Do you love going out and about with your furry sidekick? It’s easier to find dog-friendly stores and restaurants than you may think. But what does dog friendly really mean? Is it as simple as being allowed to take your dog inside or is there more to it than that? And, what are the benefits of taking your dog to a dog-friendly store?

What makes a store or restaurant dog-friendly?

There is dog friendly and there is truly dog friendly. So what’s the difference? First of all, at the bare minimum dog-friendly stores allow all companion dogs, not just service dogs, inside the store or on the restaurant patio.

This doesn’t mean that they will be allowed to roam free. Dogs will typically be required to be on-leash as most cities and counties make it illegal to have your dog off leash in public places. Also, it is safer for your own dog if other dogs are leashed as you don’t know how fearful or aggressive other dogs may be.

The next step up to being even more dog friendly is providing your dog with refreshments. These types of dog-friendly businesses will often give dogs fresh drinking water and/or treats. Plus, certain dog-friendly restaurants will even have a special doggy menu.

Finally, truly dog-friendly businesses make a big deal about your pet. They offer dog-friendly themed parties (dog birthday anyone?) or photo opportunities (think pics with Santa or the Easter Bunny). They give out free samples or cute store or restaurant dog bandanas. And, they take pictures of your dog or request pictures to hang up in the store or restaurant. There may also be an employee that is specifically responsible for canine customers.

What stores are dog friendly?

Most pet stores are dog-friendly as long as you keep your dog on a leash. There’s also a good chance your local hardware stores, garden and nursery stores, sporting goods stores and department stores won’t mind you bringing your dog along.

Here are the top 5 most common dog-friendly stores in the U.S.:

  1. PetSmart
  2. Petco
  3. Home Depot
  4. Lowe’s
  5. Harbor Freight Tools

Other popular dog-friendly stores include Tractor Supply Co., Bass Pro Shops, Nordstrom, LL Bean, Pottery Barn and Barnes and Noble.

Resources for finding dog-friendly stores

Dog-friendly stores or restaurants will usually have signs posted at their entrances. If not, you can call ahead or check their website.

Websites like and are great for finding dog-friendly restaurants, stores and even dog parks. Or you can do a quick Google search or check out Dogster’s list of the best dog-friendly restaurants in the country.

When is it not appropriate to bring your dog to a store?

Some stores or restaurants will only allow service dogs, which doesn’t include emotional support animals (ESA). A service dog must be licensed as such and is only for those who medically need one. ESA dogs are typically grouped with general companion animals when it comes to dog-friendly rules.

What can you do to prepare your dog to go to a store?

Teach your dog basic cues for having good manners in public:

  • Sit
  • Stay
  • Drop it
  • Leave it
  • Lay down

There are dog-friendly stores and restaurants across the U.S. Whether it’s a chain or a local business, by doing a quick online search, you can find new places for your dog to visit right in your own town.