Do Dogs Belong at Outdoor Festivals?

August 24, 2018

By Julia Williams

Every August my town holds an outdoor festival that includes food and merchandise vendors, live music, a parade, rubber duck races, a car show, and more. It’s a pretty big deal for such a small town, and people come from all over to enjoy the day. In previous years they always had a dog “cooling station” where the four legged festival-goers could get a drink of water and splash in a kiddie pool. As I walked past where the cooling station normally was, I noticed it wasn’t there. My friend said dogs were not allowed at the festival anymore.

I hadn’t heard this bit of news, and as we walked through the vendors it seemed I wasn’t the only one, because we saw lots of dogs with their owners. (We even saw a cute little goat walking calmly on a leash as though that were the most ordinary thing ever!). In other years, I wouldn’t say the festival was overrun with dogs, but I’d see quite a few of them over the course of the day.

I don’t belong to the Chamber, so I’m not privy to what was behind their new “no dogs” stance. However, I do know this festival isn’t the only one where dogs are discouraged or prohibited. As one might expect, many dog owners enjoy bringing their canine best friend to events such as this, and they’re not happy when they have to either leave Fido at home or forego the festival. But is it a good idea to bring a dog to an outdoor festival even if it’s allowed? Do dogs belong at this type of event? I did a little digging to understand why, in many cases, it may be in the best interest of your dog not to bring him to an outdoor festival.


The noise and crowds can trigger anxiety and fear in some dogs, particularly those on the shy side. A dog who was rescued from a bad home may not be fully recovered from the trauma, and this type of event will likely be uncomfortable for them. The stress of being on “danger alert” for hours can cause aggression in some dogs, even those who are typically mild mannered and friendly.

Heat Related Illnesses

What might feel like a nice, sunny day to you can be too much of a good thing for your dog. High temperatures and sun can put your dog at risk for dehydration, sun stroke, heat exhaustion and sunburn.

Can Become Lost

A scared dog might bolt at the sound of sudden noises or activity. His leash can slip out of your hand before you even know what happened, and your dog can quickly become lost in the crowd. The dog won’t be thinking clearly in panic mode, and efforts to recall him won’t work.

Hot Pavement

Ever tried to walk across scorching hot asphalt in your bare feet? Doesn’t feel good, does it? Your dog isn’t wearing shoes, and even if there are grassy areas at the festival, it’s almost impossible to avoid hot pavement at a street festival. This can burn your dog’s paws and cause him pain.

Inappropriate Food

Dogs are quick to scarf up any and all tasty tidbits they find on the ground, and many of the foods at an outdoor festival are things you don’t want him to have. Sure, your pooch may love the taste of these fried, salty or sugary “treats,” but they can cause digestive issues. Cooked bones and bone pieces can be especially dangerous for your dog.

Aggressive Dogs

Your super friendly pup may adore others of his kind, but that may not be the case with all the other dogs he encounters at a festival. Yes, most people are smart enough not to bring a dog-aggressive pooch to an outdoor festival…but there’s always that one.

So what’s the bottom line? If dogs are allowed at an outdoor event you want to attend, should you take your canine best friend along? That depends primarily on the individual dog, and the size and scope of the festival. If your dog is well socialized to other dogs and people, has good leash manners and recall, and doesn’t seem anxious or fearful around crowds, music and unfamiliar surroundings, it could be a fun outing for both of you.

You might really love having your dog with you at an outdoor festival, but the ultimate question you need to ask is: will my dog enjoy it? If there’s any doubt, it’s better to go to the festival with some of your two-legged friends, and let your canine pal chill out at home.

Read more articles by Julia Williams

Share this: