Well … maybe you can. Maybe you have a bombproof dog who loves everyone and likes nothing more than all the busyness, noise, and goings-on at your local summer fete.
Then again, maybe your dog is like most dogs, and finds traipsing round a hot and busy fairground, on a short lead, with children screaming, people laughing, smells of burgers, spilt chips in the grass you won’t let him eat, loudspeakers blaring - a complete nightmare.
You can’t put him back in the car as it’s way too hot. So your unhappy dog is stuck with this for as long as you choose to stay at the event. Hot, bothered, fed up.
Now this is where you’ll send me a photo of your dog on your last outing, quietly standing beside you. All the more surprising to you because your dog is usually wary of strangers and other dogs, and seemed to be “absolutely fine” in the midst of thousands of them.
“He’s fine!” you’ll assure me.
But it’s very likely that this change in behaviour was not down to him “being fine”, rather that he’s “shut down”. This is a coping mechanism we all employ when overwhelmed.
We become subdued, we stay quiet, make ourselves small. We hope not to be noticed, spoken to, or challenged.
It’s a form of learned helplessness.
We know that nothing we do will change the situation, so we give up. Surrender to our fate. But it doesn’t mean we’re enjoying it!
Your dog, as I so often say, is the exact same. He finds himself in a situation he can’t handle. With hundreds of people, children, dogs, in close proximity, he knows he can’t employ his usual methods of requesting space - barking, lunging, screaming, snarling - which work like a charm at removing the approaching thing from their path, or getting themselves removed by an embarrassed owner.
Watch and wait
Some dogs will be much happier out of the thick of things, on the sidelines where they can safely observe what’s in front of them without having to scan the full 360° (see there’s nothing behind this puppy in the picture - she only needs to check in front of her).
He will also appreciate you watching how he is (soft mouth, soft ears and shoulders, no gasping panting, head not dropped, no twitchiness or slinking about) and removing him from the situation after maybe as little as three minutes. And yes, you can’t plonk him in the hot car or you’ll have a worse problem! Take him home.
You may be surprised that even your very friendly dog finds a busy outing a bit too much. Continually being restrained from jumping all over a thousand new friends who must want to meet him, will wear him out!
If you’re planning on visiting a big event, put your dog in training for the occasion. You can start with a walk past the local shops, sitting at the other end of a school road at school-out time, a shopping centre car park on a quiet day, a busier day, a Saturday …
Don’t plunge him into a new and strange environment, which could cause him distress, without finding out beforehand how he’s going to manage.
Then you can amend your plans accordingly. We can enjoy our family outings, but we don’t necessarily need to take our dog.
Here are some more articles which will help you understand just what’s going on with your dog when you’re out and about:
Need more help understanding your Growly Dog? Get this free e-course
THIS FREE ECOURSE IS A BONUS FOR YOU WHEN YOU SIGN UP TO RECEIVE EDUCATIONAL EMAILS AND OCCASIONAL OFFERS FROM ME. YOU CAN UNSUBSCRIBE AT ANY TIME.