Designing your patio with pets in mind is a great way to respond to the growing trend of pet parents who want to have pets with them wherever they go. It also might entice them to stay longer and spend more, since they aren’t racing home to be with their pets!
To set yourself up for success, consider incorporating as many pet-friendly features as possible. You may not be able to do everything on this list, but these are top items to consider.
- Pet-friendly seating. Make sure you allow enough room between tables for pets to sit by their owners. Benches and cantilevered seating allow even larger pets to rest comfortably in the shaded space under their pet parents. Tables with simpler legs/bases also may allow room for pets to sit nearby.
- Railing or fencing for safety. Particularly for outdoor seating near a road or parking lot, ensure there’s a good barrier that dogs can’t slip through. If choosing fencing, pick a tight pattern to ensure small dogs can’t squeeze through or get their heads stuck.
- Hydration options. Dogs need more water than people, especially in warm weather. Providing hydration for visiting pets is a helpful and healthy solution. Consider built-in water bowl stations around the edges of your space so pets have access, but the bowls are out of the way. Or, bring out a branded bowl for each pet, with procedures to ensure they don’t become a hazard during or after guests depart. Choose ceramic bowls since metal can get hot in the sun and plastic can harbor bacteria in scratches or create a choking hazard if chewed. Be sure to refresh water frequently and wash bowls throughout the day or after each use.
- Leash hooks. Integrated leash hooks help pet parents maintain control of their pets but have their hands free to eat. When selecting locations for hooks or tethering rings, choose spots that are sturdily attached to the ground, building, sturdy fencing/railings or heavy furniture. Tethering to chairs or light tables could mean that in a moment of excitement, a pet could flip the item and cause unintentional harm or damage.
- Shade and cooling features. Protection from the sun, as well as inclement weather, is key for a successful year-round outdoor dining program – both for people and pets. Invest in sturdy and well-anchored shading that won’t easily blow away. A pergola with retractable canvas shades can be a great and flexible option. In warm climates, cooling fans can help keep surfaces, people and pets cool as well.
- Pet-friendly flooring. The ideal flooring for pets is non-slip, hardy enough that it won’t show scratches, and made of a material that won’t overheat and burn paws in warm weather. If your existing floor is likely to get too hot, consider ways to cool as needed, like shade and fans. Plan for frequent cleaning to remove dirt and pet hair.
- Pet-safe plants. Plants can be a beautiful addition to an outdoor dining area, just be sure they’re safe for pets. Check the ASPCA list of toxic and non-toxic plants to make pet-friendly choices. See more safety considerations here.
- Waste bag dispenser. Consider offering free waste bags for guests and passersby in case of need. Include friendly signage that reminds pet parents to clean up after their pets. This is also a great place to share information about where to find nearby pet relief areas or green space.
- Educational signage. A successful pet-friendly space depends on clear guidelines for pet parents. Consider cute signs using the voice of a pet to make tips stand out, for example: “Stay with me! Never leave pets unattended in a public space.” Or, “Gimme space! Make sure I hang out where I’ll be comfortable and won’t trip anyone.” See a sample guidelines poster here and check out our signage toolkit PDF here.
Want more tips? Check out the Pets on Patios Toolkit for tips to help cities, business and pet parents make outdoor dining pet friendly.