For many people, dining out with our dogs in tow is a pretty common occurrence. While you can usually count on some local, independent restaurants to be dog-friendly, certain nationwide chains have also become reliable, canine-compatible dining destinations.
The increasing trend of eating out with a canine companion is no more apparent than with the emergence of pet-friendly restaurant chains like Lazy Dog Restaurants. With over 40 locations (mostly in California and Texas) and more on the way, Lazy Dog is a pup-focused eatery with a pup menu for dog dining and dog-friendly patios. This small restaurant chain is now also expanding to Florida and Virginia, sprinkling its puppy love across the country.
To give you a few go-to dining destinations for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – and even dessert – we’ve rounded up some of the most dog-friendly restaurant chains found nationwide across the U.S. We’ve also included a few pointers in canine dining etiquette, as well as some tips and advice for safely dining with your dog no matter the meal.
Dog-Friendly Restaurants: General Rules
Think of the term “dog-friendly restaurants” as you would dog-friendly hotels: your fur baby might be able to take part in the experience, but that doesn’t give them free rein of the property.
Even the most welcoming restaurant chains must adhere to strict health and safety guidelines set forth by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as each state or even individual city you are in. That means rarely, if ever, are there restaurants that allow dogs inside where food is being prepared (the exception being service animals).
Keep these restrictions in mind when planning a meal out with your mutt. If you live somewhere with distinct seasons, cold weather could deter you from being able to enjoy an al fresco brunch with your four-legged buddy, as dog-friendly seating is almost always relegated to a patio or designated outdoor seating area.
While some outdoor dining setups employ heat lamps, be sure to dress appropriately for the weather and consider bringing a small blanket or bed for your pet to make them more comfortable during the meal. The same is true in the heat; bring a bowl (we love the travel one in this article) so your dog has access to water, and make sure there’s shaded seating.
Rules for dogs as restaurant patrons can vary by chain and even by location, but your best bet is to always have a collar and leash on your pet so they stay safe and within reach. Some restaurants require your dog to be leashed to avoid unexpected visits to other tables or run-ins with other doggie diners.
Restaurants That Allow Dogs: 9 Dog-Friendly Chains
To make it easy for you to find a few restaurants that allow dogs, we’ve made a list of nine chains to check out.
This burger-and-shake chain for famished humans also serves up delicious biscuit-and-ice cream treats for lucky pups. With more than 260 locations nationwide, Shake Shack offers menu items like the “Bag O’ Bones,” which includes five dog biscuits custom made for Shake Shack by pet brand Bocce’s Bakery. Order it with a side of custard mixed with biscuits and a swirl of peanut butter (yum) known as a “Pooch-ini.” Made with dairy, sugar, and nuts, this frozen treat is safe for larger dogs but not recommended for small breeds beyond a lick.
Shake Shack’s dog menu is available at most locations with the exception of stadiums, ballparks, and airports. Your dog will be welcome at any Shake Shack outdoor patio location, but not inside the restaurant. Take an excursion to Madison Square Park in Manhattan where the first-ever Shake Shack took root; Jemmy’s Dog Run, a 7-acre canine haven, is a two-minute walk away.
Soup in a bread bowl has never been better, because you can share the experience with your doggo at select Panera locations. The fast-casual chain, known for pastries, freshly baked bread, soups, salads, sandwiches, and more, also offers an outdoor patio at most locations. While there is no dedicated dog menu, we’re not judging if they get a nibble of your turkey panini.
Ordering at Panera is done at the counter or on a tablet once you enter, so you might need a secondary person to watch your dog while you go inside. That is unless you’re fortunate enough to find a drive-thru location, in which case Fido can come along for the ride. Quick pick-up is also available through the Panera app. Because many of these outdoor patio areas are adjacent to parking lots, it’s best to leash your pet for their safety if you choose to sit down.
Do you even own a dog in the 21st century if you’ve never heard of a “Puppuccino”? Starbucks is a ubiquitous destination for that perfect caffeine fix, with nearly 16,000 locations within the U.S. But your pup can also indulge with the canine version of an ice-blended Frappuccino. Also known as a “Pup Cup,” this creamy treat is essentially an espresso-sized container of whipped cream available off-menu just for dog owners in the know. Best of all, this day-maker for your dog is totally free.
Any Starbucks location with an outdoor patio welcomes leashed pets. However, like Panera, you must order your indulgences inside at the counter unless you’re hitting up the drive-thru window.
The slogan of all-American restaurant chain Applebee’s is “Eatin’ Good in the Neighborhood,” and that applies to your pet if you find a location with an outdoor seating area at any of their 1,600 restaurants. If you’re not near your neighborhood Applebee’s, you can always call ahead to check if there is a patio and if it would be fine to BYOD (bring your own dog, of course). Applebee’s serves a large lunch and dinner menu, though nothing specifically for dogs unless you can finagle a small unseasoned chicken breast.
Rumors of a “Yappy Hour” or dog-friendly happy hour at Applebee’s are peppered throughout the internet, but we couldn’t find any formal proof that the chain hosts such an event. However, any happy hour is dog-friendly when your puppy pal can tag along and lap up a little H2O while you sip a glass of wine.
Another fast-casual chain with a once-catchy slogan is Italian-inspired Olive Garden, which quipped, “When You’re Here, You’re Family.” Your dog can be part of family dinner at select Olive Garden restaurants with an outdoor patio. Because this policy varies by location, calling ahead is recommended.
