Good Dog’s Guide to Enjoying Dog-Friendly Events

Getting ready for some upcoming dog-friendly events? Guest blogger Sarah Smith, CPT and owner of Paws N Motion, helps you and your dog navigate the social scene with these wise insights.

There’s no shortage of dog-friendly events to participate in with your dog! Exposing your dog to people, other dogs, and novel experiences is not only fun for you, but it can be a great way to socialize your pup and help him be even happier and more well adjusted.

We’ve all seen dogs that don’t seem comfortable at events, and even a well-trained dog can have a moment of angst in a social situation. For the safety and enjoyment of you, your dog, and other event attendees, here are some tips to keep in mind as you participate in dog-friendly events:

Know How to Identify Signs of Stress

Classic signs include ears pinned to the head, tail tucked, “slinking” instead of walking, wide eyes or a creased brow, and heavy panting. A dog displaying this behavior needs time to acclimate and become comfortable with their surroundings. Don’t “force” them to say “hi” to another person or dog while they’re nervous. Instead, calmly encourage them to engage their nose and explore their surroundings.

Use a Short & Loose Leash

Keep your dog on a short (5 to 6 foot) but loose leash, especially when they’re greeting another dog or person. A tight leash generates feelings of tension or frustration for many dogs, and when coupled with excitement this can lead to uncharacteristic reactive or aggressive behavior.

Keep Snaccs Secret

When feeding your dog at a busy event, provide a “personal space bubble” of a few feet so they can enjoy the food, treats, or chew uninterrupted. Many dogs will feel a bit insecure when eating near so much commotion, even if they’re normally easygoing and good-natured about toys and treats at home.

Make Your Buddy Comfortable

Imagine if you went into a restaurant prepared to have a relaxing dinner with friends only to be told there were no chairs: it would probably be pretty hard to truly relax and enjoy yourself. When attending an event where your dog will be expected to hang out calmly for an extended period of time in one place, bring a rolled up mat or blanket to provide a comfy resting place so they know it’s time to “take a load off.” A Mutt Mat®, yoga mat, or a child-sized fleece blanket all work well.

Stay Out in the Open

If your dog is behaving inappropriately towards other dogs, do not permit them to sit or lie down under a table or chair. The overhead protection promotes a false sense of confidence and increases the likelihood that the unwanted behavior will continue or escalate. Instead, encourage their social nature by keeping them out from under the table. Reduce feelings of frustration by maintaining a loose leash and provide an appropriate place to relax (a bed or blanket) at a distance that promotes positive behavior.

If your dog is extremely stressed, anxious, or fearful and just can’t seem to relax even after you’ve implemented the techniques described here, it’s time to head home. Allowing your dog to remain in a state of distress for a prolonged period of time (more than 15 to 20 minutes, tops) can lead to health problems and exacerbate behavior problems. Contact a knowledgeable dog trainer to help you build your dog’s confidence so you can safely enjoy the next dog-friendly event with your pooch!

Have any questions? Drop ’em in the comments & be sure to say henlo to Sidewalk Dog at the next dog-friendly event pup attends.

Featured photo: @gusgusinthecity

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