Dogs are natural athletes and love spending time with their favorite humans. Therefore, it only makes sense for your canine companion to share your enthusiasm for football in ways that go beyond watching games on the couch. There are safe and fun ways that dogs can participate in viewing parties and tailgating. However, you have to be smart about it and plan ahead of time to make sure that your dog has as much fun as you do.
Tips for Tailgating
One of the most important tips for tailgating with your dog is also one of the most easily overlooked: Make sure dogs are allowed at the location. Don't assume that just because tailgating takes place outside that dogs are welcome. Check with the venue beforehand because some have special areas specifically for people with dogs.
Football is a fall sport, meaning that the weather can be completely unpredictable. Game day may be sunny and hot or frigid and wet. Dogs are as susceptible to hot and cold temperatures as human beings are. You should know what the weather is likely to do ahead of time so you can prepare your dog for the elements. If the weather is expected to be cold or wet, a dog-sized hoodie , canine puffer vest , or knit hat branded with your team logo may help keep her warm and dry while looking absolutely adorable. However, if the weather is warm, they may cause her to overheat. If the game day is sunny, you can still dress up your dog, but choose something lighter and cooler, such as a jersey modeled after a specific player's or a bandana collar slider.
Regardless of the weather, your dog should have access to plenty of fresh water so he doesn't get dehydrated. If tailgating is going to overlap with his usual mealtimes, which is likely as it is typically an all-day event, bring his regular food from home along as well. Keep him away from unsafe foods by bringing treats with which to distract him. Anticipate his other needs as well by bringing a pooper scooper and plastic bags so you can clean up after him as needed. A stadium tote allows you to bring all your dog's gear and keep it organized.
In the interest of your dog's safety, as well as the other people around you, keep her on a leash or other appropriate restraint at all times. Furthermore, plan ahead for when the party is over. Over the course of a day spent outside, even well-behaved dogs may get dirty. Because you probably won't have either the time or opportunity to give her a bath before you head home, have a car seat cover to protect your vehicle's interior.
Tips for Holding a Home Viewing Party
You may prefer to watch the game with friends in the comfort of your own home. Your dog may feel more comfortable in a familiar setting as well, especially if the guests are people who are known to him. Nevertheless, you still have to consider your dog in your preparations when you are holding a home viewing party.
Whether tailgating or hosting a party at home, you should always keep your dog away from foods that are unsafe for her. These include foods that are high in fat and sodium, such as meatballs, chips, and dip, as well as foods that contain garlic, onions, or peppers, such as chili, guacamole, or nachos. However, it is possible for your dog to share in some of your snacks. Dogs can eat cooked, unseasoned meat, such as boneless chicken and pulled pork, as well as plain popcorn (i.e., no butter, salt, or toppings) and raw vegetables. Strategically feeding your pup high quality dog treats such as these can help keep her out of the other snacks, but don't feed her too much between meals.
Not all dogs feel comfortable in crowds. If your dog is anxious or excitable, you may want to limit the number of guests you invite to your party to a small handful. If your dog is reserved, he should have a safe, quiet place where he can retreat if the party gets to be too much for him. On the other hand, if your dog has a tendency to get too rambunctious, you should have snacks or toys on hand with which to redirect him if needed.
Perhaps most importantly, don't force your dog into a situation that you know is going to be uncomfortable for her. If she dislikes strangers or loud noises, don't force her to stay in a room with 20 of your cheering friends. If she's okay with noise but doesn't want to be the center of attention, allow her to retreat to the corner of her choosing to observe the festivities from a respectful distance. If she doesn't like to wear clothes, don't try to put her in a jersey. She can still participate in fandom in a more subtle way. Get a charm featuring your team's logo and attach it to her collar. She'll be showing her team spirit in a classy, understated way that is no more disruptive to her than her usual dog tags.
Dogs under stress can react in unpredictable ways. It is for everyone's safety and comfort that you choose to share football season with your dog in ways that are appropriate for him. If there is any doubt about his behavior, leave him at home or in a safe place in the house, such as his kennel.