city dog, country human
March 21, 2008 12:47 AM   Subscribe

Can I go inside to order at a coffee shop when I have a dog with me?

I recently began walking a dog 3 days/week in order to earn some spare cash while satisfying my need for a canine companion (I'm not able to have a dog of my own right now). He's a standard poodle (i.e., around 55lbs, fluffy, and absolutely adorable), and easily the most well-behaved dog I've ever known. I would like to be able to sit with him OUTSIDE at a coffee shop for an hour or so to do some light reading/work in his company.

There are a number of coffee shops along our walk routes, but I don't know if there's an etiquette (or if it's even legal!) for bringing him inside while I order, after which I would enjoy my drink with him at a table outside. I have a lot of dog experience, but am from a rural area and this whole dog-in-the-city thing is new to me. So I don't know if this is something I could do when it's just him and me. I don't want to just tie him outside because I'm afraid somebody would dognap him or otherwise make trouble - and again, I'm the dogsitter, not the dog-parent (his parents don't care where we walk or hang out as long as he's getting some exercise and company). My number one priority is to make sure he's safe and that we're not causing any mischief (or worse) when we're out and about.

I apologize if this is a silly or obvious question, but I am truly oblivious about this city-dog stuff. We're in West LA (near UCLA), if that helps. (I know the most obvious answer is probably "go to the coffee shop after you've walked him," but I just want to know if it's possible for me to take him along. I keep daydreaming about me, this wonderful dog, a cup of tea, and some productive journal-reading on a sunny afternoon in LA...)
posted by splendid animal to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I (very briefly) worked at a coffee shop, and we were told that dogs weren't allowed because of health regulations - no animals in places serving food. The health code might be different in LA, though.
posted by meadowlands at 12:49 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: I would imagine that (generally speaking), meadowlands is probably right that (technically) dogs are probably not allowed in places that serve food, due to health regulations. (although I'm inclined to believe laws vary from state to state, city to city, and (see below) adherence probably varies.

Having said that, out here in Colorado... I see dogs in coffee shops all the time. I think its really going to depend on the coffee shop. Your downscale, hippie, indie, "guerilla" coffee shop is probably going to have a very different approach than your richer upscale latte joint. Common wisdom would probably say: Just stop in and ask them.
posted by jmnugent at 12:55 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: It depends on the coffee shop. Whilst it is technically illegal to bring a dog into a coffee shop where I live, for the same health reasons, there are three places into which I regularly bring my dog just long enough to stand in line, get my joe and go back outside. They ask where she is if I don't bring her!

At the other shop, I call in my order, stand at at the door with the hound and pretty close to exact change, and one of the counter ladies brings my coffee to the door in a to go cup so I can sit outside.

So either way you can totally make this work.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:00 AM on March 21, 2008

I work at Starbucks but not at your Starbucks. Anyways, we have tons of people that bring in their dogs to order and then leave and I (and my managers) haven't had any problems with them even though it's against health regulations. I know another Starbucks in the same city has an explicit sign up preventing pets in so it probably just varies by the store. I'll second just asking someone that works at your local coffee shop.
posted by woolylambkin at 1:25 AM on March 21, 2008

slightly eponysterical?

Anyway, ditto what woolylambkin said. I used to work at Starbucks, and as long as dogs were well-behaved, no one had any problem with them. But I'm sure different stores have different policies. Worst case scenario, you show up with the dog and you are told by an employee or an uptight patron to take him back outside.
posted by arianell at 1:38 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: I really, if respectfully, disagree with the casual, flippant tone of these responses. In New York City, where I live, it is against the law, period, to bring an animal into a store that serves or sells food. Yet people do it all the time, with their dogs sticking noses and asses all over exposed food on lower shelves, slobbering all over the shelves, and sitting their shit-covered asses down on the floor where many a packaged food item occasionally falls only to be picked up and returned to the shelf. Many people -- myself included, and I am a dog lover -- find it outrageously rude and disgusting. And so do public health experts who design the laws.

