Whole Dog Journal's Blog July 29, 2013

Going somewhere especially fun for humans? Leave the dog at home!

Posted at 10:00AM - Comments: (16)

I love bringing my dog with me – when I go to a place where I know he will be comfortable and have the opportunity to do the kind of things he likes to do: run, swim, pretend-hunt, and greet and interact people he knows and likes. I don’t bring him with me, however, when I’m going to places where I know he will be uncomfortable and can’t do anything that’s fun for him. He doesn’t like loud noises, small children, being hot, or being subjected to a lot of people he doesn’t know. That rules out a lot of places and experiences where I would like to have his company at times, such as my son’s sporting events. There may be grass – but there is also heat, and little kids, and a speaker system, and Otto would spend the whole time stress-panting and wishing we were somewhere else.

I do know dogs who love crowds and greeting strangers, and who would love nothing better to attend a parade or street fair, even if it was hot and loud. However, few of them would appreciate being attacked by another not-so-comfortable (or frankly stressed) dog at the same event – something I’ve seen happen at almost every street fair I’ve been to. The thing that kills me is that the owners of the sweet friendly dog almost always look shocked – shocked! – when their dogs get attacked. Like they imagine that ALL dogs are happy to be at the hot, crowded, loud fair, because their dog is.

MOST dogs I see at human-oriented events are stressed and unhappy. Their owners are delighted with (and understand!) the exhilarating sights and loud sounds that make a concert, fair, or parade so much fun. They are understandably distracted by these sights and sounds and don’t seem to notice how anxious and uncomfortable their dogs are. They don’t seem to notice their dogs at all – so why did they bring them? (I’m afraid I spend most of my time at such events asking myself this question: “Why did they bring that dog HERE?!”)

Sometimes I see a more responsible owner with a dog at one of these events. Maybe they are spending most of their time at a small remove from the fields where the most heated action is taking place, and are giving their dogs water in a shady area. That’s nice, but then, aren’t they missing what they came to see? Wouldn’t the dogs be even more comfortable  . . . at home?

Can anyone defend the act of bringing a dog to a fair or parade for any reason other than the express purpose of training the dog for service in a crowd?

Comments (15)

A good reminder. I had two dogs on my life who loved all sorts of company and were not fazed by people, noise, other dogs or strange places - one a Malamute, the other a Malamute/Samoyed mix. Both especially loved meeting a lot of people; neither was territorial or "protective," as if the world was theirs anyway, so, why worry?

Another dog, a Belgian shepherd liked meeting people in structured situations - when he knew what to do , say in someone's home or a park, as long as he was near his human and could read the situation. He didn't like crowded places.

My current is social, but he seeks approval - and when presented with too many new people (all it takes is eye contact) or new dogs, he can quickly slide into hyper mode -- frenzied play attempts, difficulty refocusing.. And he is easily frightened by loud sounds, strange vehicles, surprises, a certain odd things - so he is just definitely not a candidate for urban/sub urban places with way too much stimulation. A walk in a place he is used to, where he meets other people and dogs is plenty enough!

Posted by: oldblackdog | March 27, 2015 2:20 PM    Report this comment

While my girls are socialized, one is very dog-shy and other dogs seen to be attracted by this, I have a few places we can go for walks that have few other dogs for her to be afraid of. Fireworks, dog parks, etc are off limits for both of them. My other dog is not dog-shy, but gets bored very easily. She has her Rally Novice, but since the wait times can be very long, I decided not to push any more trials on her. I've introduced them to scent work and the dog-shy one really loves it.

Posted by: AB in AR | July 24, 2014 8:56 AM    Report this comment

It depends on the dog and how well you know your own dog and her signals. My Super Dog went everywhere with me for 16 years, except on an airplane. (Can anyone defend subjecting a dog to a commercial airplane?) My Super Dog was confident, independent and unfazed by the world. Someone had tried to drown her in a river as a puppy, when I rescued her, so maybe that had something to do with her confidence. She paid close attention to the sheepdog trials, sniffed huge animals at county fairs, actually looked up at the fireworks in downtown DC, and kept me safe during the hitch hiking years. She never glued herself next to me, didn't need to greet every human or dog, she was comfortable and secure, and no dog ever tried to mess with her. Can't do that with any of my other dogs though. As to the shocked owners of the friendly dog who gets attacked, yea it is shocking. And no, we're not thinking that all the other dogs are friendly. We're wondering why the heck those humans aren't paying more attention to their own dog.

