Dog-friendly Summer Festivals

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By Michelle Mullins, PetSafe Training & Behavior Education Manager

I’m feeling festive! No, not Christmas in July festive, I’m feeling summer festival festive! Food festivals, music festivals, art festivals, I love them all. Recently I attended a food festival in the downtown area of Richmond, VA. The food was delicious, the music was great and the weather – HOT! I couldn’t help but notice how many people had brought their dogs along. As much as I loved seeing people and their beloved pooches I saw many things that gave me cause for concern.

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Taking your dog to summer festivals can be fun, but be sure you’re prepared before you go.

Consider carefully before taking your dog to any event and plan ahead. I don’t usually bring my dogs to festivals as they would really prefer a long walk by the river than a long walk through an art festival display. Here are some tips and things to think about when deciding whether to take your pup:

It’s HOT! Many festivals are held during the hottest summer months. Check out the location ahead of time to determine if there is plenty of shade to help Fido (and you) stay cool and out of the sun. Don’t forget sunscreen for both of you! Just like us, your dog needs sunscreen especially on light colored or bare areas like top of snout, ears and tummy. Choose a natural sunscreen safe for dogs or babies (sunscreens for babies often contain less chemicals, etc.). Keep an eye out that your dog is not licking it all off. Water misting stations can help keep you both cool but don’t forget to reapply that sunblock.

What’s underneath Fido’s feet? Parking lots and street locations are popular festival spots but that pavement gets hot fast and can burn your dog’s pads. If the pavement is too hot to hold your hand to comfortably for several seconds, it is too hot for your dog’s feet!

Water, water, everywhere? While many festivals offer doggie water stations they may only have a few or none at all. Bring water and a travel bowl for your furry companions. Stop for water breaks often.

Food and trash abound! All festivals have lots of yummy food available. Keep an eye on your dog so he doesn’t steal anything you don’t want him to have or that is isn’t safe for him. Most dogs aren’t opposed to a little dumpster diving, so avoid the trash cans when you can or train a reliable “leave it” cue before you head out.

Friendly, or not? Of course you will only want to take a very friendly and well socialized dog to such a public outing, but you can’t be sure everyone evaluated their dog’s friendliness as well as you might. Don’t assume all dogs want to be pet or are comfortable meeting your dog. Ask first and proceed cautiously. Better yet, this isn’t a doggie play date, just keep walkin’!

What is that? You see and hear some crazy things at festivals. Avoid areas with blaring speakers, crazy air dancers and other novel oddities that might scare your dog. Dogs can get overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds, so be prepared to leave if your dog shows signs of stress, like excessive panting, cowering, barking, etc.

We all love to take our dogs with us to fun events but not everything is fun for dogs. Check out the logistics ahead of time and make the best decision for the health and safety of your dog.

Some festivals are dog centric and are designed for you and Fido to enjoy together! Here are few of the top dog festivals, and one might be near you:

Bark In the Park – San Jose, CAwww.barksanjose.org

Saturday, September 21st – Enjoy a fun-filled day of everything dog from a dog water park, training and dog sport demos, dog related vendors and contests!

Dog Day Festival – Nashville, TNwww.nashvillehumane.org

Saturday, September 21st – Featuring great food, music and activities to please your pet and his whole family including contests, demos, and a huge shopping pavilion

Somerville Dog Festival – Somerville, MA –  www.somervilledogfestival.org

Sunday, September 15th – Just outside of Boston this one has “try it” rings giving you and your dog the chance to try out some of cool dog activities you see in the demos with help from the pros, a Come When Called Clinic and contests for best trick and best dressed.

So harness up your friendly canine, pack some pick-up bags and a water bowl, and find a great festival in your area!

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