Outdoor festival season has officially kicked off; and for many of us, that means packing up the car with all the summer roadtrip essentials (including your pup's favorite summer 'fits!) and trekking to our favorite fest to bask in the sun, sip on an ice-cold bevvy, and maybe even catch a live band or two. And while large music festivals, like Coachella, Stagecoach, Bonnaroo, Summerfest and Lollapalooza, don’t allow dogs, some local festivals, including music festivals, do–and even encourage your furry friends to come along. 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 outdoor festivals, like summer concerts.
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. 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 who 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 Dog-Friendly Fests
Make sure your dog is well-behaved in crowds.
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.
“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,” says Do Dah Day spokesperson Joyce Johnson. “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. You’d be better off to have left Fido behind in that case—being expelled from a festival is a vibe-killer.
Respect the areas where dogs are not allowed.
Some festivals allow dogs in the campground area but not near the concert site. Dogs must also 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.
West Fest in Chicago requires dogs to be kept on leash at all times (like many festivals that allow dogs)—unless, of course, they’ve ventured into Pet Fest, an entire section of the festival dedicated to dogs, where they can run the agility course, get artsy at the paw painting booth and more.
Clean up after your dog.
This is just plain Pet Parent Etiquette 101. Keep those poop bags handy. No one wants to be dancing barefoot and step in a pile of dog poo.
Dog Festival Safety Tips
Make sure your dog can handle it.
The first rule of safety for bringing your pet to a festival is to consider your pet’s personality,” says Amy Burkert, founder of pet travel website Go Pet Friendly.
- Burkert recommends asking yourself these questions to ensure you, your pup and everyone else at the event has a good time:
- Is your dog comfortable around crowds?
- Do they have good manners and won’t jump up on people or steal their snacks?
- Are they well-behaved around other dogs?
It takes a special dog to enjoy an outdoor concert or music festival,” she says. “All of these things are important factors to ensure you, your pup and everyone else at the event has a good time.”
Do your research.
Judy Conner, volunteer publicist 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. Not only does it help to know ahead of time if the festival provides certain amenities such as dog relief stations or access to water, but past attendees can also give you the 411 on the experience itself, that the website wouldn’t necessarily list–like if the festival is just too crowded for dogs.
“Ask other individuals who have attended the event via social media about their experiences with taking their dog to that particular event,” Conner says.
Update your dog’s ID tag.
Proper and updated identification is essential for safety and peace of mind. Make sure your dog’s ID tag has your cell phone number on it.
“If you get separated, this will ensure that you can be reunited quickly,” Burkert says.
Provide private potty breaks.
Travel expert Susan H. Smith, president and CEO of Pet Travel Inc., recommends walking 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.
You might think this goes without saying, but trust us, with everything else going on, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and let you helicopter pet parent senses slip a bit.
“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.
“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.
It is also important to review CDC guidelines before traveling to an event for your safety and the safety of those around you.
Boarding Your Pup on the Road
Find a pet-friendly hotel nearby.
Use websites like BringFido to check out reviews of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations.
Other services such as the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters can pair you with reputable pet sitters to watch your dog while you are out enjoying your favorite bands.
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 parents arrive early and, if possible, 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.
While dogs are generally unable to attend large music festivals, some of the smaller and more regional fests that welcome pets include:
Albino Skunk Music Festival, Greer, SC
Bark in the Park, San Jose, CA
Bound Brook Food Truck & Music Fest, Bound Brook, NJ
Branchburg Food Truck & Music Festival, Branchburg, NJ
Bridgewater Food Truck & Music Fest, Bridgewater, NJ
Carabelle Riverfront Festival, Carrabelle, FL
Catfish River Music Festival, Stoughton, WI
Chester Food Truck & Music Festival, Chester, NJ
Craft Beer, Music and Crab Festival, Cape May, NJ
Do Dah Day, Birmingham, AL
Dog Day, Nashville, TN
Dominion Energy Riverrock Festival, Richmond, VA
Linden Hills Woofstock, Minneapolis, MN
Lowcountry Dog Woofstock, Hanahan Amphitheater, SC
Newburgh Illuminated Festival, Newburgh, NY
Ormond Beach Celtic Festival, Ormand Beach, FL
Paramus Food Truck Festival, Paramus, NJ
Petapalooza, Summerdale, PA
Pet-A-Palooza, Scottsdale, AZ
Poochella Pet & Family Festival, Melbourne, FL
Somerville Dog Festival, Somerville, MA
West Fest Chicago, Chicago, IL
Woofstock, Westminster, MD
Woofstock, Chandler, AZ
While it's obviously important to have fun at any festival you and your pup may attend this summer, be sure to also keep these tips and etiquette in mind. Your dog (and fellow festival-goers!) will thank you!