Make That Summer Festival As Fun For Your Dog As It Is For You

What wouldn’t most dogs like about going to a lively event with food spilled everywhere, warm sunshine, and lots of walkies? Except for strangers standing on her tail, lit cigarettes dangling at eye level, and hot pavement.

Summer festivals and events are loads of fun with your dog.

Or at least they can be.

Here’s how to make that summer festival as fun for your dog as it is for you.

Honey the golden retriever at the Ithaca Festival.

The first lesson in attending a festival with your people is not to be embarrassed. No matter how goofy they are.

Before You Go

Nothing you do at the festival is as important as what you do getting ready for it. For example, ask yourself

Does Your Dog Actually Like Crowded Events?

It’s amazing how many people forget to ask this important question. They want their dog with them so the dog goes along.

I have a standard list of questions when deciding when my dog should go with me and when she should stay home.

Honey loves getting lovies from strangers. So I didn’t wonder long if I should take Honey along to the Ithaca Festival last weekend.

After suffering during our week’s vacation with those polite and reserved Canadians who murmured, “What a pretty dog” without rushing up to greet her, Honey was ready for some rude Americans who would make her feel loved.

Honey the golden retriever plays.

After three (count them, three) Canadian boaters noticed how cute I was without coming over to say hi, I need some stress relief.

Does My Dog Have Good Skills?

If your dog can’t walk by your side or leave a tempting morsel of food behind when you say, “leave it,” you might want to work on your skills first.

Don’t feel bad if your dog isn’t up to it. Just look for different things to do together while you’re working on those skills.

What Is The Best Time To Go?

Ithacans sleep late. By heading down to the festival as soon as it opened, we guaranteed ourselves at least an hour to enjoy ourselves before the big crowds arrived.

Figure out what times are likely to be slower and go then.

What Supplies Does My Dog Need?

I was astounded to see other dog people at the Ithaca Festival not carrying clunky backpacks like mine. Where did they keep the dog’s water? The treats? The poop bags?

Heck, if we had been going to a concert or other long event, I might even have brought her travel bed.

Honey the golden retriever at BlogPaws.

I smell ferrets. I smell food. I smell other dogs. But I just have to sit here? Why did we come to BlogPaws, anyway?

At the Event

Once we get to that festival, outdoor concert, or dog-friendly event, the dog comes first. Here’s what that means for Honey.

Touch the Ground

As someone who walks barefoot whenever possible, I know how hot asphalt pavement can get during the summer. I never take Honey anywhere in the summer without touching the ground to make sure it hasn’t gotten too hot to be comfortable.

And even if it’s not terrible, I still seek out grassy areas to walk.

Take Breaks

Walks are fun but crowds mean that Honey can’t sniff everything she wants on her own time.

Every so often, we take her off to the side where we toss her a stick or give her a little belly rub. It makes it easier for her to tolerate the occasional forced marches as we try to navigate bottlenecks of people.

Explore the Outskirts

You don’t have to be right in the middle of the biggest crowds to soak up the atmosphere of an outdoor event with your dog. The concert will sound just as good if you sit off to the side. The fair food is just as delicious if you take it over to the green park to eat it. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover a fun bit of magic in the corners off the main event.

Golden Retriever at Ithaca Festival Parade

Hey everyone! I’m back here! Wouldn’t you rather be my friend than watch some silly parade?

Focus on the Dog

As we walked through the food area, I noticed a couple involved in a deep conversation with someone else. As we walked by, they didn’t notice their chihuahua walking to the end of his six-foot leash to greet Honey.

Honey is good with other dogs so it wasn’t a problem. And luckily, it wasn’t so crowded that someone tripped over the outstretched leash or the small dog.

But I remember the look of shock on the chihuahua person’s face as she realized how far her dog had gotten from her while she was distracted.

Be Good Ambassadors

My town is not pet-friendly. The outdoor pedestrian mall, at least one downtown park, and the lakefront are off-limits to dogs!

Honey and I are always on our best behavior at big events. We don’t want to do anything that would make anyone want to restrict dogs any more than they already are.

