How to Have Fun When Attending Dog Friendly Fairs and Festivals

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One of the things that I love about living in the Pacific Northwest are how pet friendly most events are; as the summer months approach (yes, they’ll be here before you know it), I’ll be planning which street fairs and dog festivals I’ll be attending with our dogs.

Cheryl, a librarian and dog lover, shared street fair etiquette for dog parents who will be attending dog friendly fairs and festivals.  For more etiquette posts, check out my article about dog park etiquette.

Most street fair attendees are only thinking of the curly fries and the fabulous handmade early Christmas presents they can score, but responsible pet owners know there is more to attending a street fair than shopping and eating.

Dog Distractions

Street fairs are a great exposure for my Southeastern guide dog puppy in training.  Because I know I will be walking a working dog through the fair, I try to pick smaller fairs that won’t overwhelm my puppy.  Smaller fairs will attract a smaller crowd, resulting in fewer dogs to meet.  Here are some things pet parents might want to keep in mind when you are taking your pet to a street fair:

  1. Pay Attention.  It’s not ok to forget the you have your pet with you.  Keep them by your side, with a loose leash, ready to pull them back harm if something or someone approaches.  If you are attracted by jewelry or baked goods, settle your furbaby into a down stay in front of you, and then lean over them to inspect the goods.  That way they are taken care of, you can take your time looking and no one gets a stray nose in the crotch.
  2. Not everyone is as thoughtful as you. There is always one person whose dog is on a leash that extends 90 feet as he is looking at some hideous art in wonderment.  Of course that dog will be coming over and bothering your furbaby.  Of course that man will not notice or be concerned about it.  These people tend to stick out in the crowd.  They are huge annoyances and are best avoided. Do not engage them.  Smile and go around them.
  3. Trouble comes from behind. Yep.  Always be aware of what is coming up from the rear because it might be a big doberman.  I speak from experience here. Just as you teach your child to look both ways before crossing the street, teach yourself to check all compass points for what is coming your way.

Food Distractions

While it may seem that people and their pets are the biggest worry you will have at the street fair, it isn’t.  You will also need to be aware of where you are walking and what is on the ground.

  1. Food Court.  The dining area is always a danger area for several reasons: overflowing trashcans, picnic tables laden with food and people eating, people walking to and fro carrying food and the inevitable spills.  If your furbaby is a lunger, be especially careful around this area or avoid it completely.  You might want to get something to go and eat someplace else.
  2. Dropped Food.  Many people will order food and eat on the run as they peruse the stands.  That means that there will be lots of dropped food on the ground for your dog to gobble up along the way.  If your dog has a sensitive stomach, you might want to reconsider bringing him to the street fair.  One of our pups would get explosive diarrhea at the slightest bite of any people food.  Any street fair exposure was fraught with nervousness and hyper-vigilance.
  3. Smells.  Your pet may be less inclined to behave the nearer you get to Indian Fry Bread stand.  I know I have a hard time keeping it together around fry bread!  Be aware of where you are and adjust your expectations.  You may want to walk quickly past the booth to a less smelly area.

Bring a friend

Street fairs are fun.  There are lots of things to see, eat and do.  Taking along a friend will ensure that you will be better able to navigate the fair.  Your pet will have a better time if you and your friend are able to tag team and share the responsibilities of shopping and watching out for dog and food distractions.
Good luck!

Cheryl Mclean’s Bio: I am a high school librarian.  I thought raising guide dog puppies for Southeastern Guide Dogs for the blind would fill that empty place when having children was not an option.  Having a guide dog puppy with us at all times changed our lives. When we got our first puppy I started the blog The McLean Puppy Chronicles, which tells the story of how sometimes when you start a project where you think you will be giving back, you end up receiving so much more in return. 

 

 

Do you attend dog friendly street fairs and festivals?  Which ones do you attend in your town and do you bring your dog?

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23 Comments

  1. Thanks for this post! Living in Michigan, we are approaching Street Fair season. My husband always mentions bringing Dakota, our Sheltie and so far I have resisted. Mostly because of the “dropped food” aspect. I am paranoid about him eating chocolate or something that could harm him at one of those fairs.
    With your tips, maybe I will change my mind this year.
    caren gittleman recently published..Book Review: “Love Saves the Day” by Gwen CooperMy Profile
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    • That is one of the major exposures for Guide Dog puppies. It’s tough to ignore food, but they need to not be floor surfers and their owners need to trust that they aren’t going to snarf up any stray treat that is laying on the ground. It’s a tough thing to teach a lab, especially!

      Thanks for your comment!

      Cheryl and Coach
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  2. Thanks for posting this great advice – one thing I would add is that if dogs are present at the fair, watch your step! Not everyone is going to pick up after their dog! I’ve learned from the Mighty Texas Dog Walk and the Corgi Celebration that Dakota doesn’t do well in crowds. She tends to get overwhelmed and uncomfortable, so she stays home when I go to large outdoor events. Know your dog and how they react to situations like this, and if they’re not happy, leave them home.
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  3. ” It’s not ok to forget the you have your pet with you” – amen to that!

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    • Carol,

      On that particular day, you would have been surprised by the number of people looking at baubles while their pets wandered aimlessly in the aisles. Sigh. The bad thing is, lots of children are scared of dogs and some of these dogs are very big. If other parents are paying attention and a stroller comes barging up into a dog face…it could be an unpleasant scene.

