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10 Tips for Tailgating with Your Dog

Husky at a tailgate

Fall is synonymous with Halloween, Thanksgiving, changing leaves, and plenty of football. And, of course, football means lots of tailgate parties. If you plan to let your canine companion join the tailgating fun, make sure to keep things safe and sound for everyone.

Tailgating Tips for Dog Lovers

Before you include your pup in tailgating activities, review these tips to keep the festivities fun and safe for you and your pal. Tailgating parties mean lots of people, food, noise, and distractions. It’s essential to recognize the potential hazards to put the proper precautions in place.

1. Be Honest with How Your Dog Acts Around Crowds

Before taking your dog anywhere, assess how they do around other people and animals. (Remember, you might not be the only one who brings their four-legged buddy along for the party.) If your dog doesn’t do well around crowds, don’t bring them tailgating with you until they know how to act around others.

Help your dog behave in public by taking the time for training. It’s important to go over basic commands with your pup, so they become a well-mannered pooch. For example, teach your dog to stay, sit, come, and other basics before you bring them into large, public settings.

If you have patience, a positive attitude, and a willing canine, you likely can train your dog yourself. However, if you’re unsure or need a helping hand, plenty of professionals are available. Learn more about how to make your dog an AKC Canine Good Citizen or find a trainer through the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT).

2. Check the Weather

Don’t head out before checking the weather. If it’s too hot, it might be best to leave your dog at home to avoid overheating. Otherwise, pack a cooling vest or similar items to keep your pup cool. Doggy sunscreen is a must when it’s a bright, sunny day (even if it’s cool outside, when the sun’s out, sunburn can happen).

Depending on your pup, they may do okay in colder temperatures or require a doggy jacket or coat to keep warm. If it’s going to rain, get adequate gear for your dog if you still plan to bring them.

3. Bring the Things Your Dog Needs

In addition to bringing the right supplies for the weather, don’t forget the other essentials your dog needs. Dog boots protect paws from itchy grass, stickers, hot pavement, broken glass, and other hazards. Depending on your area, dog-friendly bug spray is another thing to consider.

Bring a collapsible bowl and plenty of fresh water for your dog. Also, make sure to pack their food and a couple of tasty treats. 

Bring something to keep them occupied, like the Rolly Cannoli or other interactive toy, and something to keep them comfortable. This might be a dog bed or blanket. It’s also a good idea to bring some sort of shade or shelter (for you and your pup), like a tent, canopy, or large umbrella.

4. Verify That the Venue Allows Dogs

Call ahead to verify the venue allows pets. Whether it’s a public setting or your friend’s house, it’s wise to check before showing up with your pup. If they don’t allow dogs, you’ll have time to make other arrangements for your pet.

5. Don’t Forget the Leash

Even if you’re tailgating in your friend’s backyard, it’s good manners to keep your pup on a leash. You’re a dog lover, but that doesn’t mean everyone around you wants your fur baby running up to them. Also, a leash ensures your dog stays safe. 

Even the most well-behaved pooch could run off if spooked or something interesting catches their attention. Therefore, put a comfortable, secure harness on your dog and keep them on a short (approximately 4 feet), strong leash.

If your dog likes their crate, bring it along for when your dog needs a break or wants to rest in a safe space. Never leave your dog in a hot car.

6. Stay Vigilant and Aware of Your Surroundings

Tailgates typically include lots of loud noise, drinking, and boisterous behavior. You won’t be able to control people around you, and not everyone will respect your pooch. 

It’s up to you to stay aware of your surroundings. If people get rough and rowdy, remove your dog from the situation temporarily (or it might be time to head home).

7. Be Respectful and Clean Up After Your Pup

People may love having your pooch around or at least be willing to accept their company. But they certainly don’t want to end up stepping in your pup’s poop. 

Be respectful of others and clean up after your dog. Don’t forget to bring dog waste bags, and lead your dog away from the main event for an occasional potty break.

8. Don’t Expect to Stay All Day

You might be ready to party all day and night, but this doesn’t mean your dog wants to do the same. Know your dog’s limits. When they’re ready to call it a day, respect them and head home.

9. Scan the Ground and Politely Decline Scraps

Tailgates are all about food, so there’s likely going to be lots of scraps on the ground and spilled alcohol. Make a habit of scanning the area to keep your pup from ingesting things they shouldn’t. Keep the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center handy in case your dog gets a hold of something questionable.

10. Supervise Your Dog the Whole Time

Above all else, your main job is to watch your dog at all times during the tailgate. Even if they love to be in the middle of the action, this doesn’t mean they can’t have too much of a good time. 

Monitor your dog for signs of distress or undesirable behavior. If it appears like they aren’t enjoying themselves anymore, or they’re becoming agitated, take them home.

Does Your Dog Like Tailgating?

Another thing to keep in mind is if your pup even wants to join in on the tailgating fun in the first place. Sometimes, rowdy crowds, loud noises, and too many things happening at once are too much for your dog to handle.

Pay attention to your dog’s body language to see if they’re sending you any clues that they’re ready to go. Your dog communicates with you through various movements and positions of their tail, ears, eyes, mouth, and whole body. If their stress level starts to rise, you may notice things like curled lips, a rigid posture, excessive yawning, or lip licking.

Other signs your pooch is ready to call it a day are a tucked tail or if they arch their tail over their back. Your pup might lower their ears or press them forward, pant heavily, or avoid making eye contact (keeping their eyes still). 

Therefore, as mentioned earlier, it’s imperative to monitor your dog when you’re out in public and at various events. If you notice signs that your dog is distressed or anxious, it’s best to remove them from the situation and let them calm down.

Three dogs sitting in the back of a trunk

Wagging Tails and Tailgate Tales: Keep Things Safe For Your Four-Legged Friend

Tailgating is one of many fun fall activities to do with your dog, but it’s vital to put safety first. Everyone wants to have a good time, but keep things safe for your pup and those around them. Prepare well so you have what your dog needs, check the weather, and make sure the venue allows pets.

Keep a watchful eye on your dog the entire time, and be ready to head home early if necessary. If your dog loves people and does well in crowds, tailgating can be an enjoyable activity to share with your precious pup.

Looking for even more pet-friendly fun? Check out the Neater Pets blog for other ideas on how to spend time with your four-legged friend, and keep them healthy and happy.


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