For diners with dogs, etiquette is key

For The Baltimore Sun
"Unlike children, most dogs are well-behaved." -- Alan Morstein, owner of Regi's American Bistro

Oh, the dog days of summer.

Michelle Wilson and Myshala Middleton were having a doggie date on a recent hot Saturday afternoon at one of the outdoor tables at Belvedere Square. The humans were feasting on fare from Tooloulou's; the four-legged patrons were resting calmly at their owners' feet.

"She thinks she's missing something if she's not with me," Wilson said of Callie, her boxer-bulldog mix. "It's an opportunity to get her out."

You could say the Baltimore dining scene has gone to the dogs, with restaurant sidewalks and patios filled with man's — and woman's — best friend.

Typically, dogs are not allowed inside restaurants unless they are service dogs. But ever since Maryland's Dining Out Growth Act of 2011 allowed dogs in outdoor dining areas, more restaurants with al fresco seating are happily greeting tail-wagging guests.

"As long as the dogs behave — and the owners behave — we're happy to have them," said Willy Dely, director of operations for Kooper's Tavern and Slainte Irish Pub in Fells Point.

There's the (belly) rub: behavior. Not every dog is suited to a restaurant setting.

Middleton's 8-year-old beagle Lady is. Her behavior has been well suited to dinner outings since Middleton adopted her a month ago.

"She's been great," Middleton said. "She's a very laid-back dog."

Middleton, a Ramblewood resident, and Wilson, who lives in Chinquapin Park, also take their pooches to Mount Vernon Marketplace after a play date at nearby Howards Park Dog Park.

But each dog is different, said Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas.

"They need to take their personalities into consideration," she said of pet owners. "Even the friendliest dogs in the world, when someone walks up to them, can get startled and snap."

On her website, dianegottsman.com, she has compiled several do's and don'ts to consider before heading to a restaurant with a canine.

"No. 1 is to take a pet to someplace that is pet-friendly," she said. "I don't think it's good manners to sneak them in if they don't welcome them."

Her other suggestions include not allowing your pet to block the aisle or get in the way of servers, not feeding your pet directly from your plate or bowl, teaching your dog basic commands and taking your animal for a walk before sitting at a table to avoid accidents.

"This is how we can become courteous pet owners," Gottsman said. "The true definition of etiquette is making people feel comfortable around you, and that is what this is all about."

The website dogfriendly.com, which provides city and travel guides for dog owners, offers etiquette tips that include bringing your own doggie water bowl and remembering to tie your dog to a chair, not a table, so they can't overturn the table.

Morgan Wilson and Joe Glandorf of Towson introduced their puppy, Izzie Louise ("because every dog needs a middle name," Glandorf said), to outdoor dining soon after getting her at 8 weeks old.

On a recent weekend, Izzie Louise, a 7-month-old Lab-border collie mix, was serene and docile, stretched out under a table in front of Slainte while her owners ate lunch.

"We wanted to break her in early," Glandorf said.

Slainte is just one of the Fells Point restaurants that provides treats and water.

Up the street, The Admiral's Cup Restaurant & Bar in Fells Point offers another popular spot for dogs and their owners to gather.

The restaurant hosted "Drink with Your Dog" events on Sundays in March, which included complimentary photos taken by professional photographer Scott Mislan, whose brother, Darin, is the restaurant's general manager.

"It was crazy. It was awesome," Darin Mislan said. "And the dog lovers were happy, too."

He didn't expect many dogs the first time because it was raining. To his surprise, about 70 came with their owners in tow.

On Sept. 18, The Admiral's Cup will follow up on the successful dog gatherings with a Ravens tailgating party from noon to 4 p.m. (The team is playing the Browns at Cleveland that day.) Free photos and drink specials will be available.

"We realized how much of a dog culture there is in Fells Point," said Mislan, who lives in the neighborhood with his girlfriend, Hope Miller, and her 13-year-old black Lab, Lexi.

Lisa Kenney loves a good dog soiree, too. She is responsible for the Maryland SPCA's Wine & Wag fundraisers.

The last one of the season, called "Barkaritaville," is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26 at the SPCA on Falls Road.

Besides bobbing for hot dogs and paw painting, dogs will be able to nibble on "pooch-inis" (cups of custard) and biscuits from Shake Shack during the evening. Meanwhile, their owners will nosh on fare from the Gypsy Queen Cafe food truck and sip margaritas, beer, wine and soft drinks.

The events usually draw from 150 to 200 owners and their dogs to the property, said Kenney, the SPCA's development services coordinator. Dogs must be kept on leashes for safety reasons, except when playing in the fun runs.

"There's always a troublemaker," Kenney said. "But we're a shelter. It's not like we haven't seen this before."

Most dog owners are responsible when it comes to skittish behaviors, Kenney said.

"They don't take them into crowds of people," she said. "We have plenty of places to walk them. They're not confined to a space."

Being aware of other people's concerns is part of engaging in good dog etiquette, Gottsman said.

"There are people who absolutely love their dogs, and there are people who are more hesitant about them," she said. "By following the rules and being respectful of our pets and others, it's good for everyone."

Alan Morstein, the owner of Regi's American Bistro in Federal Hill, sees all types of dogs visit his restaurant.

"Unlike children, most dogs are well-behaved," he said.

He likes to take his dogs — Joey, a 13-year-old pug, and Austin, an 8-month-old miniature labradoodle — out on the town, too.

"I hate leaving them home," he said. "If you want to go out on a beautiful night, why not?"

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If you go

Barkaritaville

The Maryland SPCA will host this Wine & Wag fundraising event on Aug. 26 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at its property, 3300 Falls Road. Admission is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Dogs are free, but only one per person and no retractable leashes. Pooches will enjoy fun runs, bobbing for hot dogs and paw painting, while their owners can purchase food from the Gypsy Queen food truck. Margaritas, beer, wine and soft drinks will be available. Music will be provided by Fast Eddie & the Slowpokes. For tickets, visit mdspca.org.

Dog-friendly Ravens tailgate

The Admiral's Cup Restaurant & Bar will host a party open to pooches on Sept. 11 from noon to 4 p.m. at the restaurant, 1647 Thames St. in Fells Point. Complimentary pet-and-owner photos and drink specials will be offered. For more information, call 410-534-5555.

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