John Garey didn’t even take his dog, Chief, to a protest.
But in June, protests were happening outside Garey’s Milwaukee home, so when he needed to take Chief, a 14-year-old German Shepherd mix, for a walk, they went out the back door. When Garey saw someone driving recklessly, he yelled at the driver, and that’s when things took a terrifying turn.
“Got out of his car and put his arm on top of the car and shot twice at me and one of the shots hit my dog,” Garey told reporters at his local Fox affiliate. Despite rushing Chief to an emergency vet, it was too late for him to be saved.
“I never imagined anything like that,” Garey said. “The whole thing took two seconds and it wasn’t like television, it was surreal.”
Even though Garey didn’t take Chief to attend the protests outside their home, his story is a heartbreaking cautionary tale about why protests are no place for a dog.
If you’re thinking about taking your dog with you to a protest, don’t. There are many reasons why that’s no environment for your best friend — the best case is that it could be an uncomfortable, scary environment for them, and the worst case is that it could be dangerous.
A Protest Is No Place for a Dog
Most dog lovers already know that our pups are pack animals, and they love being with their humans. But there are times when leaving them at home is just the safer, kinder option. When you’re going out to protest is one of those times.
In 2020, headlines across the nation highlight what’s probably the best reason you should think twice before bringing your dog to a protest: They can be dangerous.
This year’s political climate and mounting racial tensions have led to protests all across the country where demonstrators have clashed with counter-protestors, police, and the public. In some cases, violent crowd-control measures, like tear gas and flash-bang explosions, have been deployed. In other cases, businesses have been vandalized and looted. Even when protesters are largely peaceful, there may be a few who aren’t — it’s just not something you can control. And putting your dog in a situation like that, where violence may escalate outside of your control, isn’t fair to him or her.
Those concerns might feel overly cautious, especially if you’re only planning on attending a small, local protest. But there are a number of reasons even a peaceful protest might not be the best environment for your pup.
Dogs Have Sensitive Ears
Dogs’ ears are much more sensitive to loud noises than ours. Even without flash-bang explosives, cheering, chanting, and other noises at protest sites could overwhelm your pup’s sensitive hearing. This can cause dogs physical discomfort, and can also scare them, depending on how loud the crowds get and how used to that kind of environment your dog is.
You Never Know What May Be on the Ground
Dogs also have very sensitive noses, which means they’re likely to sniff out all kinds of things that could be on the ground at a protest. This may be just dropped food and beverages that could contain ingredients that are harmful to your pet. Or they could be items that are actually dangerous for your dog to sniff, pick up, or eat. In a crowd, it can be difficult to keep track of what your dog is finding on the ground, making this more of a concern at an event like a protest than it would be on a walk.
What If Your Dog Needs to Potty?
When you’re out for a walk with your dog, it’s usually pretty easy to find a place where he or she can “politely” potty — that is, where your pup can do their business away from people, and where you can easily pick it up to properly dispose of it. But in a crowd, that’s harder for your dog to find.
Scared Dogs Are More Likely to Run Away
All these factors can make for a scary environment for your dog, and a scared dog is more likely to try to get away from the situation by running away from you. The risk of losing your pet during a protest is higher than in many other scenarios and activities, and that’s not something any pet owner should take lightly.
How to Safely Attend Public Events With Your Dog
So you probably should skip taking your dog to any protests. But what about other public events? Depending on what they are and where they’re taking place, it might be OK to take your dog — and long as he or she is trained to handle that kind of environment.
It’s best to train a dog from puppyhood to be comfortable in crowds and at events. But if a dog’s temperament is more important than their age in this case. Here are some good tips for anyone who wants to take a pet along with them to public events.
Make Sure the Event Is Dog Friendly
Some public events don’t allow dogs to begin with. Look into this ahead of time, and make sure your furry friend will be welcome.
Desensitize Your Dog to Noises and Crowds
First things first: Your dog needs to be comfortable around lots of strangers and potentially lots of noise. This is the best way to prevent your dog from getting scared at an event and trying to get away.
You can achieve this by introducing your dog to lots of different people and animals, making sure he or she is comfortable and polite while meeting new friends.
While at the event, look for ways you can reduce the amount of noise your pet is exposed to. Stand far back from any speakers. Look for quiet, shady areas to hang out where your dog can lay down and rest comfortably. And if you won’t be able to stay away from loud noises, consider something like noise-reduction headphones made for dogs.
Prepare for Hot Weather
Many dog-friendly festivals, farmer’s markets, and other public events take place in the summer, which is why it’s important to make sure you have everything you need to keep your dog comfortable in hot weather.
This means frequently seeking out shade where your dog can rest out of the sun. You also need to bring water and a bowl your dog can drink out of. If the event is taking place on concrete, asphalt, or another surface that may get hot, think about your pet’s feet and how you can protect them — either with booties, or by staying on grass.
Always Use a Secure Leash
This is true for any time you take your dog outside, but especially at an event that may be crowded: Make sure you have a secure leash system for your pet. There are many types of collars and harnesses to choose from, so take the time to find the right system for your pet’s needs.
Don’t Plan to Stay Very Long
While a dog with the right temperament and training might enjoy going to a bustling summer event, keep in mind that dogs don’t usually have the same amount of patience and endurance that we do. All the new sights, sounds, and smells are likely to tire your dog out, and they’ll appreciate leaving early so they can head home for a nap.