It is, I repeat, against the law. For good reasons. And while the worst *you* can expect is an "uptight patron" (like me) or an employee (not bloody likely in most NYC delis, if not coffee shops), the worst the store can expect is a summons, a health department report, and eventual sanctions or even closure if the problem is not corrected.

I know this, because when I see it happen regularly at my local establishments, I report it to the health department. And the NYC health department, at least, acts on such complaints with remarkable speed and force.

I know people don't see eye to eye on this issue because some people think dogs are humans and too cute to be carriers of disease-causing germs. But there is a reason for the law, and obeying the law is usually the right thing to do, wouldn't you agree?

I watched a well dressed young woman enter my local and very fancy little coffee shop with her puppy a couple of months ago. I politely told her she was in violation of the health code, and she snapped at me to shut up while her dog stuck its nose into the pre-wrapped croissants at its eye level I pointed it out to the counterman, and he ignored me with a glare.

The dog then proceeded to sit its butt down on the floor and slide itself along the floor for several feet, as dogs do when they haven't cleared a turd entirely from their ass, leaving a nice long trail of dogshit on the floor about a foot and a half long

When I pointed this out, the woman gave me a derisive look, and left after paying, leaving a long shit streak on the floor of the coffee shop. I pointed it out to the counterman, who did nothing. The shit streak stayed on the floor, probably all day long. But several other patrons who witnessed this left without ordering, in disgust and agreement with my position.

I called the health department to report this, as I had seen dozens of dogs in that shop over the prior several months. A week later a large sign appeared in the doorway enjoining dog owners to tie their dogs up outside and stressing that dogs were not allowed. The health department took the complaint seriously. (God bless Michael Bloomberg's administration.)

People like me are out there, and if your local coffee shop values its license, or if you value your local coffee shop's existence, you won't break the law and introduce fecal matter (also on dog's noses and tongues, because, you may have noticed, they greet each other by licking each other's asses) into places where people eat and prepare food.

Your precious little pet is an animal, and is not my precious little pet. And once more, you break the law in any city I've ever lived in by doing this. And you gross a lot of people out. And you may risk making them sick.

Is it OK to drive 85 in a 55 mph zone? After all, most of the time no one gets hurt.

Is it OK to use your cellphone in a hospital cardiac unit? After all, it's very rare that medical equipment malfunctions due to random radio waves.

Is it OK to smoke in a non-smoker's house? After all, only a few people actually die from second hand smoke exposure.

Would you like someone to bring their used baby diapers into your kitchen and dump them on the counter?

Again, I love dogs. Love them. I have had several. But they are animals, not baby humans.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:35 AM on March 21, 2008 [17 favorites]

Addendum: on a nice sunny day in LA, why is it even slightly difficult to tie the dog up outside the coffee shop while you order your drink?

And I just checked the LA statute. You are indeed forbidden from doing this under the law. Obviously service dogs are exempt from this law, for justifiable reasons. Purse dogs are not.
posted by fourcheesemac at 3:44 AM on March 21, 2008

I don't know if you have any kind of insurance, but my dog-walker specifically said that her liability insurance did not allow her to let the dog off leash or leave the dog unattended at any time. I would personally be upset if my dog-walker did tie my dog to a post and left her there, so your instinct is a good one.

