How To Teach Your Dog Polite Café Manners
A rude dog in a bustling restaurant environment is a nuisance to other patrons and potential danger to staff. If your dog can’t keep his paws to himself in public, suspend his café privileges until he’s mastered the following activity and gained more impulse control. (If your dog acts aggressively or fearfully in public, enlist the help of a force-free trainer using these guidelines.
What You’ll Need
- A mat or towel that will become your dog’s special place. It should be lightweight enough that you can bring it to the café.
- A rawhide chew, bully stick, stuffed Kong, or similar edible object that will take your dog a long time to eat.
Practice at Home
- Lay out the mat. Encourage your dog to investigate and walk on the mat.
- Once all four paws are on the mat, tell him what a good dog he is. Then, ask him to lie down. If he doesn’t know how to lie down on cue, sitting is fine, or even standing with all paws on the mat.
- Present your chewy, and let him eat it while on the mat. If he tries to walk off with the chewy, you can (A) share it with him, holding one end to ensure he stays on the mat, or (B), use a leash to restrict his ability to walk off the mat. You are teaching him that the mat is where he gets all his goodies from now on.
- When he’s done with the chewy or you want to end the snacking session, remove the mat. It should only come out during these informal training sessions, so he’ll get really excited whenever he sees the mat.
Practice this numerous times, until your dog happily jumps on the mat and lies down as soon as you put it down. Once your dog gets the hang of it, you can add a verbal cue like “go to your mat” as you lay it on the floor.
At the Café
After practicing the sequence at home, you’re ready to test it out at the café. Set your dog up for success by choosing a time when the surroundings are relatively quiet. Same as before, lay the mat next to your chair and use your verbal cue (if you have one). Once he’s settled on the mat, give him the chewy.
As time goes on and your dog is consistently able to hang out quietly by your side, you can scale back on the rewards. Instead of a rawhide, bring a few treats and occasionally drop one on the mat for your dog. This will be enough to keep him invested in the mat at the intermediate stage. Over time, reduce the frequency of the treats, very gradually and almost imperceptibly. Keep in mind that staying calm in a bustling café is hard work for your dog, so be sufficiently generous with your rewards to ensure the experience is enjoyable for both of you every step of the way.
Kate Naito, CPDT-KA, is a dog trainer at Doggie Academy in Brooklyn, NY, and author of the training book, "BKLN Manners." She draws upon her experience as an educator and dog trainer to apply positive training techniques to a challenging urban environment. Kate is a rescue advocate drawn to special-needs dogs and currently has two Chihuahua mixes, Batman and Beans.
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