What to Know if You’re Bringing Your Dog to Dog-Friendly Events

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Know thy dog. Are they non-aggressive, well-behaved, and able to handle crowds, loud noises and constant stimulation? If so, they’re ready to attend dog-friendly events like BlogPaws, pet expos and other dog-friendly events. If not, maybe next year and in the meantime they can await the goodies you’ll be bringing back.

We recently came back from a trip to Arizona to attend BlogPaws, a multi-day conference where people and pets mingle. It is a high octane environment with multiple distractions in the form of people, other animals, food and toys.

Mr. N exploring in front of our hotel

I was impressed with how the majority of the animal attendees behaved in such a setting but we had a couple of incidents where I was seriously concerned for Mr. N’s safety. Mr. N was charged at and almost knocked over multiple times because the owners were not paying attention to their dogs.  I know we were not the only ones who had issues.

Dogs that attend these events should be:

  • Healthy. Do they have a strong immune system to combat being with numerous other dogs and the potential for infectious viruses, bacteria and parasites and up-to-date on shots?
  • Good with other animals. Dogs make up the majority (of various shapes and sizes and colors) of animals at BlogPaws but there are also cats, rodents and ferrets.
  • Well-socialized. Can they handle other dogs barking, loud music, people talking on microphones, applause, and small children? This is not the place to expose your dog to multiple new things for the first time.
  • Trained. Do they have a strong leave it, good leash manners, and the ability to settle quietly for long stretches of time?
  • Under control. Are they on a short leash or confined to a carrier or a stroller? More and more dog events are banning flexi leashes and I applaud that decision. Crowds and flexis do not mix.
Mr. N napping quietly in his stroller during a session.
Bringing dogs to events is fun but also comes with a weighty responsibility. Are they having fun? Are they preventing other people or dogs from having fun? It’s your job to make sure your dog is having a good time as well as not stopping other people/dogs from having a good time.
  • Watch your dog for signs of stress. They include but are not limited to panting, yawning, whale eye (showing the whites of their eyes), pinned back ears, refusal of food, tense body posture.
  • Make sure to give them breaks. Sit out a session and go walk them around. Have them take a nap in a quiet area. Take them out to go to the bathroom.
  • If they’re being a distraction, remove them. If your dog is whining or barking for a prolonged period or otherwise being distracting, time for a break!
  • Don’t let your dogs be rude. Don’t let your dogs charge up to other animals or sniff them for long stretches. If you see your dog fixating and staring at another dog or one of the other animals, redirect them and give the other animals a wide berth.
  • If something happens, apologize profusely. Dogs are dogs and things happen. People will be much more forgiving if you apologize and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Mr. N decided he needed a nap
There are an abundance of cute fuzzy dogs (and other animals) at these events. It can be hard because you feel like you know these dogs already and just want to hug them already but they don’t know you and would much rather be approached in a slower fashion. If you’re bringing your dog, ask people to keep the following in mind when they approach your dog.

How to approach strange dogs:

  • Don’t disturb dogs that are eating, sleeping or in a confined area (crate/stroller/carrier). 
  • Ask permission before petting. 
  • Don’t loom over the dog. 
  • Don’t reach over their heads to pet them. 
  • Don’t lean in really close to their face. 
  • Dogs generally do not like hugs. At all. Especially from strangers. 
  • Stand still and wait for the dog to approach you.
Mr. N with Ann from Pawsitively Pets. He is happy to be petted and sit in laps if you follow the above!

Do you have any tips for bringing your dog to a dog-friendly event and making it a good experience?

Welcome to First Monday’s Positive Pet Training Blog Hop hosted by Tenacious Little Terrier and Rubicon Days. Please share your responsible pet owner positive pet training tips by linking a blog post or leaving a comment below.  Our theme for this month is wildcard (whatever you want). but any positive reinforcement training posts or comments are also always welcome. The Positive Pet Training Blog Hop goes all week long. Our next hop will begin Monday, August 1st, and continues for a week.