Can you stop by the cafe first, get your stuff, and then return later (maybe explaining the scenario in advance)?
posted by nev at 5:25 AM on March 21, 2008

Just wondering why people never think of the other patrons of these businesses. Isn't it possible that the woman/man standing in line in front of you or behind you is severely allergic to dogs and your bringing the dog into this coffee shop causes a bad allergic reaction?
I don't have allergies, but I have seen this happen before to others in shops. It is because of this reason that I do not think people should bring pets into places of business with them.
Obviously exceptions are made for taking your pet to the pet store.
But do you really need to take it to starbucks? Home Depot?
posted by nougat at 5:56 AM on March 21, 2008

I usually tie my dog to a table, chair, unused bike rack etc for the three minutes it takes me to get my coffee, then sit outside with him. If there are already people out that seem cool, friendly, and like dogs, I ask if they would mind keeping an eye on him a sec while I grab a drink.
posted by stormygrey at 5:59 AM on March 21, 2008

I tend to tie my dog up if the place has large windows so I can keep an eye on him while I order. But really the thing to do is probably to get friendly with the employees so they bring your order out to you, like darlingbri suggests.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 6:08 AM on March 21, 2008

I don't know what the laws are, but people bring dogs to coffee shops in NY all the time. I think smaller independent shops would let you do this, and the patrons don't care.
posted by sweetkid at 6:20 AM on March 21, 2008

Sorry, I missed fourcheesemac's post (missing a contact lens!). Some patrons definitely care I guess, and it's against the law etc. but I've never seen any problems. So if you find a place where it's ok, go for it.
posted by sweetkid at 6:23 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: Don't tie the dog up outside. That would be fine if it were your own dog, but it's another story when you're taking care of someone else's dog, as you've obviously already quite rightly decided. On a bad day someone acquainted with the dog and its owner could see you do this and tell the owner. On the worst day you could lose the dog. That's infinitely worse than either missing your coffee or getting poop on the floor. Not worth the risk.

Seems to me you have a few options.
1. You could stop by one day without the dog and discretely ask an employee what they think. That could give you an idea of whether it's explicitly or implicitly allowed or disallowed.
2. You could just try it once. If people freak out or even if it just makes YOU uncomfortable, then you'll know.
3. You could bring coffee from home or pick it up right before picking up the dog and sit on a bench (or at the outside tables if the cafe doesn't mind).
4. Go to a cafe that has outdoor table service?
posted by lampoil at 6:48 AM on March 21, 2008

This totally depends on the culture of each coffee shop, and on how good the dog is. Most people, most of the time, at the two coffee shops I go to, tie up the dog outside, asking people sitting nearby to keep an eye on things, and then looking through the window while they place their order. Unless there is a huge line, that means leaving the dog outside for all of maybe two or three minutes at the most. A dog-friendly cafe (not all are; some don't like dogs even in the outside seating area) will often signal that by putting out a bowl of water for Fidos; if they don't, and it is a warm day, bring a collapsible water dish, or ask them for a large cup of water for the dog. At those two cafes, by sitting outside you are basically tacitly agreeing that you are ok with dogs and smokers, so people seem happy to keep an eye on other people's dogs. But there are crabby, non-dog-liking people who like to sit outside at cafes, so don't presume that everyone will love Fido.

I'm not as strongly biased as is Fourcheesemac, but I have noticed that most people think their dog is better behaved than it is; don't bring it inside with you unless it is basically as calm as a service dog -- it it likes to stick its nose in people's crotches, sniff everything, or (horror of horrors) pee indoors, don't bring it in.

Why not just ask the dog owner if it is cool with them if you swing by a cafe on your walk, and will be tying up the dog outside for the two minutes it takes to order a coffee? Then check with your favorite cafe if they are ok with dogs in the outside seating area, and then you are set for your hours of doggy hanging out.
posted by Forktine at 7:16 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: When I worked at a coffee shop, pet owners seemed to use good judgement. I never said anything to the people who carried small, well groomed, quiet dogs into the store, I just got them on their way as quickly as possible. But 55 pounds is a lot of dog. Health department regulations aside, which many wage slaves couldn't care less about, there are people who are just plain scared of dogs. Also, it doesn't matter how friendly your pooch is, the toddler in line behind you could very well start trouble and it's never the kids' fault when the dog bites back.

