How-To Host a Dog Friendly Event
So you’re looking at throwing a dog friendly event but you’re not sure where to start or what you need to do to get going. Sound familiar? No problem. We’ve worked with multiple groups who have thrown dog-friendly events here in Austin and we’re all very passionate dog people that we can help you properly prepare your event so that two-legged and four-legged event attendees are all taken care of.
LOCATION AND VENUE
The first thing you need to worry about is location and venue. Do you want to host the event yourself? Or are you looking for a venue? What about being inside versus outside?
First figure out if you need to be indoors versus outdoors and keep an eye on the weather. If you know you’re going to be hosting an event in the middle of the afternoon in July, maybe you don’t want to be outside the whole time. Once you know what type of place you’re looking for, give local venues a call as not every place is dog friendly (sad, we know!).
(We have yet to call a roller rink and ask about dog friendly options but now we think it would be a great idea for your next high school reunion. You should totally do it.)
Once you’ve found a place that allows dogs, ask if they have any dog amenities on hand. If they don’t, you’ll have to provide for your canine event goers yourself. This includes having multiple water bowls, fresh water and potential doggy snacks. A good rule of thumb is to have one large water bowl for every 3 medium sized dogs.
If you’re having an outdoor event, it would be a good idea to create a shaded area where dogs (and humans!) can get away from the sun if needed. Obviously, dogs can get hotter easier with their fur coat so providing shade while outdoors is a great way for everyone to cool off. If you live in a hot area, it will be preferable to host your event on a field rather than asphalt, which heats up and will be become uncomfortable. Overall, soft surfaces are a better hosting opportunity.
And let's not forget the most important thing - waste bags. Although you should be proactive and tell pet owners to bring bags to pick up after their animals, some might forget. This is where you can have some waste bag dispensers at the entrance to ensure that cleanup afterward goes smoothly.
THINGS TO AVOID
We all know there are things that dogs really really don't like (mailmen and UPS delivery guys being one of them) but there are also things that you should remember to keep from your event.
Dogs hear better than we do and loud noises are not good for them. Also, for many dogs they are scary and disorienting. If you plan to have loud music at your event, consider putting a quiet area where dogs (and people!) can escape if the music and noise of the people become too much.
Fireworks are disorienting for many dogs. They are loud and bright and can startle even the most sedate of pups. And unfortunately, we do not have a way to explain to dogs that they are fun (not yet anyways).
Some dogs can become fearful with loud noises and bright lights which can be bad for a large gathering. Others can jump and try to flee, also not a desired outcome for your party.
We recommend not using fireworks at all when you have a dog event but if you absolutely must have dogs and fireworks at your event, you should let event goers know that way if there are any fearful pups, they can stay at home.
As awesome as chocolate is (and we think it is really awesome), it is something that should probably be avoided at a dog friendly party. Chocolate does not do well with dogs and even the most conscientious of event goers may inadvertently leave something that is CLOSE enough to dog reach that a dog may grab it and scarf it down before anyone can stop them. We don't blame them, chocolate is tasty.
Still, it's best to keep these things from happening so plan to switch to other sweet flavors if you're looking for a dessert. If you are really wanting that chocolate flavor, check out carob which tastes very similar to chocolate and is very dog friendly.
If you're doing a pet focused event, please avoid these. They can be perceived as a fun treat, but bones (even synthetic) can break down into small parts and cause choking and suffocation. There are a variety of other great treats you can give to dogs that won't cause any of the other problems you'd see here. If you plan on having food at your event that will have bones, ask your attendees to throw them away rather than give them to their pets - or someone else's.
THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
If you have dogs and kids interacting, it is good to provide a space where kids can be without dogs and dogs can be without kids. That gives both of them a chance to relax on their own if necessary.
Not all dogs are good with a bunch of off-leashed dogs running up at them. Make sure you let people know ahead of time if you plan to let dogs off leash to run around. And while most people would only think to bring a dog-friendly dog with them, it’s never bad to remind people on your event invite information to make sure that the dog is good with others.
Dog-friendly events are a great event idea and are a lot of fun. It just takes a little extra pre-planning to ensure that your event goes great for you and your canine companions.