Calgary Humane Society applauds province’s dog-friendly patio decision but urges caution

As the province paves the way for more pooch-friendly patios, dog owners are reminded to watch for signs of anxiety, discomfort, and overheating.

By Leanne Murray | May 30, 2022 |5:00 am

There will be more opportunities to enjoy some food or a pint with your pooch this summer as the province makes it easier for establishments to offer dog-friendly patios.

Photo: Ashlea Fauteux

It’s an exciting new change, but one the Calgary Humane Society hopes dog owners will enjoy responsibly.

Last Thursday, the provincial government announced an adjustment to the Public Health Act Food Regulation that makes it easier for restaurants, bars, and cafes to offer dog-friendly patios if they so choose.

Effective immediately, approval from a public health inspector is no longer needed for establishments to allow pooches on outdoor patios.

A common-sense and long overdue change

Mark von Schellwitz, the Western Canada Vice-President of Restaurants Canada, calls it a common-sense change that was based on feedback from the food-service industry.

“This reduces red tape for restaurant owners, provides them with more flexibility, and will also encourage people to dine out more often as the hard-hit food-service sector begins the long road to economic recovery from the pandemic,” Schellwitz states in a press release.

Establishments that chose to open up their patios to canine companions must continue to abide by all food safety standards and follow these two main requirements:

Non-service dogs are allowed on patios only and must not pass through any indoor food handling areas, such as dining and food preparation areas.

Customers must keep their dogs on a leash or in a carrier and have physical control of the dog at all times.

Signs dog-owners should watch out for

The Calgary Humane Society (CHS) wants dog owners to keep some tips in mind before bringing their animals along to a pet-friendly patio.

Sally Johnston, manager of animal operations, says it’s important to ensure the environment is one your dog will be successful and comfortable in and to take into consideration that there may be other pooches present.

“So, gauging how your dog is around strange dogs that it’s never met before, especially in cases where there’s a dog present, and there’s food present,” she says.

The summer heat is also something to consider. Johnston says a dog’s comfort in hot weather will vary depending on its size and breed.

“One of those big fluffy dogs might not be super comfortable on a patio setting in the dead heat of summer 30+ degrees,” she says, adding there are several signs to watch for if your pet is overheating, including panting, lethargy, or if they simply aren’t acting like themselves. 

“They might be whining, they might have a little bit of red mucous membranes, heavy breathing, or they might be even laying on their side, or non-responsive. So just making sure that they are doing well in the heat and, of course, making sure that they have access to water and shade.”

Other signs of anxiety

Even if it isn’t too hot, a dog could still get anxious and uncomfortable in a patio environment. Johnston says owners should be cautious if their pet isn’t settling or giving a so-called hard stare.

“That means that the dog is just kind of staring at something, it’s not blinking, chances are those eyes are wide, the pupils are dilated, it just has a little bit more tension in the face,” she explains, adding that yawning, lip-licking, and open-mouth panting can also be signs of anxiety depending on the context.

“If you’re looking at your dog and you’re noticing that they are open-mouth and panting, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense given the environment, chances are they’re telling you that they’re pretty uncomfortable in that moment.”

Know your pooch’s body language

If your dog is generally social around people but is avoiding contact and looking away, not eating as usual, or has tension in the body, Johnston says those could be other signs that your pup isn’t having the best time.

“You might notice that their ears are back, they’re keeping their body low, their tail is touched, they just seem overall a little bit stiff with their movements,” she says. “People know their dogs best, so they need to know what their dog’s body language is.”

For those who choose to enjoy patio time with their pets this summer, Johnston advises ensuring the establishment is pet-friendly first, calling it a day when the time is right for your dog, and leaving them at home if ever in doubt.

Leanne Murray

Leanne is a Calgary Citizen reporter.

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