Dogs Day Out

By September 5, 2015 Behaviour No Comments

I am super excited at the moment as I have been asked to be part of two amazing events in the month of September – the Doggie Do & Spirit of Folk.

spirit of folk 2

doggie do logoI love the idea of dogs becoming increasingly part of our social lives and their recent appearance in coffee shops, pubs, music festivals and now even their very own doggy fancy dress event just highlights how much we want our dogs to be with us when we enjoy the good things in life. This ultimately means that dog owners now have amazing opportunities to partake in a fun day out with ALL the family.

So why am I writing a blog about it?

I love to bring Charlie out in the car, visiting new places and calling in on friends and family……… we even bought a camper this year so we can bring him on holidays with us! However……. Charlie will not be attending either of the events with me this month.

Why not, I hear you ask!?

The answer is simply, Charlie is a sensitive dog with a chequered history with other dogs and would likely struggle with such a busy environment and despite my strong wish for him to be there, I need to base my decision on what is right for him.

Dog based actives can be heaps of fun as long as we make sure the event we are attending is suitable for our own unique furry friend.

Why should you leave your dog at home and fly solo?

Flooding – Just like people, some dogs are a little more shy then others, some are more anxious and some struggle with new experiences. Equally some dogs may have had negative experiences in the past (eg Charlie with other dogs) and this impacts on their ability to cope in certain situations. Traditionally we thought that if people and animals saw “there was nothing to be afraid of” they would be ok. We now however know this is not true and in fact can massively compound the issue and make the animal (humans included) much more worried.

empathyAnxiety spiral – We have such as strong bond with our dogs that often results in an empathetic relationship. This means when our dogs are happy, we are happy and equally when our dogs are stressed, anxious or on edge, we are too. This creates a feedback circle which can spiral leaving everyone feeling deflated and unhappy – definitely not what we are hoping for when we plan a lovely day out for the family.

You can teach an old dog new tricks – Dogs continue to learn throughout their lives (an essential component of survival) which means that each experience they have shapes who they are. If these experiences are positive your dog will grow in confidence and have an increasingly optimistic outlook on life. However, if these experiences are negative – the reverse can occur and we can see the emergence of more & more unwanted behaviours.

Why should you bring your dog along for the ride?

doggy greetingTonnes of positive experiences – If you have a young, confident puppy an event like the Doggie Do or Spirit of Folk is a wonderful opportunity to expose them to lots of new sights, sounds, smells and textures. This fantastically diverse environment will allow you puppy to find out so much about the world in one place. Remember though, babies of all species, can tire quickly so will need regular breaks and maybe won’t manage a full day of festivities. For our adults dogs this will equally be a melting pot of amazing smells, sights, sounds and textures. They will be able to meet doggy pals, say hi to people of all ages, shapes and sizes and will probably get plenty of yummy treats on the day as well.

Maximum mental workout – At both events there will be lots of opportunities for your dogs to stretch their mental muscles and experience new training or if they are already a doggy genius brush up on some of their existing tricks.

Family time – The biggest bonus that comes with bringing your dog with you is that they are not sitting at home alone. Dogs are a social species who often will bond very strongly with their family and although they may cope well when left at home, most would rather be with us.

So how can you make sure your dog is reaping all the benefits and none of the drawbacks?

Watch what they are saying – Tune into your own dog and look out for signs that they may be starting to struggle. You can do this by watching their body language for subtle changes that may indicate that they are feeling unsure. Has their natural tail carriage changed, is there tension in their body or face, are they lifting one of their front paws in the air, are they panting, yawning or licking their lips when it is not hot and they haven’t eaten or drunk anything, can you see the whites of their eyes when you wouldn’t normally, are they salivating extensively? All of these are possible signs of stress in your dog. If you listen to your dog and help them out by giving them a little distance from the thing that they are feeling overwhelmed by your relationship will grow exponentially, as you listened to them when they needed you.

body language picture

image courtesy of

Note: when dogs feel like the body language they are offering is either being ignored or equally hasn’t worked in the past they are forced to be a little more clear about their feelings and this will manifest in them growling, showing teeth, air snapping and sometimes even biting. This is why tuning in at the ground level is so important and equally why we must never reprimand our dogs if they do any of the above – as they guardians, it is our responsibility to ensure they never end up in a situation where they feel the need to behave in this way. If ever in doubt about how they are feeling, air on the side of caution and help them out by moving them away from the “scary “ person, place or thing.

heading home happy

Always end on a high – try to make sure not to push your dog past the point of being able to cope i.e. if it is their first ball, don’t stay out after midnight! If they are a little shy but doing well, make sure you are keeping a close eye on them and head home before they start to get fed up as you want them to think “going out is awesome – I can’t want to do it again” and not “going out was ok, it dragged at the end – I don’t want to go back”.

Pick your event – as I said above I love to bring Charlie everywhere with me and he is great with people so I would happily bring him to a big noisy family Christmas get together as he would be the belle of the ball charming the sausage stuffing off everyone’s plate! However, as much as I would love to bring him to every dog group walk and activity under the sun (as it my idea of heaven!) I leave him home with a tasty pigs ear to munch on and fly solo.

Dog day out backpack essentials

So you have chatted with your canine companion and together you have come to the conclusion that they would love to head out with you for a Dog Day Out. Now you need to just pack their bag and head on your way.

water for your dogWater bowl and water – socialising can be thirsty work and sometimes sharing a delicious cool drink is simply not on the cards for our pooches. Bringing their own means there will be no squabbling over water.

Tasty treats – having a pack of yummy dog treats on hand so you can pay out when they are being awesome.

Comfortable harness & lead – being out in the world can be very exciting and sometimes stopping your dog from hoovering every dropped chip in sight means that they are constantly straining on their collar. Protect their neck (and keep the chip consumption under wraps) by walking them on a nice harness and fixed length lead – remember to pop an ID tag on there too.

Blanket – a blanket is an essential part of your dog day out kit as it not only gives your dog a nice place to lie if you are sitting outside a coffee shop or pub but it can be a great way of signalling to your dog that you are entering into a wind down part of your day and they can relax or even better have a snooze.

Yellow ribbon project – this scheme aims to encourage all owners of DINOS (dogs in need of space) to place a yellow ribbon on their lead so that other people can make sure to avoid crowding them or allowing their dog to rush up and say hello. Equally a Hi-Viz jacket or bandana that says “please don’t pet” or “no dogs” can help to simply and quickly communicate to those around you that your dog is a little special.

yellow dog project

So whether you decide to bring your dog along on the day or fly solo both the Doggie Do and Spirit of Folk are shaping up to be tonnes of fun & if you are there…… come by and say hi!

In the mean time………. happy training everyone! :-)