Agility Dog Desensitization or Over Stimulation

dogs at the open marketsFestivals, outdoor craft fairs, and farmers markets are fun to peruse day or night, for humans. With all the bright colors, loud noises, festivities and food who wouldn’t have a wonderful time? How about dogs? I have been to quite a few of these delightful events and love to sit down with my food and enjoy some people watching. Then I find myself dog watching instead.

I find myself wondering what my dogs would do at one of these high stimulation events. I love my dogs and love taking them with me when I go out, but I am not certain they would do well in this situation. Even though there are no “NO DOGS ALLOWED” signs these events are designed for people not pets. I do see some dogs oblivious to the sights and sounds, walking on a loose leash with calm eyes and happy tails. However, I tend to see more dogs showing huge signs of stress like panting, drooling, yelping, leash pulling and stiff tails. Not much fun is being had by man or beast.

I find myself wondering how many people take their dogs to festivals or open markets and if it a good idea. It seems that it could be a wonderful place for socialization, but I wanted to hear your thoughts. This is what a few of you had to say.

Annie Riecken

A lot of what I do with Chico is late-life socialization – he was a stressed, multi-rescue, 5 year old when he came to me – so we go places where there are other people and dogs. Once we had a chance to go to a small fair (Guliford, VT, a very nice fair BTW) and even though it was not especially crowded, we stayed to the side, I gave lots of cookies, and Chico managed
to stay calm, though he spent a lot of time pressed close to my side. I don’t think I’d ever take him to a crowded, big-city, street fair because there’s too much chance of getting stepped on (even though he’s 40 pounds and 20 inches at the shoulder) and besides, places like that make ME kind of want to lunge, haul on my leash, pant, drool, or yelp – how could I possibly help my dog manage the situation?

Mango Momma

In general, not fun. My lab is rather timid and I know that he would be overwhelmed at a festival. I recently went to one and was amazed at how calm most of the dogs were, but there were also several that I wish had stayed home as they were clearly stressed. The other problem at big public affairs is that so many people just don’t have good dog manners and will crowd strange dogs and/or allow their dogs to do the same thing.

Jan Burroughs

I sometimes take “one” of my dogs with me to the farmers market to practice socialization but when I do my focus is more on my dogs needs and behaviors rather than my having a good time. My dogs generally do well but I watch to make sure they have a good experience and do not get overwhelmed. If I am not able to focus on them then I feel it is better to leave them home.

What are your thoughts and experiences? Leave your comments below so others can learn more about this topic.