Should dogs be allowed in designated outdoor dining spaces?

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By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger

I have had people respond to my petition to change the Ohio health code to allow dogs in designated outdoor dining spaces.  Most of their concerns are valid yet can be responded to rather easily once the emotion is removed.

Concerned about dog allergies? More allergens are present outdoors than inside. People who are allergic to dogs have the alternative to eat inside rather than outside.

Aggressive, nervous or untrained dog? I can sympathize with the person who doesn’t want their meal disrupted by a barking dog or whining child.  Should such a dog be present, the restaurant can ultimately ask the owner and dog to leave.

I feel this issue has become more heated than necessary because of people’s impressions or observations than from factual basis.  Rather than ban dogs from patios, perhaps we should consider encouraging responsible dog ownership that address such issues as training for good manners and taking responsibility for their dog’s behavior.

Here are some points the Contra Costa Health Services have regarding dogs on the patio.

  1. Retail food establishments serve dogs only if they have a designated outdoor dining space, such as a patio, with its own exterior entrance. Pet dogs are not allowed inside, and may not sit or stand on chairs or other furniture.
  2. Dogs must be leashed or confined in a pet carrier while dining.
  3. Dogs may only eat or drink from single-use, disposable containers provided by the establishment – not from dishes or utensils provided for people, or pet dishes brought from home.
  4. Employees of retail food establishments are prohibited from petting or otherwise having contact with dogs while on duty, and must immediately wash if contact occurs.
  5. The establishment is ultimately responsible for ensuring that its dining areas are clean and safe for the public. The law requires that any dog excrement or other bodily fluids left in the dining area must be cleaned up promptly, and any contaminated surfaces sanitized.
  6. Maintaining a dining environment free from fighting, biting or crashing furniture is the responsibility of individual businesses, customers, and potentially local law enforcement.

Common courtesy can also help to ensure a safe and pleasant experience for all customers:

  • Only use the designated pet entrance and keep your dog leashed or in a pet container at all times.
  • Do not tie leashes to tables. Tie a dog’s leash to the owner’s chair, out of the way of servers and other customers.
  • NEVER bring an aggressive, nervous or untrained dog to a restaurant.
  • Make sure your dog is clean and groomed, and walk your dog before dining out.
  • Never let dogs eat from “people” dishes, utensils or glasses.
  • Only feed and water dogs from the designated dishes provided by the restaurant.
  • Clean up after your dog, and promptly notify the staff if your pet has an accident.
  • Be responsible for your dog’s behavior – it is not enough to say “don’t touch” or “keep away.”

By setting rules and allowing dogs on patios I believe more people who would like their dog to accompany them to restaurants may make it a goal to have a well-mannered dog.  And hopefully it would also encourage current dog owners to take more responsibility for their pet’s behavior and actions.


Laura Pakis is owner & founder of Acme Canine, llc, Blacklick, Ohio.  She has been a Certified professional dog trainer for over 20 years as well as owned a dog boarding and daycare facility for 12 years.  Laura is an International Association of Canine Behaviorists and Consultants associate as well as an International Association of Canine Professionals associate.  Having trained over 5,000 in the past 12 years, Laura feels responsible ownership is an important part of having a dog.

She is well known throughout the canine community for quality training, high standards, and professionalism. Published author in several national and local magazines, invited speaker by the media and pet equipment companies for canine expertise, Laura assist dog trainers worldwide with improving their training techniques, people skills, and business knowledge. She has been nominated for the Woman of the Year in the Pet Industry Award, Better Business Bureau’s Integrity Award and Worthington Chamber’s Small Business Person of the Year Award. Her boarding business was singled out from among several thousand businesses to receive The Silver award for the 2014 Pet Age boarding facility of the year; reflecting the skills, talents and professional reputation Laura has and continues to build in her growing business.


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