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69 Responses

  1. Beth

    July 5, 2016 1:31 pm

    I'm glad nothing terrible happened to Mr. N. These are exactly the reasons Barley will never go to something like this. She'd be totally fine with noise, relaxing beside me, and people trying to hug her (she's one of the weirdos that thinks hugs are pretty great), but she does not do well with other dogs coming into her bubble when their people stop paying attention. Basically, Barley would want an event with endless people to love on her and her alone 😉

    Reply
  2. K-Koira

    July 5, 2016 4:24 pm

    I had issues last year at BlogPaws with dogs charging Koira. She is mildly dog reactive, but is generally fine in that kind of environment (it was our second time at BlogPaws, and she is used to being at flyball tournaments and other dog events where there are a ton of other dogs around and lots of activity). She just doesn't do well with dogs leaping on top of her or being super pushy into her face. And unfortunately a number of people let their dogs do both of those things. I saw the same exact dogs doing other rude things as well- jumping up onto exhibit tables, eating treats out of the display bowls on the table (where you are supposed to just take a treat or two and hand them to the dog- not let them eat all of them straight from the bowl!), jumping on other dogs, charging around at the end of the leash, etc. Koira isn't a candidate to be in the dog park area (which is where Pallo spent most of his time), so I spent the entire time trying to avoid the dogs I'd picked out as being the worst to be around, and the owners of those dogs.

    Reply
  3. Emma

    July 5, 2016 4:59 pm

    Good tips, buddy! Sorry we had to cancel last minute, but it was best for us with Katie. We do fine, but Mom worries about the small animals like rats and ferrets with us around as we have such a prey drive. Mom is always scanning the area for small critters on leash so we don't see them first. BlogPaws is always a lot of fun for us.

    Reply
  4. Ann Staub

    July 5, 2016 5:54 pm

    Excellent advice! And also the reason why I would not bring Shiner to an event like BlogPaws. She seems on high alert even when we just go to PetSmart, so no BlogPaws for her. It still kinda sucks when I do take her to PetSmart. The cashiers wouldn't quit staring at her and trying to give her treats even though I told them she didn't like strangers and I think it made her nervous.

    Reply
    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 5, 2016 5:59 pm

      Yeah, some dogs would not be happy in that kind of environment and that's OK! We had a foster dog who did not like strangers and when I took the two out, Mr. N was usually the sacrificial lamb. I'd be like and you can pet this one instead!

      Reply
  5. Kari Neumeyer

    July 5, 2016 10:30 pm

    Excellent post. People who don't think of their dogs as reactive can be very naive when it comes to bringing their dogs to crowded public events. It's not for every dog! Many times, I think it's more fun for the people to bring the dog, than it is for the dog! I learned that by bringing Mia to an outdoor festival where I was working a booth. She was very nice to all the kids who wanted to crawl all over her, but I could tell she was bored. Fun for me to have her there, though!

    Reply
    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 6, 2016 6:30 am

      I agree that not all dogs are suited for that environment. Just like people, some dogs are much happier at home instead of mingling in crowds. Mr. N's attitude is pretty much where you go, I go. Except for maybe a fireworks show.

      Reply
  6. Jen Gabbard

    July 6, 2016 12:19 am

    Until I had a reactive dog myself I'll admit I was pretty oblivious when it came to having my dogs out in public; at least when it comes to watching them at all times and paying close attention to how they were approaching other dogs. I'm a lot more conscientious now, and because of Laika's over abundance and excitement I know big events aren't in the cards for us. It's just not worth the risk.

    I'm glad to hear most of the dogs were well behaved. I can imagine big events like that can create a lot of chaos, so kudos to Mr. N & all the dogs that behaved we well.

