s leash to a cafe table and two seconds later the whole table goes flying. Or stared in horror as an expensive insta-worthy meal gets snapped up by the opportunistic hound at the next table. It’s little wonder there is a growing divide between the dog-haves and the dog-have-nots! As a dog-owning cafe regular, I’ve seen (and made) a lot of mistakes in my time. So how do you avoid being “that person” at the cafe who gives all dog owners a bad name? Here are my five tips to help you navigate the complexities of taking your dog to brunch and make it an enjoyable experience for everyone:
Unfortunately, outdoor seating doesn’t mean a place is dog-friendly. Outdoor seating can be cramped, close to roaring traffic, or packed with little kids waiting to be knocked over like bowling pins. When looking for a cafe, try and pick somewhere that suits your dog’s size and energy levels. And when you arrive, find yourself some space. It’s fair to say that not everyone wants a strange dog in their lap. Even dog owners! True, sometimes it can be unexpectedly busy and the only table left is a tight fit. In these situations, check with the people you’ll be sitting next to and see if they mind. If they seem hesitant, take a short walk and come back. Sure, we’ll judge them for not loving your drooling hound, but at least you’ll keep the peace.
Do you find it annoying when people let their kids run wild around a restaurant? Well guess what, the same rules apply to your dog. Even if a cafe courtyard has grass, that doesn’t make it a dog park. I went to one cafe where a couple had decided to bring along a frisbee to entertain their dog. Not only is there a high chance your frisbee will end up in my delicious well-earned breakfast, but you’re also riling up my previously calm dog who now just wants to play. Chew toys and treats? Definitely. Frisbees and balls? Best leave them at home.
In the same vein as respect the space, be considerate of other dogs and their owners. People often assume it’s ok for their dog to invite themselves under my table and play with my dog. For some reason, it always seems to be right while I’m in the middle of sipping a coffee that subsequently spills all over me. Now I have no coffee and I match the colour of my dog *sigh*😂 I’m well aware my dog looks cute and friendly but maybe she doesn’t like yappy chihuahuas or slobbering saint bernards getting in her face. Or maybe I just want to drink my coffee in peace. Either way, I’m guessing you probably wouldn’t sit down at a stranger’s table without asking them first, so probably best not to let your dog.
Brunch with your dog is so much more enjoyable if you come prepared. This is one I’ve definitely learnt the hard way. Whenever I go out for brunch, I now bring a water bottle and water bowl, and a suitable stash of treats to use as a distraction and reward good behaviour. I also carry two leads: a standard dog leash for walking to the cafe and a hands free runners leash that I can use while I’m eating. I’ve seen people tie their lead around folding tables, bar stools and plastic chairs. You name it, someone has attempted to secure their dog to it. Unless you’re competing in the guinness records for world’s highest flying table, I highly recommend you invest in a runner’s leash that you can secure around your waist.
If you haven’t taken your dog to brunch before, don’t make your first visit an epic five course meal over three hours. Start small with quick coffee and cake trips when your pup is in a calm mood. If your adorable poodle has just been doing zoomies around your backyard, consider that they may not be ready to transition to quiet time under a cafe table. After a few visits, if it works out, awesome! Now you can work your way up to a meal. If not, it might be time to get familiar with the takeout menu… at least for now.
*These tips are based on amusing experiences as a dog owner and cafe regular and should not be treated as expert advice or opinion. All dogs are different. If you need advice on socialising or training your dog, please consult a dog behaviour expert in your area.
Looking for dog-friendly cafes? Check out our Eat & Drink section for options all over town.