Taking your dog to one of the big country fairs across the country this summer can be a joy — but it can also be overwhelming for your canine companion. Ben Randall shares his tips on how to handle it.
With the summer country show and fair season upon us — including this weekend’s Game Fair at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire, which is attended by more 100,000 people over the course of three days — it can seem like a great idea to take your dogs along to enjoy a grand day out together, not to mention a host of activities on offer, from gundog scurries to agility competitions and fun ‘best pet’ classes.
This is exactly the scenario that C.P., who has written to us
via our email@example.com email address, is imagining, as she’d like to take her young labrador to some events this summer. She is, however, asking Ben for some advice on the best way to do this, particularly as her dog has not previously experienced such a busy and potentially noisy environment.
I have a six-month-old Labrador puppy, should I be taking it to the Game Fair and any other country fairs this summer/autumn? I can’t decide whether or not it’s a good idea, especially as Barney hasn’t experienced crowds or large numbers of people in one place.
What do you think, should I go for it? I’d really appreciate any advice you can give me. Thank you.
C.P. via email
Whenever I am faced with this question, the first thing that I ask myself — or my training or boarding kennel clients — is whether I or they have looked at the weather forecast for the day that I, or my clients and their dogs, want to attend a show.
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If it looks as though it’s going to be exceptionally hot, I always try not to take my dogs to an event if I can possibly avoid it. However, as we all live in the UK, we know this is rarely the case!
I’ve been perfecting my BG (Beggarbush) foundation methods for nearly 20 years and understand that even experienced dog owners come up against issues that they are not sure how to handle. However, this question is easy. If the weather is appropriate and your dog is happy in a variety of different, distraction-filled situations: go for it! You can learn more via @beggarbush on Instagram and my dog-training app (this link will let you get a free trial) or ask me your own question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben’s top six tips for taking your dog to a bustling country show or fair:
1. Check the weather is not going to be overly hot or humid
Yes, I know that the forecast isn’t always accurate, but, by the morning of the event, you should know what the temperature is likely to be and whether or not it is wise to take your dog along, too.
2. Is your dog well trained and responsive in busy places?
Be honest with yourself and consider whether or not your pooch is well behaved and calm, both at home and in local parks and out on walks.
For example, will he or she walk quietly to heel on the lead — if Barney can’t do this, don’t take him, as it’ll be no fun for either of you — when faced with myriad distractions — whether that’s other people, screaming and excited children and boisterous dogs — and capable of sitting and patiently watching and waiting for long periods of time? In addition, as your Labrador is still relatively young, you need to ponder whether or not Barney is mentally old and mature enough to cope with a long, busy and potentially boring (for him) day at a public event where there’s bound to be loud music, tannoy announcements and bangs from the clay-shooting area.
4. Stay connected with your dog throughout the day
If I do take any of my dogs to an event, I like to stay to try to stay connected with them throughout the day. To that end, I always carry some water and a pocketful of their regular food (an all in one kibble) and, every so often, I reward them with a piece of kibble after a period of good behaviour. For example, this could be walking past a large group of dogs or people and staying connected and focused on me. When this happens, I always make sure to stop and quietly stroke my dog’s head or ears and give them a piece of kibble, so they know they have done the right thing and will remember it as a positive experience.
In addition, doing this every so often throughout the day helps to ensure that your dog is not completely fixated on you the whole time, but encourages him or her to be more chilled and relaxed for longer periods.
5. If the weather changes, find some shade or go home!
If the weather changes and becomes extremely hot and humid while you are there, seek out the shaded areas, tents and dog water stations and make good use of them. In addition, some of the bigger shows (such as The Game Fair) offer a dedicated dog crèche, which can be a great option for later in the day.
I hope this goes without having to say it, but I will anyway: do NOT — under any circumstances — ever leave your dog in your car.
6. Make the most of a great training opportunity
Finally, providing you keep a careful eye on your dog throughout the day, taking him or her to a fair can be a positive and rewarding experience. It’s also a wonderful training opportunity that will ultimately help your canine companion grow into a mature and happy dog that’s content in lots of lively and highly distracting places.
For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit www.ledburylodgekennels.co.uk. For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit www.gundog.app/trial
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