    Reply
    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 6, 2016 6:47 am

      You definitely have to watch reactive dogs like a hawk. Plus Mr. N is tiny so I'm used to having to constantly watch + manage him and keep an eye on any other dogs in the vicinity.
      He actually does better in big crowded events. There are some places I wouldn't take him to though. There's a training camp I've been eyeing but the dogs have to be really good in crates and he's not a good candidate for that so I'll probably audit.

      Reply
  7. Dachshund Nola

    July 6, 2016 1:45 am

    Yessssss. This, 100x over. You know my issues with the event, but I'm proud of how Nola handled it. Having her up off the floor and in her sling was a lifesaver!

    Reply
    • K-Koira

      July 6, 2016 10:46 pm

      I got a sling bag for Ptera for crowded events like the Saturday market- so I can walk her down to the market (about 1.5 miles from us), but not worry about her getting stepped on while there. I can imagine having that option at BlogPaws made things a lot easier as well.

      Reply
  8. Chris and Mike

    July 6, 2016 4:20 am

    I attended ClickerExpo a couple of years ago, and as Habi is obviously not an Expo kind of dog, she stayed home. It turned out to be a great decision; I was able to concentrate on the lectures and workshops, and learned as much (or more) by watching other people working their dogs in the labs, than had I been focused on keeping my girl comfortable and out of trouble.

    Reply
    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 6, 2016 6:33 am

      ClickerExpo is even harder on dogs I think because the dogs are also expected to learn and perform in that environment! If I took Mr. N, it would probably just be for a day. It's in our town every couple of years so he could stay at home the other days.

      Reply
  9. Nichole Burke

    July 6, 2016 1:47 pm

    Amen to that list of what dogs should be before bringing them to events – esp the part about getting along with others and being well socialized. Some people bring their pets who do NOT like other pets to events and then have such a stressful day… it's not healthy for the pet or you.

    Reply
  10. Edie ThePug

    July 6, 2016 2:34 pm

    Fantastic tips and suggestions when taking your pet to any event! I know people get excited and want to bring their pets to events, but sometimes our pet is much happier at home away from the stresses. Miss Edie just thrives at events, loving all the attention, but even she needs a break to relax and just get away from the crowds and the noise.

    Reply
  11. Sherri Telenko

    July 6, 2016 3:38 pm

    Hey, when I met Mr. N the first time … he jumped in my lap so I had to hug him. (Not that I minded). I'm considering taking my Victor to the next BlogPaws, but I'm going to see how it goes this year by taking him to a lot of events. He loves being around a lot of people and energy when he's one of a few dogs, and mostly likes other dogs, but there's always that one out of 10 that for some reason he HATES – especially big fluffy male dogs. He's never reactive with people (and fortunately loves kids, even when the hug him) but it's other dogs that gives me pause. Of course, then my own energy affects the situation…

    Reply
    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 6, 2016 6:31 pm

      Haha when the dog jumps in your lap, I think that's an exception. I do try to check that the people WANT him in their laps.
      I think that's a good plan. It's definitely taxing on the dogs. Mr. N goes out and about with me a lot so he's used to it although usually it's not for a three day stretch!

      Reply
  12. Daily Dog Tag

    July 6, 2016 5:39 pm

    Only one of my dogs is a candidate for attending an event, but I'm not sure she really has it in her. She might get too tired from all the excitement. I'm also really nervous if I think another dog might charge her, so I'll probably leave her at home.

    Reply
  13. nalathewonderdog

    July 6, 2016 6:49 pm

    Okay, the fact that you threatened to hamster-ball Mr. N means that now you HAVE to. You know that, right? Take pictures. Take video. Immortalize it forever. 😀

    This is a super useful list–not just for a big event, but for any time you might be tempted to take your dog to a thing that's fun for humans but might be hard for dogs.

    How would Nala fare at BlogPaws? Well, I think she would vacillate wildly between exuberantly thrilled (which is a little overwhelming to most people, since she's a GSD) and bored to tears–and a bored shepherd is a whiny, mischievous shepherd. It's too bad–I'd love to figure out what we need to do to make seminars something she would find fun. I have no idea where to start, though!

