A cup of coffee, a good book, and my dog by my side is my idea of a perfect day. With pandemic restrictions lifted, pet owners like me are rediscovering the pleasures of taking their dogs to the pet-friendly cafés that have popped up around the country. Pandemic pet parents seem to be the most enthusiastic in their attempt to socialise pups that haven’t had much exposure to the outside world so far.
While it’s wonderful that more restaurants are welcoming dogs, it is our responsibility as pet parents to make sure the experience is positive for everyone. Make sure your pet is completely immunised and has been treated for ticks and fleas. This guarantees the safety of the pet as well as other customers. The most crucial thing to consider is whether your pet would be comfortable in an environment like a café, with other people, loud noises, different smells, and food.
Do not force pets into this setting if they are still experiencing anxiety or are uneasy with loud noises. Make sure your pet has socialised adequately in its formative years and been trained in basic commands such as sit and stay.
Research the place you intend to visit. Pick a quieter time. I usually make it a point to call the restaurant to let them know I will be bringing my dog. They can then keep a space that will be more comfortable for my dog. Feeding your pet before taking it to a café is a good idea. It is not fair to have them smell the mouth-watering cuisine when they are still hungry. Feeding them beforehand also ensures they are not tempted to beg for table scraps. Certain eateries and coffee shops provide pet-specific menus. There, you could request a meal for your pet and fill their food bowl with it.
Make sure they have an ID tag with your number on it. There have been cases where fights between two animals have almost resulted in one of them running away. You want to make sure your pet can be located.
Take a small walk before you get to the café so they can urinate or pass stool before they get there. Take their favourite toy, water and food bowls, poop bags, and treats. Toys provide them with comfort in uncharted territory. Reward them for good conduct.
Find seating on the outside—if possible. To help the pet adjust, choose a corner table or a quiet area. Keep them on a short leash to prevent them from disturbing other diners or dogs. Fix the other end of the leash to your wrist or belt, not the furniture. If they choose to run from an uncomfortable scenario, not only can this result in harm to them and café property, it will also make it more difficult to take charge of the situation.
Children frequently approach pets in such settings. My dog was the centre of attention at a Goan restaurant, with five children playing with him under our table. Be mindful that this could happen. If your dog is not too comfortable with children, politely let the children know before they approach your dog.
Never give your pets anything from your plate. Human food can irritate their stomachs, even make them sick. Chocolate, coffee and tea are toxic for dogs. Keeping them on a short leash will ensure they do not scavenge for scraps from other tables either.
Do not force your dog to interact with humans or other canines. The sights and sounds could be overpowering for a timid dog. Leave the café if they are hiding beneath the table, barking non-stop, or displaying indications of stress like excessive yawning.
Getting your pet used to a restaurant and spending quality time with them there can be a lot of fun. At the same time, it is important to be mindful of the people around you. An overall good experience will guarantee you and your pet are welcome at your favourite café.
Dr Nameeta Nadkarni is a practising veterinary soft tissue surgeon and pet blogger from Mumbai, who loves to play the piano in her free time and is ruled by her whimsical cat, Catbury, at home.