How to Survive Festival Season with Your Dog
For many of us, summertime means festival season. When the weather starts to get warmer, music fans prepare to trek all across the country to check out their favorite seasonal music events. But do their furry friends ever get to accompany them? We chatted with a group of festival organizers and pet travel experts to learn the do’s and don’ts of bringing your pup to a summer concert series.
Make Sure the Festival is Pet Friendly
Before attempting to bring your dog to a music festival, it’s crucial that you check the event website for its rules and regulations. If there isn’t a clear-cut dog policy spelled out online, it probably means that dogs are not allowed on the festival grounds. Most of the festivals that are pet-free won’t let you onto the camping grounds or through the gates with an animal in your car.
Large events, including Coachella, Stagecoach, Bonnaroo, Summerfest and Lollapalooza, do not allow dogs. These festivals can host upwards of 80,000 fans and simply do not have the means of regulating pets at their events. Exceptions, however, are often granted to people that require service dogs. If you plan on attending a festival under these circumstances, it’s important that you follow the service animal rules and get prior approval to bring your pet.
In most cases, service dogs must be registered ahead of time with the festival, have to remain leashed and by their handler’s side at all times, and are required to use the designated service animal relief area.
Etiquette for Pet-Friendly Fests
If you are allowed to bring your dog, here are some rules that festivals may ask you and your dog to follow:
- Make sure your dog is friendly: The festival organizers of Birmingham, Alabama’s annual Do Dah Day event have a policy that pets who attend the festival must be on their best behavior. According to Do Dah Day spokesperson Joyce Johnson, “if you have any reason to believe that your pet may be aggressive or difficult to control, please do not bring them to Do Dah Day. If your animal shows any potential for hostility toward people or other animals, you will be asked to remove the animal from the park.” The local police department also works closely with festival organizers to monitor the grounds for unruly animals. If your dog becomes loud or bothersome to concert patrons, festivals such as South Carolina’s Albino Skunk Music Festival will ask both you and your pup to leave the event.
- Respect the areas where dogs are not allowed: Some festivals, like Maine’s Ossipee Valley Music Fest, allow dogs in the campground area but not near the concert site. According to their official rules, dogs must be leashed and should remain out of the concert and vending areas. They can be walked around the perimeter of the campground, however, and are allowed to hop (on a leash) into a nearby swimming hole to cool off if they are warm.
- Keep your dog on leash: The Catfish Music Fest in Wisconsin requires dogs to be kept on leash at all times (like many festivals that allow dogs). The Catfish Music Fest also mandates that dogs attending be licensed.
- Clean up after your dog: This is an absolutely essential rule for music festivals, such as Richmond, Virginia’s Dominion Riverrock Fest.
Dog Festival Safety Tips
Once you determine that you are indeed able to bring your dog to the festival of your choice, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Make sure your dog can handle it: According to Amy Burkert, founder of pet travel website Go Pet Friendly, the first rule of safety for bringing your pet to a festival is to consider your pet’s personality. “It takes a special dog to enjoy an outdoor concert or music festival. Is he comfortable around crowds? Does he have good manners so he won’t be jumping up on people or absconding with their snacks? Is he well behaved around other dogs? All of these things are important factors to ensure you, your pup and everyone else at the event has a good time,” she says.
- Ask others about their experiences: Judy Connor, a festival organizer for San Jose, California’s Bark in the Park, the largest dog festival in the United States, suggests doing some research prior to bringing your dog to a festival. “Ask others individuals who have attended the event via social media about their experiences with taking their dog to that particular event,” she says.
- Update your dog’s ID tag: Proper and updated identification is essential for safety and peace of mind. Make sure your dog’s tag has your cell phone number on it. “If you get separated, this will ensure that you can be reunited quickly,” Burkert says.
- Provide potty breaks: According to travel expert Susan Smith of PetTravel.com, walk your dog in a quiet place ahead of time. “Pets behave better when there are fewer distractions and less people. Once distracted, your dog will not think about doing its business until nature takes its course and, in that case, it could be right where everyone is,” she says.
- Keep an eye on your pet at all times: “Watch your pet carefully when lots of people are around,” Smith says. “Some pets may not be as social in those situations as you would expect. Unless your pet is very accustomed to being petted by strangers, best to stay in the fringes of the crowd.”
- Practice sun protection: Use pet-approved sunscreen products and, when possible, keep your pet in the shade. It’s also important to avoid letting your dog overheat. According to petMD, signs your pup may be overheating include: disorientation, noisy breathing, bright or blue gums, vomiting, and diarrhea. Give your dog frequent access to fresh water to help prevent this.
- Pack for pet comfort: Burkert suggests taking a blanket or towel for your pet to lay on and a few dog treats or quiet toys to keep him occupied during the show. “Also be sure to pack his bowl and plenty of water, pet-appropriate insect repellant and sunscreen, some paper towels for muddy paws or other messes and waste bags to clean up after your pal,” she says.
- Travel to and from the festival safely: The most critical part of any outing with your pet is making sure that you come home safely. “So in the car, use either a car safety harness or secured carrier to protect your pet in case of an accident,” Smith says.
Boarding Your Pup on the Road
If you can’t take your pet to an actual festival but can’t bear the thought of leaving them at home, here are some suggestions on how to travel with them:
Find a pet-friendly hotel nearby: Use websites like Bring Fido to check out reviews of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations.
Find a doggy daycare in the area: Consider using a daycare facility if you only plan to be away during the day. Do your research ahead of time to find a reputable and highly reviewed location, Smith says, recommending that pet owners arrive early and, if possible, to check out the facilities in person before committing to dropping your pet off there for an entire day. That allows you time to make different arrangements, should you not be satisfied with a pet boarding center.
Dog Friendly Music Festivals
While dogs are generally unable to attend large music festivals, some of the smaller and more regional fests make an exception. Here are a few festivals that are dog friendly:
- Albino Skunk Music Festival, Greer, SC
- Do Dah Day, Birmingham, AL
- West Fest, Chicago, IL
- Dog Day Fest, Nashville, TN
- Woofstock Dog Festival, Roanoke, VA
- Bark in the Park, San Jose, CA
- Somerville Dog Festival, Somerville, MA
- Backwoods Pond Fest, Plattsburg, NY
- Animal Palooza, Evansville, IN
- Ossipee Valley Music Festival, Hiram, ME
- Catfish River Music Festival, Stoughton, WI
- Dominion Riverrock, Richmond, VA
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles with her husband, energetic Doberman, and rat terrier.