    Reply
    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 6, 2016 6:56 pm

      Haha. Maybe I can find one for toddlers and start training now.
      I'm thinking of Fenzi Camp next year (it's in Oregon, yay!) but the dogs have to be super good in crates and Mr. N definitely is not so I think he will have to stay at home. Unless they'll let me bring him in a sling everywhere lol.
      Are there any dog-friendly patios by you that you could start with? I think that would be a similar concept. Food/people/other dog distractions and having to be still for long stretches of time.

      Reply
  14. Janet Keefe

    July 6, 2016 7:14 pm

    These are such great tips, and I think everyone going to a conference like this should read them.
    I don't see any of my dogs ever going to something like this. Sheba is the only real social one, but she still gets nervous in new situations with a lot going on. But who knows, maybe Luke some day if I keep working with him.
    When I went last year without pets I tried to remember to always be polite when meeting others'. You wouldn't barge in and hug a person you didn't know, so why a dog?
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    Reply
    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 7, 2016 4:51 am

      Thank you. I wavered for weeks and weeks before bringing Mr. N debating if he would be happy tagging along (although really I should say I tagged along) and if he would be a good canine citizen at the conference!

      Reply
  15. Christine Caplan

    July 6, 2016 7:51 pm

    Great post: folks traveling with their dogs to an event absolutely have many things they need to consider and overall if their munchkin may stress about the trip and act out. Good tips for folks looking at next year's event too!

    Reply
  16. Ruth Epstein

    July 6, 2016 8:36 pm

    Thanks for the great info, Layla would do great with most, the only one would be keeping her still for long periods as Madam loves to visit people BOL – as I call it in the dog park blanket and lap hopping. In times like that I actually would leave her in the room where she would be relaxed and content. As for retractable leashes, oy vey don't even get me started on those as I hate them.

    Reply
  17. Leanne Southall

    July 6, 2016 9:34 pm

    Overall, the experience of pets being present at Blogpaws this time around was fantastic. I saw many folks do exactly as you suggested, like discreetly leaving the room if necessary, etcetera. Nothing like a beautiful black lab wagging my legs with his tail while listening to an SEO presentation! I would have paid for that, so fantastic!

    Reply
  18. maryehaight

    July 7, 2016 12:56 am

    I remember BP Utah — all the pooches were well-behaved in my experience. I didn't bring Tashi because he's not the type that would like all that constant excitement. I am so sorry to hear that Mr. N had a couple of unpleasant encounters! I had to laugh at first when I saw his tiny self in front of that giant cactus, but then read about what happened just below it :/

    I think you've hit all the points people need to keep BlogPaws a positive experience for everyone. Great post!

    Reply
    • maryehaight

      July 11, 2016 4:47 am

      Aw, poor little guy — it's a real problem when attendees with dogs don't realize how their dogs might react in such a setting. Vigilance is required. So glad nothing horrible happened!

      Reply
  19. Sweet Purrfections

    July 7, 2016 2:29 am

    I was so glad to meet Mr. N and you. I tried to be careful with my approach with him. He's such a cutie that you want to grab him up and hug him all day. But, I restrained myself. I found that most of the dogs were better behaved this year than in Nashville.

    Reply
    • Tenacious Little Terrier

      July 7, 2016 4:45 am

      Haha. He gets that a lot and he's glad you restrained yourself. Next time, he'll be happy to sit in your lap and receive petting. Oh that's good to hear. It was our first one so I had no basis for comparison.

      Reply
  20. The Daily Pip

    July 7, 2016 10:17 am

    Ruby isn't quite ready for a big event, but hopefully next year. Certain men still set her off and she will snap at them. We are working on this, but I am always on high alert when we are out just in case. She's also nervous around some dogs – not all, but some. So, we have a ways to go, but we did take her to a dog walk recently with about 100 people and dogs and she did well – so there's hope!