While the soup, salad, and breadsticks may be unlimited for humans, no specialized dog menu currently exists at Olive Garden. There are nearly 900 Olive Garden locations throughout the U.S., with the highest concentration in Texas.
We’re not sure how many people took their dogs out to eat in the 1950s, but retro diner-themed burger joint Johnny Rockets now serves up dog-friendly bites sock hop-style. While a canine menu has never been formally recognized by the chain, individual locations might be spoiling your hound dog with pet-safe “pupcakes,” ice cream, and even unsweetened applesauce. Those items and more were part of a test menu at a Chino Hills location in California, in which one Johnny Rockets franchise owner partnered with a local dog bakery.
Elsewhere, patrons at Johnny Rockets locations with outdoor seating have applauded the chain’s willingness to welcome dogs with fresh water or accommodate an order of chopped hamburger meat. Every location is different, so check ahead if there is actually a menu for your dog so they won’t be disappointed; your best shot is in the state of California, where Johnny Rockets is based. There are around 129 total locations throughout the U.S.
Want free vanilla ice cream at your next Dairy Queen visit? Be a dog. The chain known for “Hot Eats Cool Treats” is also very chill about welcoming your pup with a frozen treat totally free of charge. Enjoy a signature Blizzard while your four-legged companion chows down on their version of a “Pup Cup,” aka a small helping of soft-serve vanilla – sometimes served with a dog biscuit – available at select locations.
The Pup Cup is one of a handful of “secret” menu items for good boys circulating on social media platform TikTok. Order at the drive-thru or savor your desserts together at any Dairy Queen outdoor seating area. There are an estimated 4,356 Dairy Queen locations spread throughout the U.S.
You can’t visit the West Coast and not experience regional fast-food favorite In-N-Out. This is especially true if you’re with your dog. California’s first-ever drive-thru has been going strong for 75 years, now with about 385 locations. Recently a “secret” menu item for doggos has made it into a viral video. The “Pup Patty” is a plain, unsalted hamburger patty supposedly available by request at In-N-Out order windows. Unlike many other dog menu items, you might be charged $1 to $2 for this companion meal.
For larger dogs who can handle a few more calories, the “Flying Dutchman” is an off-menu item with two patties and cheese, similarly for $2. Whether or not your pup chooses to indulge in a burger alongside you, the Golden State chain is a dog-friendly restaurant that welcomes well-behaved canines to its outdoor seating areas.
What could be better than treating yourself to a tasty cupcake? The obvious answer for dog owners is treating your dog to one as well. Popular bakery chain Sprinkles Cupcakes offers a specialty canine-friendly cupcake on the menu (no secret intel needed). This baked good consists of sugar-free cake with yogurt frosting and runs about $3. It can be “woofed” down at home or on the patio terrace at any Sprinkles location.
Hot tip: if you’re near one of Sprinkles’ 24 locations on August 26, mention “puppy love” at checkout for a free pupcake in honor of National Dog Day.
Tips for Finding the Best Independent Dog-Friendly Restaurants
Beyond the ease of a chain restaurant or fast-food drive-thru, it’s always nice to support mom-and-pop eateries as well as independent venues. While regulations vary state to state, dogs are allowed on restaurant patios – by law – in California, Florida, Maryland, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee, Rhode Island, and Minnesota. But that doesn’t mean that restaurants in other states won’t welcome your pup.
One outcome of the Covid-19 pandemic is the emergence of more outdoor dining; some restaurants ended these setups as health protocols eased, though others have permanently kept their outside seating arrangements. As a result, more restaurants and bars than ever are equipped to welcome you and your dog.
The internet remains a helpful resource for pinpointing which local spots you can hit up with a posse of pooches. If the city or destination you’re heading to is known for being pet-friendly, chances are it’s because there is more than one restaurant or bar that welcomes our four-legged friends. Googling your destination with “+ dog-friendly” could be one way to identify some possible pet-friendly restaurants. If you find a great al fresco dining area, maybe just give them a call and check with staff whether you can bring your dog – even if it’s not expressly listed as dog-friendly.
Word of mouth is also a handy way to filter the best options for a night out on the town with your pooch. Ask friends or even other pet parents at a local dog park where they personally go.
Dog Restaurant Etiquette
If you’re going to bring mixed canine company to grab a drink or a bite, it’s best to know some societal expectations for how you both should behave in restaurants that allow dogs. Here are our tips:
If it’s your first time there, call ahead. This removes the mystery surrounding if your dog needs to be leashed, if you can get a reservation outside, and if your pup can even be at the restaurant in the first place.
Make sure your dog can sit quietly. Like parents of human kids, it’s important to know your fur baby and their limits. If your doggie is an excessive barker or has trouble sitting still without whining, begging, or lunging, maybe they’re not the best candidate for a drawn-out dinner. The temptation of food as well as other doggie patrons might be too much for some fur babies to handle.
Be prepared to clean up. No matter how well behaved your dog might be, or how recently you gave them a potty break, accidents happen. Your pup might need to unfortunately use the bathroom next to where other people are eating. Be ready with bags and anything else needed to clean up any mess.
Come equipped. While some of the dog-friendly restaurants on this list offer free snacks or meals, any special accommodations for your dog are not guaranteed. Be sure to bring water and a dish for them, along with some kibble or treats if needed.
Follow the rules. This one might seem obvious, but bringing your dog inside where they don’t belong or letting them roam around unleashed makes pet parents everywhere look bad. If you’re going to bring your dog along as your guest, be sure to leash them safely and be prepared to leave if they simply can’t behave.