Whether it's a farmers market or a summer art festival, when the weather warms up, people head outside. And when they go outdoors, many people take their dogs. But while plenty of pups are happy to browse the produce stands and mingle with hundreds of strange people and their pets, there are many who are stressed by the adventure.
Some owners just assume that if they're having fun, their dogs are happy, too. But not all dogs love the noises and smells, people and activity that come with going to outdoor events or restaurants. They get nervous and maybe even cranky when faced with scary or new situations.
Chicago trainer Greg Raub suggests asking yourself a few questions before snapping on the leash and taking your pup with you:
- Will my dog be comfortable at the event or would he be happier at home?
- Can I be sure my dog won’t react aggressively if a stranger rushes up to him?
- Can I make sure my dog won’t get into something like dropped food or trash?
- Even though my dog is harmless, could he scare little kids because of his size or looks?
- Will it get too hot for my dog if I can’t find a spot in the shade?
Tips for a good outing
If you decide to take your dog to a public event, it's key to set him up for success, says Maryland trainer Juliana Willems.
First up, she says, don't use a retractable leash.
"There is hardly any control with these leashes, and in high activity environments you need all the control you can get," she writes on her blog. "For the sake of all other dogs and owners at the event, I encourage you to stick to 4′ or 6′ standard leashes."
Then, make sure to stuff your pockets with treats.
"I understand that shoving a bunch of treats in your dog's mouth won’t solve real problems, but it can sure help manage some when you’re out in a distracting environment," she says. "Oftentimes when there is an overwhelming amount of stimuli, your dog will only pay attention to you if you’ve got something they want: yummy food. In new environments it is essential to be able to capture your dog’s focus. Treats will help enormously for this, especially if they are high value."
Pick and choose
Just be smart about when your pet tags along, suggests veterinarian Patty Khuly, V.M.D.
"Over time, I’ve learned that your life has to be 100 percent dog-friendly if your dog is going to tag along 100 percent of the time. And precious few of our lives are that accommodating," she writes in Vetstreet.
For example, Khuly says that she only takes one of her four dogs to outdoor restaurants because her other three don't have the right dispositions.
"There’s no point in taking your dog to a restaurant if he doesn’t have the temperament for it, won’t enjoy it or if it will cause a lot of disruption. But smaller, well-behaved and socialized dogs may be just fine."
Look for signs of stress
Wherever you go with your pup, it's key that you always pay attention to him. That's not only so his leash doesn't get tangled in a stroller, but it's primarily so you can sense his mood.
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of stress so you know when it's time to take off. Here are some of the most common things to look for, according to veterinarian Lynn Buzhardt, D.V.M. of VCA Hospitals.
- Nose or lip licking
- Pacing or shaking
- Whining, barking or howling
- Pulled or pinned-back ears
- Tail lowered or tucked
- Avoidance or displacement (focusing on something else like sniffing the ground or turning away)
- Hiding or escape behaviors (hiding behind you, digging, running away)
If you notice any of these stress signs, take your dog home or at least give him a break from all the activity.
"Dogs are extremely sensitive and can go from being fine to absolutely not fine in a matter of minutes. It is essential that you stay in tune to how your dog is reacting to other dogs or people, and the minute things start getting hairy, you skedaddle," says Willems. "Your dog might not necessarily need to leave all together, but a time out away from all the hubbub can really help a dog’s mentality."