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With fall comes football, and with football comes tailgating. Gathering with friends to cheer on your team is a blast, and tailgating can be even more fun with your furry, four-legged pals.

If you plan on including your dog in tailgating activities, there are a few important tips you should be mindful of to make sure your pup is having as much fun as you are, and, more importantly, staying safe.

1. Before taking them tailgating, make sure your dog is good with crowds.

It should go without saying, but not all dogs are suited for rowdy tailgates filled with people. Strong foundational behavior training, like the AKC Canine Good Citizen program, is a good place to start. For a more specialized skill set, consider the Urban Canine Good Citizen test, which prepares pups for handling more strenuous settings.

2. Check to see if the venue is dog-friendly.

Before setting out for the day to prep for a pet-friendly tailgate, confirm whether dogs are even allowed at the venue. Some venues simply don’t allow dogs, and having to bring your pup back home would be a bummer for any tailgater.

3. Make sure the weather is suitable for dogs.

Once you know your dog is ready for the tailgate, check out the forecast for game day. Will your dog be safe and comfortable? If it’s too hot, your dog could overheat, and colder temperatures aren’t ideal either. If inclement weather is expected, make sure you bring proper rain gear for your dog.

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4. Bring dog food, water, and bowls.

Before heading out, make sure you have all the food ready — especially your dog’s food and water. Your dog shouldn’t be eating human food like buffalo wings or ribs, which aren’t safe for dogs. So, it’s important you’re stocked with proper food and water for your pup, plus bowls for them to use. For hot days, consider bringing frozen treats, ice, and cold water. If it’s especially sunny, make sure you find plenty of shade for your pup.

5. Pack supplies to keep your pup comfortable.

In addition to food and water, make sure you bring other supplies such as a blanket or travel bed, so your dog can be comfortable throughout the day. It’s also a smart idea to pack a couple of toys to keep them entertained.  If it’s going to be a warm day, bring things to keep your dog cool, such as dog cooling vests or even a small doggie pool.

6. Keep your dog on a leash.

It’s always a good idea to keep your dog on a leash in a busy place like a tailgate. Your dog should also have up-to-date tags in case they get away and find another group to tailgate with. Even with the most well-behaved dog, you can’t guarantee that other dogs, intoxicated people, or children will behave as well.

While you may consider a crate to contain your dog if need be, you should never lock your dog in a car. A hot car can quickly lead to heatstroke.

7. Steer your dog away from loud or obnoxious people.

With all the drinking, cheering, and rowdiness, tailgates tend to attract some boisterous people. It’s best practice to keep your dog away from people who may be drunk, loud, or disrespectful to your dog. It can be easy for a dog to become overwhelmed if strangers aren’t respecting their space.

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8. Keep an eye on your dog at all times.

Not every dog will enjoy tailgating. With so much commotion, it can be overwhelming, and dog owners should keep an eye on their dogs throughout the day. Body language cues such as hair standing up, ears back, panting, or shaking can indicate that they’re unhappy, agitated, or overwhelmed.

9. Remove your dog from overwhelming situations.

If you’re keeping an eye out for cues and you’re dog seems uncomfortable or overwhelmed, you should remove them from the situation. They may just need to go on a walk or be temporarily removed from the area, but if they’re seriously stressed out — you may want to consider heading home to drop your dog off.

10. Always clean up after your dog.

Don’t forget to bring pet waste bags with you to tailgate. Tailgating etiquette dictates to clean up your area before heading in for the game or heading home, but it’s especially important to clean up after your dog, especially if you plan on bringing them back for your next tailgating adventure.

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Canine Good Citizen (CGC)

This program is recognized as the gold standard for dog behavior. In CGC, dogs who pass the 10 step CGC test can earn a certificate and/or the official AKC CGC title.
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