    Reply
  21. Little Lola Sunshine

    July 7, 2016 2:31 pm

    Hi! This is a great article and gives so much insight on these types of dog events. I recently went to an event and a woman approached us with her dog for an picture. It was a nice, lovely fluffy Maltese and when she was put next to me the dog snapped at my face. Her human said "oh, she really doesn't like other dogs".
    I was pretty much aghast.
    Manners! Manners! Everyone needs them and they can be taught. Your list reads like a sensible rules of etiquette. If the dog (or human) doesn't' have basic common sense manners, they shouldn't go to these events which can be highly stressful to both human and dog.
    So there is my two cents worth. Maybe I'll see you at BLog Paws next year? X

    Reply
  22. Cathy Armato

    July 7, 2016 5:16 pm

    Very well said, and great tips! I agree, flexi leashes & crowds do not mix. I loved meeting Mr. N in person (& you!), he is such a little gentleman! I love your new Monday training hop, I'll definitely be joining.
    Love & biscuits
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

    Reply
  23. Mary @ StaleCheerios

    July 8, 2016 3:31 am

    Great tips!

    I was very impressed by how well behaved (almost) all of the dogs were at BlogPaws. And the cats too!

    I know it can be difficult sometimes, decided whether your pet is ready for an event like this. It is definitely too much for some pups! My parent's dog, Ginger, doesn't really like crowds, and I know she would be stressed and unhappy at conferences. So, she gets to stay at home and chase the squirrels, but that is okay with her!

    Reply
  24. Ava at Savvy Pet Care

    July 8, 2016 3:09 pm

    I brought Christy Paws (cat) to BlogPaws for her first time. I made sure to avoid any issues with dogs but I did see a couple among the dogs. Most were well behaved. Excellent post with great tips for dog owners.

    Reply
  25. Three Chatty Cats

    July 8, 2016 10:12 pm

    Great post and info. Sorry that Mr. N had some close calls. I didn't see anything happen at the conference, but I didn't bring a pet so I wasn't that aware of watching out either. But your tips are very good to remind people!

    Reply
  26. Talent Hounds

    July 9, 2016 2:25 pm

    Such good tips. I loved meeting Mr N – he was so adorable, friendly and well behaved. I was glad you brought him. I could not have brought Kilo as it would have been way too stressful for him and for me. We missed each other, but I have to be realistic and keep him and others safe.

    Reply
  27. Rugby James

    July 9, 2016 11:58 pm

    I really loved this post and couldn't agree more!! Your highlights were spot on, and should really help provide guidance for anyone who wonders if their own dog is ready.

    Reply
  28. Karen H.

    July 10, 2016 2:30 pm

    Good info! I was on the fence this year about bringing one of my dogs, am thinking seriously about road tripping it next year. This info will help once we arrive!

    Reply
  29. Jane H

    July 10, 2016 3:40 pm

    Thank you for all the great tips, this is very helpful since 2017 will be my first conference. I plan on getting a sling for my Chi, she will be much happier and safer right up next to me in large crowds.

    Reply
  30. FidoseofReality

    July 13, 2016 5:11 am

    I thought Mr T did really well. My dog has been to all 8 BlogPaws Conferences and you did really super with this post. DOn't forget to hook up to the conference linky. WOofs!

    Reply
  31. Emmy Scammahorn

    July 15, 2016 5:56 pm

    Mr. N., I'm so glad I met you. Would you ask your mom to post the tips about how people should greet pets before the next BlogPaws? With you and other pets, I feel like I know you! All I want to do is give you a big hug! So I need your mom to remind me of my manners. Have a good summer, Mr. N.!

    Reply
  32. Valerie

    July 27, 2016 7:49 pm

    Pippa would be perfect for BlogPaws! She is very well behaved and very calm. She has a lot of patience! My Labs are also very well behaved, but would be too excited to see all the other pets! Anyway, I can't bring them next year, since it's an intercontinental flight and too complicated with dogs! But I'm soo looking forward to meet you all!!

    Reply

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