Visiting a Pet Expo with Your Dog

As much as we love traveling with our dogs, we have to admit that winter weather makes it more challenging, even when it comes to day trips. Along with the coats and cold weather gear for our dogs, and ourselves there’s also the matter of dining out. When frigid temperatures mean that patio dining and picnicking are out, that spells lunch in the car.

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But indoor fun can be a great way to enjoy some day trip travel even on the frostiest days, including a trip to your local pet expo. These special events, which take place around the country, are packed with pet parents (and potential pet parents) who come to enjoy a day of shopping, entertainment, and pet adoption. The largest expo company, Amazing Pet Expos, has free dog-friendly events in 39 cities.

If you’ll be taking your dog to a pet expo or indoor event this winter, take a few moments to gather your information and make your plans before the show:

Ask yourself if your dog will enjoy the show. Let’s be honest: some dogs will not like indoor expos, either because of the numerous dogs, many people, or the sound of a loudspeaker. If your dog would be uncomfortable with any of these potential issues, leave your dog at home for a good nap and enjoy the show without him. You’ll have plenty of chances to buy him a chew or toy to make it up to him.

Pack your dog’s immunization records. Most expo companies, like Amazing Pet Expos, just allow you to bring proof of immunizations the day of the expo; a few festivals and special events require you to fax proof in advance of the show. Do a little pre-trip research and see what proof you need to bring (generally just proof of rabies in the form of a current rabies tag, rabies certificate from your veterinarian, or adoption papers showing your dog’s immunizations.)

Pack a fixed leash. In the crowded aisles of a pet expo, a fixed leash is a necessity and a requirement at most shows. Retractable leashes aren’t appropriate and present a risk to other dogs and people as well as the many exhibits.

Packing for Adoption. If you think you might like to add to your furry family at an expo or festival, be sure to pack for that possibility as well. Some rescues will not adopt on the spot but will take your application; others, especially shelters, will adopt at the event so you’ll need a collar, leash, or carrier. (If you don’t bring them, you ‘ll generally find plenty of vendors with items for sale nearby.) Just as if you were adopting at a shelter, you’ll need to complete paperwork including veterinary references if you have other animals, information on your home or on your landlord, if you’re renting,

Pack a Stroller. In the crowded conditions of many expos, some pet parents choose to use a dog stroller (or convert a baby stroller), especially for very small or elderly dogs.

Pack for Poop. We all know poop happens, so pack accordingly.

Pack a Bowl. Festivals and expos generally have public water bowls for attendees but it’s more sanitary to pack your own popup silicone dog bowl.

Arrive early. Usually the early hours (and late hours) of most shows are the least busy. If your dogs (or you) don’t like crowds, plan for those times.

Expos and indoor festivals can be a great way to prevent cabin fever in you and your dog this winter. With a little pre-trip preparation, the event, like any good trip, can create memories you’ll always treasure..

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta is a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine Dog News. She's also the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com Award winner for 2013. In addition, she's written Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

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