Whole Dog Journal's Blog May 16, 2018

Summer Fairs and Festivals: Leave Your Dog at Home

Posted at 11:50AM - Comments: (13)

Headed to the fair? Your dog might prefer to stay at home.

It’s only mid-May, but in many towns and cities, the street fair season has begun. I know, because I had the pleasure of attending one in the San Francisco Bay area town where I lived for a decade and where my son still lives. There were three bandstands with live music; tons of delicious food, beer, and wine; and dozens of booths full of gorgeous art and crafts, clothing, jewelry and more. And lots and lots of people, and lots and lots of dogs.

dog at the state fair

Big dogs. Little dogs. Multiple dogs on leash-splitters. Dogs in carriages, dogs in backpacks, dogs in purses, dogs on foot. All of them hot – because the weather was hot and so was the pavement – and most of them looking stressed.

Don’t get me wrong: dogs were allowed at the event. Every dog owner there had a perfect right to bring their dog to the street fair. And actually, I did not see a single dog fight or dog who looked like it was about to bite anyone.

But neither did I see a single dog who looked happy to be there, or comfortable with the dense crowd and the noise. And neither did I see a single owner who seemed to be paying what I would consider to be proper attention to his or her dog! I didn’t see a single person pet or encourage their dog, nor feed their dog a treat, nor steer their dog to the least-crowded part of the street. People may as well have had invisible dogs attached to their leashes.

dog at the state fair

I went to the street fair to look at art and jewelry and eat yummy food – not to train my dog. And I don’t think anyone else went there to train theirs.

I understand the impulse to be accompanied by your dog, I really do. I like bringing my dogs with me places – but only when they will be comfortable and when they’ll be neither distracting nor a distraction.

There are countless things that could go wrong: a stressed-out dog lashing out and biting a passing dog or child, a dog getting loose and running away in a panic, a dog getting heat stroke, someone stepping on a little dog (I saw it almost happen a number of times!), a dog developing a noise phobia after being forced to stay in a loud and stressful environment, some drunk person tripping on and hurting or scaring a dog. I just wouldn’t ever risk it!

I don’t have a particular point to make, other than to lament the fact that dogs seem to be accessories for many people. Whether or not the dog will benefit from – or be harmed by – the experience in any way doesn’t seem to be a consideration.

Comments (13)

I think this article is inaccurate in assuming that ALL dogs are distressed or unhappy in these situations & NO parents are paying attention to them, etc... Itís like people who use ALWAYS or NEVER in an argument, rarely is anything so black & white!
We have 5 chiís and we take 3 of the 5 to fairs of all kinds because they LOVE to go! They ride in a stroller & we use ice packs under a gel cooling bed in the stroller. Theyíre cool & comfy for the duration. The other 2 donít enjoy that kind of thing so we donít take them. Itís all about knowing your kid. While Iím sure the author, Nancy Kerns, knows her own dogs well, she doesnít know ours so she shouldnít make assumptions regarding what they do, or donít, enjoy or my ability to know my own kid.

Posted by: ChiMom | May 19, 2018 8:05 AM    Report this comment

I've had dogs who could go anywhere, willingly and confidently; I've had others who are so uncomfortable outside of their preferred environment, (home),that crowded situations are a huge stressor for them. Know your dog, and act accordingly. Like people, no two are alike, respect that in their personalities.

Posted by: c.barnes | May 18, 2018 8:53 PM    Report this comment

Subject near/dear to my heart -- babies/children in strollers are right at 'Face level' to most dogs - and many of those children may be eating something!

Posted by: KatzDawgs | May 17, 2018 3:02 PM    Report this comment

I beg to differ! My first dog, a beagle mix adopted at age 8 weeks who grew up in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, was taken everywhere--department stores, (initially carried inside my jacket, then on a leash as she got bigger); busy parks, outdoor restaurants, elevators, traffic, kids ball games, you get the picture. She loved street fairs and being surrounded by people and yummy smells. She did not get nervous at firework displays, even the huge Macy's display on the East River promenade, and she wagged her tail, took everything in stride and of course begged strangers for food. But she was the exception to the rule, my current dogs would not tolerate street fairs, crowds or fireworks and need xanax during rainstorms. But they are suburban dogs. You can acclimate some calmer dogs if you start early enough, take guide dogs, police K-9s and search and rescue dogs as an example, they deal with everything imaginable. But you have to know your pet and his or her triggers.