Posted by: SundogsHawaii | July 23, 2014 5:51 PM    Report this comment

It depends on the dog and how well you know your own dog and her signals. My Super Dog went everywhere with me for 16 years, except on an airplane. (Can anyone defend subjecting a dog to a commercial airplane?) My Super Dog was confident, independent and unfazed by the world. Someone had tried to drown her in a river as a puppy, when I rescued her, so maybe that had something to do with her confidence. She paid close attention to the sheepdog trials, sniffed huge animals at county fairs, actually looked up at the fireworks in downtown DC, and kept me safe during the hitch hiking years. She never glued herself next to me, didn't need to greet every human or dog, she was comfortable and secure, and no dog ever tried to mess with her. Can't do that with any of my other dogs though. As to the shocked owners of the friendly dog who gets attacked, yea it is shocking. And no, we're not thinking that all the other dogs are friendly. We're wondering why the heck those humans aren't paying more attention to their own dog.

Posted by: SundogsHawaii | July 23, 2014 5:45 PM    Report this comment

I think the key is whether you want to be with your dog at the event, or if it's just an accessory. I had a lovely dog, who was just bombproof, loved crowds, being mobbed by kids, could be in parades, watch fireworks, ride elevators, ride helicopters... She was my constant companion went virtually everywhere that a dog could go with me. She's gone, and while her successors are not quite as bomb proof, they are my constant companions and we get better all the time.

I definitely agree, if you're not working with your dog or if it's not safe for the dog, you should leave it home.

Posted by: lisas | July 22, 2014 11:13 AM    Report this comment

Took my last dog (an APBT) to a fireworks display when he was 1 1/2 yrs. old. First rocket went up, he started. Second rocket went up, he bolted to the end of the leash. Don't know when the 3rd rocket went up, we left (hastily) after the second. Was I sorry to miss the fireworks? Yes, but my dog's comfort was more important. Thankfully, it did not leave a lasting impression, as he was about bullet proof with noises (gunfire, fireworks (fro the neighbors yard, thunder).
I was an idiot, and just glad I didn't mess him up for life.
Kitti

Posted by: Kitti | July 22, 2014 10:15 AM    Report this comment

I hate to use the phrase "common sense" because it, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. However, obviously an intelligent guardian would not subject a dog to loud noises on purpose, unless they had hearing protection for him/her. Frankly, the same is true for babies and toddlers.

And many people haul their untrained dogs to situations which are uncomfortable for all species.

But a good guardian will be completely aware of their dog and noticing anything that bothers him/her. When that happens, there is a choice between removing the dog from the situation or helping him to learn that it won't hurt him. That doesn't mean just leaving him, that means actively helping and there are many ways of doing that.

As for things going wrong quickly, yes, they can for children too. But if we keep them in a bubble, we will cripple them far more surely.

Take your dog (hearing protection is smart for everyone with fireworks-- much more so with dogs' acute hearing) to these places, but be prepared to work with him. Just like police horses, who go through everything from loud bangs to scary people banging into them, they will learn to trust your judgment. It takes time and commitment, but it is worth every bit of necessary energy.

Posted by: Diane C Nicholson | July 31, 2013 3:06 PM    Report this comment

My 6.5 year ROTTWEILER was the "PERFECT PUPPY" for the first 4 years ! I "socialized" and exposed him to EVERYTHING under the sun... he lives 24/7 with me, has 5 Obedience titles, is a Therapy Dog, and loves all other dogs and people.
The last 2.5 years he has developed a noise-phobia , even trucks that backfire in a great distance make him "bolt" and run away in tremendous panick... So , just reading about all you others out there with noise-sensitive dogs has helped me tremendously. This situation had "broken my heart", but I feel much better now, knowing that I am not ALONE !
Lindi and Bambi (the tailed Rottie)

Posted by: Bambi's Mom | July 30, 2013 4:09 PM    Report this comment

If your dog LOVES street fairs and truly does well, I have no qualms. However, I live in Chicago and see WAY too many people taking truly frightened dogs to drunken, hot street fairs. My husband and I actually convinced a couple with a frightened Golden (standing in front of a LOUD band!) to take him/her home. She was shaking! I adore my dog and take him many, many places but no big city street fairs. (He isn't a big fan of toddlers either and I try to avoid this situation when possible, including crossing streets on walks.)

Posted by: Julie R | July 30, 2013 2:49 PM    Report this comment

I am a firm believer in attempting to socialize dogs to people and sometimes other dogs in contolled settings. The long and short of it is that many people fail to recognize that these are DOGS, and not all dogs get along. They are not children that you can try and reason with, but even a sensible person would not bring little kids to somewhere that frightens them in order to socialize or adjust them to crowds and noises. Come on. Those that disagree with my opinion have a right to think however they want, but I think a lot of pet owners just like the attention they think they are getting by bringing a dog as their companion. It only takes a second for something to go wrong and I'll be really honest, I have never seen a dog who like fireworks and I've had a lot of dogs to weigh that opinion.