      But, I’m a bit OCD about where my dog is and what he is doing! 8-)

      Cheryl and Coach
      McLean Puppy Chronicles
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  4. Really good article! I often see dogs at events who look frightened by the noise and crowds and their owners seem oblivious to that. Bugs me!
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    • That would be my Sydney – I’ll take her with the other dogs and either stay on the very outskirts or leave her in the car. She’s fine with staying behind in the car; she just doesn’t want to stay behind at the house.
      Kimberly recently published..A Dog Parent Learns About the Signs of Dog AggressionMy Profile
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    • Lisa,

      That’s one of the reasons that Southeastern has us take our puppies to events like these with our puppies so that they can experience different venues. But in our case, we watch our dogs like a hawk and at the first sign of distress, we whisk them away to try again at a later date. It’s all about knowing your dog and what they can handle. You don’t want to make your dog fearful and not paying attention to the beginning of a fear signal is the difference between creating a fearful dog and nipping a fear in the bud.

      Cheryl and Coach
      cheryl mclean recently published..A Sick Coach (now on the mend)My Profile
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  5. This is a wonderful topic that I wish every person in the general public would read. Here’s my vent/example. We were at a dog event the other day, so lots of dogs around, all friendly. The most misbehaved dog was a rescue dog up for adoption, however the woman handling him (who had been rehabilitating dogs for years she told me) was the one who would be chatting away while the dog was 6 feet behind her in someone elses business like it shouldn’t be. We were there for about 2 hours and it kept coming back to us, Brinkley specifically, and trying to hump her. I warned the woman at least 3 times that humping is the one thing that will make Brinkley snap and growl (I honestly don’t blame her one bit), so finally at the end of the day I didn’t push the dog away quick enough and low and behold, she snipped at him while he had his front paws on her. No contact made, just a loud growl/bark. No harm done, she was just putting him in his place. Everyone looks at me like I’m evil. Really people???? Grrrrr!
    Amanda recently published..Birthday Cake for Your Dog!!!!!My Profile

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    • I know! Isn’t that hilarious. I had something similar happen with Sydney. A dog wouldn’t leave her alone so she started baring her teeth and the other dog’s owner asked “what’s her problem, he’s just trying to make a friend.” And I said, “there are tons of other dogs for him to be friends with, she doesn’t like him. Do you like everyone you meet?”

      He didn’t say anything to that and took his dog away.

      Yet another reason who don’t go to the dog park. I can’t take Sydney to festivals; but Rodrigo and Blue do well at them. I don’t like leaving Sydney behind alone so I’ll only take one dog with me if I go.
      Kimberly recently published..10 Tips for Dog Parents About Living with a Blind Dog, Part OneMy Profile
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      • Amanda and Kimberly,

        It is crazy!!! People are nuts and that is my biggest pet peeve (no pun intended! 8-) that people will not watch their pets or keep them on a leash! And then when THEIR dog jumps the line of poor behavior look at my dog when he/or she sticks up for themselves.

        Our southeastern pups aren’t allowed to go to dog parks for just those reasons: we can’t trust other owners to behave reasonably, we can’t trust their dogs to behave, we can’t trust that their dogs have all had their shots. Imagine if your dog got bit and their dog hadn’t had any shots? How would you know they were telling the truth? I’m so paranoid now. Sad, but true. I would rather be safe than sorry.

        Thanks for the story and glad your pup defended her honor!

        Cheryl and Coach
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  6. Hi Cheryl,
    Thanks for this post; very informative. Now, I have a retriever who I suspect of having anxiety. She’s always barking and growling in the presence of other dogs, and just can’t seem to get along with the neighborhood dogs. What can I do to socialize her?
    Alana

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    • Alana,

      I’m not an expert, but barking and growling are pretty serious and could be signs of more than just anxiety. It could be aggression. I can’t really tell much from your message to be very helpful because I don’t know what is really going on or what kind of dog you have. What I can tell you is that you have to be your dog’s protector and your dog has know that you are going to look our for him/her. So, this is what needs to happen:

      You need to understand your dog’s body language. Watch your dog indoors and out in your yard. Quit taking him for walks until you understand exactly how he/she behaves in a calm and relaxed manner. Does he bark at the door for strangers? Does he growl? Write all of this down.

      But, I am bothered by your use of the word growling, which to me indicates an aggressiveness. If your puppy is being protective of you, and if you are doing something to make your puppy feel like he/she needs to protect you in the presence of other dogs, then nothing I suggest will work.

      Really, the safest thing would be for you to take your pup to an obedience class. That way a trained professional can interact with you and your pup and see if you are doing anything to make your pup act our on your behalf.

      Once your pup can be calm, then he can meet the neighbors in a calm way! That is the safest thing to do. 8-) Good Luck!!

      Cheryl and Coach.
      cheryl mclean recently published..What If Coach and the Ghost of Georgia O’Keeffe Took Her Abiquiu House TourMy Profile
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  7. Cheryl,

    Thank you so much for the detailed answer; you’ve raised some important points that I was overlooking. I’ll take your advice and look into the obedience classes. Much appreciated!

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  8. Great article! :) Etiquette is so important, especially when taking your dog out to a new and hectic environment. I think it’s also important to point out that not all dogs will enjoy these types of outings and that it’s important for their owners to recognize this and not force them along. Sometimes we can get caught up in our own desires that we fail to see how it’ll affect our pets.
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