How to take a dog to a country fair without it getting overexcited by the crowds and noise, by expert trainer Ben Randall

It's the time of year to enjoy the weather and the wonderful events happening around the country, but going to those places isn't always easy with a four-legged friend in tow. Here's how to take a dog to a country fair without it getting wildly overexcited.

One of the great joys of summer as a dog owner is getting out and about to the big fairs, festivals and agricultural shows up and down the country. Or at least that’s the case when your dog is so well trained that you can pretty much take it anywhere. Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone, and this week’s reader emailed me at to ask for some help.

Hi Ben, I was really looking forward to taking my dog to our local country fair last weekend — but it turned into a bit of a nightmare. He got totally overwhelmed very early on, never seemed to get used to the crowds and noise, and caused absolute chaos on the agility course. Where did I go wrong, and what should I do next time? — BF, Norfolk

First things first: if you are contemplating taking your dog to a busy country fair or any other outdoor event this summer, you must consider how safe and appropriate a visit might be. When I am at a show — like the recent brilliant Game Fair at Ragley Hall in Warwickshire — I sadly always see so many things that I don’t agree with when it comes to dragging dogs around big showgrounds for hours on end.

This is particularly the case with the young, 12-14 week old puppies that I saw there, not to mention the extreme heat on some of the days and the length of time some dogs must have spent in the car to even get there. Choosing to walk a pup around a big fair like that all day is a big no-no for me — basically, if the weather’s too hot or your dog is too young, please don’t take them.

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However, if temperatures aren’t too crazy and you have a more mature dog that likes being out and about with you, it can, of course, make for a great, fun day out for both of you, as long as you are sure that, in terms of training and experience, your dog is at ease with the following scenarios:

  • Happy about travelling in your car for a couple of hours
  • Used to large groups of people and other dogs
  • Unperturbed by sudden loud cheers or bangs, booming tannoys, thumping music or other noises
  • Is his or her heel training on point?

I’ve been perfecting my BG (Beggarbush) foundation methods for nearly 20 years (you can learn more via @beggarbush and my dog-training app ) and they’re ideal for helping you get your dog to a place where he or she is calm and relaxed around other people and dogs. If you nail that, you can have wonderful days out at big shows — otherwise you’ll end of being pulled all over the place all day.

Ben’s six tips for a stress-free visit to a country fair

1. Practice at a garden centre or the park first

A few weeks before the event, I’d prepare by taking your dog to the local park, pub or garden centre to start getting him or her used to a busy and unstructured environment.

2. Get there bright and early

When you are happy that your dog is content in all sorts of busy and distraction-filled places, go for it, but make sure you get to the fair super early. In fact, I like to be one of the very first people to go in, so I can walk my dog around for a while and allow them to start to get used to the surroundings before it gets too busy and too hot.

3. Don’t stay too long

Once you’re there and if you’re pleased with how it’s going, don’t jump straight in with both feet and do a really long 5-6 hour stint at a show. Stay for half a day, then call it quits and go home.

4. If you’re trying your dog with a scurry or agility course, get it out of the way first

If you’re going to do a gundog scurry (or any kind of agility test or competition), then get it out of the way first. As I mentioned before, arrive early while it’s still cool and quiet, let your dog have a run and go to the loo, then have a go at scurry (I’d have two or three goes, as, if you haven’t done it before, your dog won’t understand what it needs to do at first) then relax and enjoy the rest of the day.

5. If your dog is overwhelmed, take some time out

If it all gets too much and your dog is overexcited, walk away from the crowds and sit down somewhere quietly in the shade, possibly under a tree, where they can relax and have a drink. Then give your dog some confidence by showing that you are in control of the situation, by asking him or her to do some sits and stays, as this will relax them and take their mind off everything that’s going around them.

If my dog gets worked up when I am out and about — particularly at elevenses, when there’s lots of people and other dogs standing around — I take my drink and sausage roll and lead him or her away from the group, so I can sit them up away from everyone. Little things like that really do make a difference — a bit like a ‘time out’ for a child. It can help to calm the dog down and reset their behaviour so that they are happier and more relaxed.

6. Keep it fun (and short)

Above all, like all training, it’s really important to ensure that each training session — and experience, particularly in a busy situation — is positive and fun for the dog and you. If you have a successful short visit to a fair, go home while things are still going well. You can always stay longer the next time you go.

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 For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit

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