Dining outdoors with canine companions, a practice that’s hitherto flown under the radar in Vineyard Haven, is now being recognized with a pilot program from the Tisbury health department.

In order to welcome customers with dogs, restaurants and coffee shops with outdoor seating must apply for the town’s new “Dog Friendly Spaces” variance and follow guidelines the board of health approved last week.

“People bring their dogs anyway. The dogs are already there. This gives you some control over it,” Tisbury health agent Maura Valley said at the June 13 board of health meeting.

Managers at the Black Dog Tavern were the first to ask about rules for dining with dogs, Ms. Valley and assistant health agent Catherine Blake said.

The health department adapted its guidelines from the city of Boston, which announced a similar policy last month, Ms. Blake told the health board.

“We’re trying to do the right thing,” Ms. Blake said.

Applying for the variance is free and requires a scaled diagram and description of the outdoor dining area, its fixtures and surrounding public areas.

The diagram does not have to be prepared by a licensed design professional, according to the guidelines.

Food preparation is prohibited in the dog-friendly area. Tableware, such as cutlery and napkins, may not be kept in the area and employees are not allowed to touch animals while working.

Guidelines for dog owners require up-to-date pet vaccinations, as well as keeping the animals leashed or contained and off the furniture at all times.

Dogs also are prohibited from eating plated food and may drink water only from an owner-supplied bowl or a disposable bowl provided by the restaurant.

Tisbury animal control officer Heather Maciel joined the board of health meeting to support the pilot program.

“Just try it for a year and see how it works. See how many complaints you get,” Ms. Maciel said.

“You would hope the hostesses seat dogs kind of far apart,” she added.

Board of health members Malcolm Boyd and Jeffrey Pratt voted unanimously to approve the dog-friendly guidelines and to review the program after the summer dining season.

However, Ms. Valley said, the health department can withdraw a restaurant’s variance at any time if dogs become a problem there.

“If we feel at any point health and safety aren’t protected … we can rescind,” she said.

The health department is contacting restaurants with outside seating to notify them of the program, Ms. Valley told the Gazette after the meeting.