I love hearing someone say, “She’s so well-behaved.” And sometimes, they’re talking about Honey, and not just me.

Honey and Pam at the Ithaca festival.

Okay, I smiled pretty. Can we go get something to eat?

Summer Events Are Meant For Dogs

For those of us in the north, summer has been a long time coming. Honey and I are going to do our best to enjoy the short, sweet season.

Here we come wine festival, outdoor concerts, movies in the park, dragon boat races….

What’s Wagging Next

I’m working on a review of a fabulous product that makes it easier for us take Honey on more adventures. And lucky you, I’ll be hosting a giveaway so you can win one of your very own.

Can you guess what it is?

Your Turn: Does your dog like going to summer festivals and events with you? How do you make sure it stays fun for your dog?

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  1. Great post! We don’t take our dogs to events, because they don’t like crowds – as a group. This summer, I do plan to take Rodrigo to a few events, because he’ll have a blast. Scout might do well too. But our girls aren’t fans of crowds and so we leave them at home, because the stress of even a few moments is too much for them.

    • Back when I had two dogs, they did everything together. I’m learning from my friends with multi dogs that probably wasn’t smart.

      It will be fun to see how Rodrigo and Scout respond to an appropriate event. And it’s always smart to recognize that not every dog will feel the same about attending outdoor events with crowds.

  2. Wonderful post with lots of great tips! Ruby of course can’t go to crowded places due to her reactivity, but I am planning to take Boca to the farmer’s market soon. We’ll stay on the outskirts at first as you suggest until I get a feel for how she’ll do.

    • If Boca gets a nice treat at the market, I suspect she’ll love it.

      Some people find that their dogs take cues from each other. If Boca does well at an easy and fun event, perhaps she’ll help Ruby’s confidence when you’re out and about as well.

      I’ve found that Honey was very helpful to a fearful foster in that way. One morning when I tried to take our foster, Cherie, out for a walk alone, she pulled me back to the house until I got Honey. :)

  3. I really prefer to leave my dogs home. They don’t like being too warm, they don’t like being crowded and pulled along on the “forced march” as you put it, and they esp. don’t like everyone wanting to touch them. Sometimes it’s as if people have never seen a dog before! My boys are very tolerant and handle it with good manners, but I know they don’t enjoy it so why put them through it? And truth be told, I have more fun without them along as well. I am free to dart about, go in shops, etc. that would otherwise be off limits to me.

    It’s funny you say Ithaca is not very dog-friendly. I never felt that at all when we were there. I did notice the pedestrian mall was off limits, but other than that we never had an issue. We took them to the park down where that theater is near the entrance. Saw lots of other dogs there. The parks we went to had areas that were restricted but in general it wasn’t bad. The wineries seemed dog friendly. And the La Tourelle bent over backwards to make us feel welcome!

    • Corgis are such internet celebrities nowadays. I can imagine you get lots of attention. BTW, try visiting Canada. We found far less touchy-touchy because most Canadians don’t find it appropriate to go rushing up to a stranger to pet their dog.

      Honey found it very disappointing. :)

      As for Ithaca being dog-friendly. It’s ok–if you have a car.

      The dog park near the Hangar Theater is pretty nice. But it’s a 6 mile, round trip walk for us. That means 3 hours to walk, play, and walk home. Or subject Honey to the bike cart–not her favorite.

      We love hanging out on the lake shore and used to drive up to Taughannock park every weekend. But Ithaca’s lake front park is off-limits to dogs.

      Restaurant row on Aurora street allows dogs. But the tables are small and crowded–not suitable for a big dog with a floofy tail. The Commons would be a much better place to eat if it weren’t off limits.

      And finally, the buses go to some of the local parks. But they don’t allow dogs.

      I love being car-free. But it makes having fun with the dog much more difficult. :(

      • I always forget about the car free part. That definitely makes getting to the dog-friendly spots much more difficult. I must have missed the lake-front park.