Probably a good idea to see if you can get table service outside.
posted by poipill at 7:30 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: Can you get a thermos, make coffee at home and sit in a park? Cheaper and nicer than sitting on a Starbucks patio anyway, and that way you're not trying to find a way to impose on others.
posted by loiseau at 8:02 AM on March 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I totally agree with fourcheesemac (and I like dogs). I only wish the law extended to small children as well (I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where the two often are seen together). Considering how freaked out people get when other people invade their personal space, it surprises me that people are so cavalier about their dogs (and small children). The accepted behavior in urban environments is to tie the dog outside.
posted by mkultra at 8:19 AM on March 21, 2008

To those concerned about dog cooties, what do you imagine is on the bottom of people's shoes? Dog shit, yes--and dog slobber, human sputum, spoiled food, bird shit, disease-causing germs, and everything else festering out on the sidewalk. I'd venture to say this stuff gets ground into the coffee shop floor even more than dog germs, because of the greater surface area of our shoes and the grinding way we walk. In France you see dogs in food establishments all the time, and I've never heard anything indicating that that country suffers any health effects as a result.

A more legitimate gripe about bringing dogs into coffee shops might be the concerns of people who are afraid of dogs.

Anyway, to answer the question, it totally depends on the coffee shop, and you can't tell until you try. In my experience, chain places are more likely to be dog-unfriendly, simply because a complaint generated at one branch results in a chain-wide no-dog policy.
posted by Enroute at 8:52 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: At the other shop, I call in my order, stand at at the door with the hound and pretty close to exact change, and one of the counter ladies brings my coffee to the door in a to go cup so I can sit outside.

I just wanted to highlight this bit of advice by DarlingBri. If you have a regular order, you don't even have to call it in -- just wave from the doorway. Alternately, if it is a really busy place, you could ask someone already in line to place your order for you.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:04 AM on March 21, 2008

Best answer: Seconding Enroute: it's terribly naive to state that a dog's butt is dirtier than the bottom of your shoes. And, the hands of strangers? Any one of them could have just come straight from their living room, where their dog was resting in their lap. The horror. Even your own hands: they're nowhere near as clean as you think they are. Handle any money lately, which has been touched by other people, animals, and dropped on the ground before being stepped on?

That said, I do have some compassion for people who are afraid of or allergic to dogs. Not much, because I'm selfish that way, but enough that I'm sensitive to the body language of others when I have my dogs with me. I would certainly never want to make anybody uncomfortable or ill.

However, as others have stated above, your dream is definitely workable. You might not be able to take the dog inside, but you should try calling the place you want to go, tell them the situation, and might you order ahead and pick up your coffee at the door? I've been meaning to do just that. Across the street from three of my local coffee shops is an Uncle Dan's (outdoor wear/gear) and they explicitly allow dogs inside, so my fantasy is to pick up some coffee, sit in the park for a while, and then shop with the pups. The problem is that outdoor wear/gear isn't even close to being within my budget (the damn dogs cost so much) so I just haven't gone through with it. :)
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:08 AM on March 21, 2008

I'd venture to say this stuff gets ground into the coffee shop floor even more than dog germs, because of the greater surface area of our shoes and the grinding way we walk.

Your foot isn't (I hope) checking out my crotch. Nor is it stopping to rub up for a moment against your own balls before rooting around. Nor is it pushing people out of the way if it needs to make a 180 turn. It's not for me, a hygiene issue- it's one of personal space. If I'm buying food, I don't want to experience anything that is both unknown and wet. Unless the establishment explicitly says dogs are OK, assume they're not out of respect to everyone else.
posted by mkultra at 9:30 AM on March 21, 2008

Here in Portland it depends on the shop. We're big on dogs here so some of the smaller places are ok if you go in with your dog, order, and then leave with your dog. Depends on how busy it is, etc. You can just ask the owner/mgr sans dog.
posted by hulahulagirl at 9:42 AM on March 21, 2008

