Ah, summer.  It’s that time of year when people are heading for anything outdoors.  Whether it’s a festival, triathlon race, park, or farmers’ market, people just want to be outside.  And many people who love their pets don’t want to leave them at home.  But is it really a good idea and in everyone’s best interest to take your dog to an event?  There are certain factors you need to consider before making this decision and then ways to make sure everyone stays safe and happy.

Challenge Quassy Triathlon

Dogs as trisupporters at a triathlon. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

Now, just to clarify, you won’t find many bigger dog lovers than me and I have two of my own.  I’m just not sure I would haul them along to an outdoor event like one of my husband’s triathlons.  I’ve seen enough dogs at these races panting and looking very stressed to wonder if it’s where they belong and in THEIR best interest.

So, I started to think about what people need to consider when making this decision and then came up with some tips to keep everyone, human and canine, happy and safe, should you opt to bring Rover.  Most are just common sense, so it’s imperative that you remember to use it!

What to Consider

First off, you need to know your dog’s temperament in ALL situations.  If you don’t, it’s probably best to leave them at home.  There will most likely be a lot of people around of all ages, other dogs, it could be crowded and noisy, and even very hot.  You should know how your pet will react in these situations to avoid any issues and then ask yourself if it will be more comfortable at the event or at home.

Puppy pictures

This 4 month old puppy is best left at home. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

I’m sure your dog is just adorable, but please remember that not everyone shares your sentiment.  There are people who are genuinely afraid of dogs and others who have allergies and you probably won’t know who they are until it’s too late. Remember that these events are for everyone’s enjoyment.

The age of your pet is very important.  It’s probably best to leave puppies under 6 months – older if they are still rambunctious and not fully trained – and elderly dogs at home.

Is your dog trained in leash walking, basic commands, and not jumping on people?  Commands such as heel, stay, off (a biggie at an event), and NO are vital.

It may not be best to use this as an opportunity to socialize your pet as depending on the size of the event, it could be too overwhelming.  Save the socialization for a more controlled environment.

Think about the weather.  Is it too hot, too cold, raining?  Can you safely hold an umbrella and leash at the same time? Seriously.

For athletic events, such as triathlons and marathons, consider the race distance.  Sprints and Olympics are short, so should not be as much of an issue, but full distance races make for a VERY long day for everyone.  And remember, that not all races go off as planned.  There can be equipment and medical issues with your athlete that will require your attention. How will you handle your pet while you are attending to other issues?

Tips For Bringing Your Dog To An Event

DO NOT leave a dog in the car even with the windows open.  It doesn’t take long for a car to eat up to 120 + degrees when the outdoor temp is only in the 80’s.  Doing so has the potential to end in disaster.  This rule should be abided by even when you’re just running errands in warmer weather months.

Dog accessories for travel

Items to have for your dog. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

Make sure your dog has a collar on with ID tags in the event you get separated.  I can’t stress this enough.  If they are chipped, all the better.

Your leash-trained dog SHOULD NOT BE ON A RETRACTABLE LEASH.  You need to keep your pet next to you on a short leash for better control.  And please never let them go off leash.  Even the best trained dog may go AWOL with unexpected noises.

Pack a bag just for your dog.  Include doggie waste bags, a container for water – you can buy a collapsible, travel bowl – some treats, chew toys, and play toys.  Consider bringing an umbrella for shade in case you can’t find any.

Pay attention to the environment around you and don’t let your pet get into trash thrown on the ground.

Pay attention to how your dog is reacting and watch for signs of stress.  Be prepared to leave early if need be or at minimum, get them out of the situation.

Only let an adult handle the pet and not children, especially young children.  If a situation arises, an adult would be better prepared to deal with the issue.

Traveling with dogs

Best to have an adult be the handler of your pet. Photo credit Sherry Wernicke, Triathlon Traveling Mom.

There is always the chance that an emergency could happen.  Most events are on weekends and most vet offices will be closed. So, here’s what you need to do to be prepared.

  • Check ahead for the location and phone number of an emergency vet’s office in the area.
  • Keep a Pet First Aid Kit in your car.  I keep a kit just for these situations and should I come across a stray or injured animal when I’m driving.  Best to be prepared rather than scrambling in an emergency.  You can buy these from many places, including the ASPCA.   The Humane Society of the United States has a list of items you should stock if you want to make a kit yourself.
  • Download the Pet First Aid App from the American Red Cross to your phone.

Check for restaurants in the area that allow pets or have an outside patio, especially if you’re at a full distance race or will be gone much of the day.

You need to be an advocate for your dog, which means not letting people, especially children do them harm.  You have chosen to bring them, so it is your responsible to maintain their safety.


Sometimes your pet is more comfortable staying home. Photo credit Dana Zucker, Triathlon Traveling mom.

The most important point in bringing your dog to an event is that you can keep both your dog and the humans they may interact with happy AND safe.  Hopefully, armed with these considerations and tips, you will make an informed decision on whether it’s the best idea to bring your dog along or let them relax at home.