  4. If we go to events, we always go early to get in and out before the crowds. Neither Mom nor I enjoy crowds and in the summer it is much cooler early too.

    • Or try to find some evening events. I’m particularly fond of outdoor movies and concerts in the summer. If you can deal with mosquitoes, it’s a nice way to be outdoors with pups.

  5. The Boys love events, but I always watch them carefully. Just like humans they have days when they change their minds sometimes as soon as we get there. If I notice somethings a little different, I will abort and drive to a park or come back home to our own yard. Great post, you hit all the points necessary to make summer events with your pet successful.

    • You hit on a great point that I should have included–always be prepared to leave.

      After all, our dogs didn’t ask to be taken along with us. So if they tell us it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

  6. Great reminder for all the pet friendly events coming up this summer. It depends on what sort of a crowd we’ll be dealing with when deciding who to bring. Mauja LOVES people and gets so worked up in crowds. That leads to lots of whining and misbehaving. So if it’s going to be really crowded she stays home. Atka (so far) gets to come more frequently :)

    • When Honey was practicing for her Canine Good Citizen exam, remaining calm in the presence of strangers was the hardest part. In fact, she had to take that section of the exam twice and barely passed.

      As time went on, I’ve continued to reward her for calm behavior around people. It’s probably more her maturity and less my training, but she’s doing much better. Maybe you’ll find the same thing with Mauja over time.

  7. I really wish I could take Shiner with me to fun places like this, but truthfully I’m lucky to get out and go to Walmart. Plus, Shiner just doesn’t really like strangers. I like how you point out that this kind of thing may not be for every dog out there.

    • In truth, although my first dogs, Agatha and Christie, weren’t fond of events, I did occasionally take them for training purposes.

      We’d hang out far away from the action. And they’d get treats for not reacting. But we only stayed a few minutes before heading home.

      Maybe you and Shiner can find a nice quiet place to sit outside on a pretty day. If going to Walmart is your big outing, it sounds like you could use the break. :)

  8. Oh that’s made me scared. I have to go to a local event with BD week after next and I’m worried. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken him anywhere with crowds and I wouldn’t go if I hadn’t got my weekends confused and made promises to various good friends that I don’t want to break. My plan is to stay on the outside as much as possible. Take Mity with me as he calms BD down and about a million people I know to help, stay on the outside and look at this as a learning experience for both of us. I do have an escape route planned if needed. It’s one of those things that wouldn’t be so bad if I could rely on other people to control and manage their dog.

    • Stock your pockets with particularly yummy treats to reward BD for focusing on you instead of other dogs. Because it sounds like you have good ideas about how to make this work.

      Good luck.

      • No you were supposed to say leave him at home. I don’t know if I’m being selfish taking him or being selfish leaving him behind!!

  9. I’m always amazed how many people we see at art shows that aren’t thinking about their dog. No water, I’m guessing no treats. And some of them look pretty sad to be there.

    • Yeah, I bet you see plenty of bored and uncomfortable dogs at outdoor shows.

      For things like art shows, where the artists’ work demands more of my attention, strolling with Honey is my first pass. Then I take her home and come back to do my real looking and buying.

  10. Great tips! I try to take my dogs to as many dog friendly events as possible. If I feel there will be more dogs than people, I take Faolan. If there will be more people than dogs, I take Neeko.

    • Interesting way to evaluate who to bring along. Either way, I bet you attract a lot of attention with your dogs at an outdoor event. They’re stunning.

  11. I’ve figured out which dogs to bring to which events. And I also try to evaluate if it’s going to be just for my own indulgence, or if my dog(s) actually will be comfortable there. If there’s other dogs there, and it’s not too hot for too many hours, i’ll definitely bring them. I found all the dog friendly beaches, for those of you interested. Galveston and Surfside Texas are dog friendly. Some beaches in l.a-lower Alabama, and the only beaches I’ve found to be dog friendly in the redneck Riviera-(Pensacola, Ft Walton Beach, Destin and Panama city Florida), is Panama City. All the others ARE NOT. I found that out from experience last July 4th, 2013.