Posted by: Marcia S | July 30, 2013 2:41 PM    Report this comment

Exposing your dog to different environments is an important step in socialization. That said,you have to exercise good judgement on your dog's behalf. I am haunted by the memory of being at a professional fireworks show a few years ago where several people brought dogs. The noise directly overhead was absolutely deafening, and I heard dogs screaming with pain and fear at every explosion.

Posted by: Deborah B | July 30, 2013 11:23 AM    Report this comment

The answer to your question may, in some cases, be either, "Because the dog has separation anxiety, the human has no idea how to treat it, and anything is better than being evicted for having a dog who's a nuisance, coming home to a disaster, or both" or "Because the dog is either being trained as a service dog and the trainer is doing a poor job of desensitization or the dog is a service dog who wasn't given proper desensitization training" (state laws regarding dogs being trained as service dogs vary, and under federal law, which doesn't cover them, service dogs need not be dressed in any equipment or attire that identifies their function, so it's sometimes hard to tell unless you ask). I'm a service dog owner/trainer and must, in some situations, plead "guilty as charged" because it isn't always possible to avoid those that make my dog less than thrilled to accompany me. But because it's part of the job, I accommodate his preferences when I can and praise him for accommodating my need for him when I can't, as well as give him a good quality of life overall.

Posted by: Tamara J | July 30, 2013 11:11 AM    Report this comment

In a word, yes. I take my young dog to every event that allows dogs (barring extreme heat conditions) that I can. The caveat is that, at this point in her life, I need to be able to take the time to work with her.

She's been the hardest pup I've ever raised (DNA testing showed me why-- 3 super stubborn breeds along with 3 others in her genes), and if I didn't work so hard with her, she would have been the type to stay in her crate all day long or languish at the SPCA. Unfortunately, she is far from unusual in that regard.

But because I have, she's turning into a wonderful dog and in another year (she just turned one year-old) will be completely trustworthy.

If we didn't take our dogs places because we were worried about other dogs, we'd take them nowhere-- not just street fairs.

I exercise my dog (big time) at least twice a day, and before I take her anywhere. But she needs to learn to be submissive at these events and to be quiet at my side. She loves people and other dogs and it has taken a lot to teach her to love them, but to do so respectfully and only when invited. She's coming along nicely. I have a dog because I enjoy her company and try to allow her to be as much a part of my life as possible.

The training that service dogs get is probably the best for all dogs if we wish them to be model canine citizens.

Having said that, your point is well taken that people who are not working with their dogs should leave them at home. What I'd love to see though, is that many more people take the time, learn the skills and teach their dogs to be calm and happy members of society.

Posted by: Diane C Nicholson | July 30, 2013 11:01 AM    Report this comment

My Lucy sounds related to Otto . . . doesn't like loud noises, small children, being hot, or being subjected to a lot of people he doesn't know. I make this decision all the time because I know she would be happier at home being the queen of the house. I'm pretty sure she knows I'm going to make time for a hike when I get home. I have a young border collie who seems unfazed by anything but I still wouldn't take her unless I think there is some fun for her to be had. As good as she is, I still feel responsible to keep an eye on her and that means I'm probably not going to be able to really participate in any other activity. If I'm going out without the dogs I'm going to make sure they had good exercise either before I leave or when I get home. No one gets left out!

Posted by: Catherine A | July 30, 2013 10:56 AM    Report this comment

When I first moved to Manhattan, I adopted my first dog, a cute beagle/fox terrier mix puppy, maybe 6 weeks old, who went everywhere with me, except to work and places that explicitly excluded dogs, like movie theaters. That meant she accompanied me, first carried and later as she grew up, on leash, to sidewalk cafes, fireworks displays (really!), parks, busy streets, street fairs, department stores where she rode the escalator and walked around the makeup and clothing displays which were crowded and packed with people. She came to children's football games and walked in the stands, surfing for dropped hotdogs. She even came to the gym when the dog friendly manager was on duty. So she grew up with the hustle and bustle and was completely calm and relaxed in it. But now that I live in the suburbs and she has passed on, I would never bring my dogs to anything loud and crowded, as they are completely unfamiliar with this type of activity. But it really depends on the dogs and how they are raised, plus their general personalities and phobias. My first girl (Zoe) thought street fairs were just an excursion for her to grab fallen souflaki's and pretzels, and she was happy as a clam.

Posted by: kimfatty | July 30, 2013 10:38 AM    Report this comment

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