It’s that time of year when every week seems to be crammed with special events and festivals luring us off the couch and out into the sunshine. Naturally those of us with dogs are not going to want to leave them home alone from now until the summer heat takes over, but there are a few points to keep in mind before you leash up Lucky and head to the block party.
First, if your dog has been a homebody up until now, you need to think about some socialization exercises and a little basic obedience so the situation is fun for everyone. Make sure your dog is comfortable with crowds by taking him for walks at busy times in the park, past schoolyards, and try an outdoor café a few times, giving him plenty of treats for experiencing new and possibly daunting sights and sounds. If he ever displays discomfort with crouching, growling, stiffness, or lunging at the leash and won’t take food anymore, give him some distance from the scary stuff and build up to the crowds gradually.
Next, practice some easy attention games and leash manners. It’s important for festival-going dogs to be on a regular leash, not one that retracts, so the greatest distance the dog can be from you is 6 feet with plenty of control on your end. To help with leash walking, I recommend the simple and efficient Name Game. Start at home just saying your dog’s name when he’s not paying attention to you, and the second he gives you eye contact, say Yes! and give him a treat. Once he’s good at this in the house, take it to the street on walks. Try to get his attention randomly, especially when he’s really interested in something else. You want a dog that whips his head around to look at you when he hears his name. Another great tool is the Down-Stay. Think of how many undesirable behaviors your dog can’t do if he stays lying down at your feet!
Finally, it’s important to know which festivals and events are dog friendly. Rules aren’t as specific as they are during Mardi Gras, but it’s still a good idea to keep pet dogs 200 feet away from the St. Patrick’s Day, Super Sunday and Easter parades. Pets are discouraged from attending French Quarter Fest completely per their website, and dogs at Wednesdays at the Square need to be kept on a leash with a maximum length of 6 feet, according to www.ylcnola.org. Some definite pup appropriate events are Brunch Fest hosted by The Louisiana SPCA, Bayou Boogaloo, and the food and music festivals held in Armstrong Park.
Make sure you bring your dog’s favorite treats, carry plenty of water, watch out for hot pavement, and have a great festival season!