Posted by: kimfatty | May 17, 2018 2:24 PM    Report this comment

I am glad WDJ is putting its foot down about people who take their dogs everywhere. I can easily see loving your dog and wanting him/them to be part of your everyday life, but some people don't use common sense. A good example of this is people bringing their dogs on errands and locking their dogs in the car while they shop or dine. Utterly thoughtless! What appears to be love is only selfishness. The only "fairs" I take my dogs to are "specific" dog fairs that are usually fundraisers for rescue and humane agencies. That said, whenever you take your dogs on an outing, your head should be on a swivel to be constantly on guard for anything that could hurt your dogs--from crazy "dog lovers" who insist on their presumed right to approach and pet your dog, uncontrolled children to dogs who are not under their peoples' control.

Posted by: Three Dog Mom | May 17, 2018 1:34 PM    Report this comment

Then there are people who take their dogs to a fireworks display. WHO STUPID CAN THEY BE????
I, too, have seen very unhappy dogs at a fair. Very large dogs don't seem to mind as much because they can see what is going on but a small dog only sees feet and hopes he doesn't get stepped on.
I love taking my dog everywhere with me but only if it is safe, the dog will be comfortable and we have plenty of water. Crowded places are not a place to take your dog.

Posted by: Holly 1 | May 17, 2018 12:39 PM    Report this comment

Thank you.

Posted by: MeToo | May 17, 2018 12:27 PM    Report this comment

As the weather warms up, I also see dogs clearly in distress from hot asphalt or pavement, bouncing from foot to foot, trying to get to shade, with the owners oblivious. Burned pads are painful and take a long time to heal.

Posted by: Mary Straus | May 17, 2018 12:13 PM    Report this comment

This does need to be shared for those people who don't think things through before taking their dog to crowded places. I constantly see people walking dogs on hot asphalt, not considering the dog at all. Nervous dogs terrified of the crowds, etc. I can't help but wonder....are they taking the dog to this festival because the dog enjoys it? Or ar they taking the dog so show off, have everyone say "how cute" and so on. Many dogs do enjoy these things. We have three dogs; our boyloves to go, the two girls hate it. I wouldn't dream of subjecting the girls to something like that.

Posted by: Bobeanie | May 17, 2018 12:00 PM    Report this comment

I think it depends on your dog and the event. I take Dug to the farmers market all the time. We get there as soon as it opens and we leave before it gets crowded. If it is too hot, we donít go. If I canít get a reasonable parking space, we donít go.

One of my favorite art fairs stopped letting dogs attend because dogs destroyed the art and got into fights...it was a perfect fair because it was close to home, on grass, and with wide aisles.

Thatís one of the things I look at when deciding to take Dug...whatís the environment like? Is he going to have to walk on black top? Is it grass? Are there drunk people?

I think people just have to be aware.

Posted by: snupnjake | May 17, 2018 11:55 AM    Report this comment

And the farmer's market! All I can think of when I see these poor dogs pressed into a crowd is how stressed I would be if I was 1-3 feet tall and mashed in among a throng of 5-6 footers. I would be hyper-ventilating. Of course, on WDJ, we preaching to the converted, I think.

Posted by: mjkoranda@gmail.com | May 17, 2018 11:41 AM    Report this comment

I see this a lot here in LA. And I always feel for the dogs. Very few look happy, although once in awhile I do see some merry terrier bouncing along grinning at the excitement. My own dog is too anxious for anything like that, but it always amazes me how clueless people with dogs can be. There is an entire clump of them who Will Not Be Told (these include people who recklessly keep their dogs off leash and others who won't pick up waste) and I'm afraid they will continue to bring dogs to fests and events where their pet is unhappy.

Posted by: ClscFlm7 | May 17, 2018 11:30 AM    Report this comment

Yes! Someone needed to say this. As a dog trainer it is painful for me to witness stressed dogs at basketball games with the loud buzzers and unsupervised small children darting here and there. It is so unfair to the dogs to put them in this environment.

Posted by: Sarah Dyar | May 17, 2018 11:28 AM    Report this comment

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