Bringing a non-service animal into an establishment that serves food is against the health laws in most states. Sure, your dog is well-behaved, and 99.9% of time nothing untoward will happen. But there's always the chance that his panting tongue will slobber on the expensive skirt of the woman sitting nearby. Or a small child will probe a tender ear with his little finger before you can stop him and the dog will nip at him. And, as mentioned above, dogs shed. Their dander aggravates allergies. When they pant, they leave pools of doggy saliva on the floor. I love dogs and used to be the proud "mama" of a retired racing greyhound, but as much as he was my "baby," I still didn't want him in the kitchen when I was preparing food, and despite his very gentle demeanor, he still had episodes of unpredictable behavior (certain things frightened him and caused him to growl, though luckily he never snapped or bit).

Carry a thermos of joe or hand the leash to an agreeable patron in the outdoor seating area (nthing the "don't tether him" chorus) while you go inside and order.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:30 AM on March 21, 2008

This is going to be a regular gig, so you need to set up a routine. Identify the coffee shop of your choice, and ask them. Identify a useful place to secure the dog, and bring a line for this purpose. I carry a short piece of clothesline with a loop on one end and a clip on the other, so I can attach my dog's leash to a bench, while I run in to the store.

Maybe they'll be willing to let you phone in your order, so you can secure the dog, dash in, leave correct change + tip and grab your medium coffee w/ milk & 2 splendas, a corn muffin, and dash back out. Maybe they'll tell you they're a dog-loving establishment, and it's okay to bring Poodle with you.

Make sure the owners are okay with tethering the dog for a short time, while in eyeshot. If you find a pooch-friendly coffee shop, they're likely to offer Poodlekins a treat, so make sure the dog is allowed to have biscuits.
posted by theora55 at 11:35 AM on March 21, 2008

As said many times, it depends on the coffee shop. But in my experience most have no problems with it. Probably because almost every single dog I've seen in a coffee shop has been amazingly well behaved, almost unnoticeable. Much better than most young children who are probably as dirty as the dog.
posted by justgary at 12:55 PM on March 21, 2008

Nthing those who have said that if you are planning to tether the dog or ask a stranger to hold the leash while you dash inside, make sure you clear it with his owner first! I personally would not be okay with this, but even if I were, I'd want to know about it beforehand.

I wonder why service dogs don't spread dangerous germs? Or debilitate those with dog allergies?
posted by Enroute at 2:15 PM on March 21, 2008

I wonder why service dogs don't spread dangerous germs? Or debilitate those with dog allergies?

You honestly think this is remotely the same as a blind person who needs a dog to get around? Just in case you aren't trying to be obnoxious, service dogs do both of those things. But people are willing to put up with it so blind people or those with other disabilities can live independent lives.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 5:38 PM on March 21, 2008

Service dogs are trained to behave, not snap, and keep their nose out of my business.
posted by mkultra at 7:38 AM on March 22, 2008

Best answer: As a patron who is afraid of dogs, I'm not going to make a scene if you bring your dog in with you. Since I'm kind of non-confrontational, I'll either go someplace else, or else I'll get what I need fast and get out of there. (I seriously doubt that, if I became vocal about my discomfort when someone has a dog, it would actually convince people to leave.) If I remain in the establishment, my attention will have to focus on the dog and exactly what it is doing for the duration of the time I am there. Your dog is of a size that I would probably just get out of there unless I were next in line. If I found that you were regularly there when I was, I would probably stop going to that coffee shop. If you can live with the fact that there will be people like me who are made very uncomfortable by your dog, then there is really nothing stopping you.
posted by kosmonaut at 12:17 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Health department regulations aside, which many wage slaves couldn't care less about,

Nice. I don't make enough money to care about whether my customers get sick?

When I worked as a wage slave in food service, I still washed my hands frequently. I think you're understating the pride even "wage slaves" can take in their work.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:46 AM on March 24, 2008

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