Understanding your doggo’s social tolerance and special needs helps both of you enjoy the fun—as long as they want to be there!
husky dog in parade
Credit: Yiming Chen / Getty

Oh, the excitement of a parade: Marching bands! Balloons! Floats! Entertainment! And without a doubt, dogs in parades and chillin' on the sidelines lookin' adorable always seem to add to the festive air of the occasion. So why not bring your dog to a parade? Unfortunately, they might not like it. 

Curtis Kelley, CPDT-KA, is a certified dog trainer specializing in positive reinforcement behavior training and owner of Pet Parent Allies in Philadelphia. He tells Daily Paws that even for the most social dog, a parade will be "a challenge level of 1,000," as there are numerous factors to consider. Let's take a closer look. 

3 Ways To Know if Your Dog Is Ready for a Parade

Maybe they always have a lick and a tail wag for everyone they meet. Nevertheless, a parade shouldn't be the inaugural crowded event for a pooch. "If they haven't done a family gathering, happy hour, or a craft fair first, start with those," Kelley says. "Even a passionate public speaker doesn't do their first gig at a pro football stadium."

Here are Kelley's recommendations for evaluating whether your dog wants to be at or in a parade. A dog who can handle the chaos is most likely to have these characteristics:

1. They have an exceedingly high tolerance for social activity. 

"This means the top 5 percent of super-social dogs may like a parade for a little while. They're the ones who, when you have guests over, they never reach a point when they're tired of socializing," he says. The form of social connection with guests might change: Your dog may move from jumping and excited to wanting to play fetch, then curling up next to someone. But they're still interested in touch, attention, and engagement for the entire time people are there. 

2. They also possess a strong level of social flexibility. 

Even when your dog is in an unfamiliar environment or scenario, they can roll with it and maintain self-control. "These are dogs that can handle being around shy people, boisterous people, kids, seniors, and adjust their interaction styles to meet the people where they are," Kelley says. This also means they have an unflappable temperament and aren't easily startled.

3. They have a predictable approach and energy level. 

"Dogs are living, thinking, and feeling beings, so you can't predict their actions 100 percent of the time. But yours should behave in a way across scenarios that you can almost certainly predict their behavior under the circumstances," Kelley adds. "For example, you know when they come with you to happy hour, they'll greet everyone who comes near for about twenty minutes, then lay by your feet for another forty minutes." Regardless of location, time of day, or weather, your sociable pup is always comfortable outside their home.  

Is a Parade Safe for Your Dog?

No matter how much you want to share this event with your canine pal (and even if they're a social butterfly), do they really want to be there? Kelley advises putting your dog's needs first by determining their response to key situations, such as:

  • Large crowds
  • Very close proximity to strangers 
  • Sudden sounds 
  • Generally loud situations 
  • Novel or huge objects 
  • Being on leash or wearing a harness for extended periods
  • Being carried or in a bag, as some small dogs might need to do
  • A lot of ground trash 
  • Getting too hot
  • Drunk people 
  • Getting bumped or jostled 
  • Being out of the house for extended periods 
  • Unusual surfaces 
  • Car rides

"Make certain your pup will absolutely respond to his name as well as the cues 'drop it,' 'leave it,' and 'heel' before attempting the chaos of a parade," Kelley says.

If there's uncertainty about any of these, he says the safer bet is leaving your dog at home. 

But, if you dream of having your dog in a parade or cuddling with you from the sidelines some day, then strengthen your bond and communication with training. Start small by building gradual awareness, such as counterconditioning and desensitization to prepare for some of the scenarios above. Then progress to other essential skills that your pupper will need if they're going to join you at a parade. 

11 Tips For Bringing Your Dog to a Parade

So! Your doggo is comfortable, sociable, and trained to be at ease in various situations. And you're going to bring the pup to this weekend's parade (after you've checked that dogs are allowed, of course). Here are Kelley's recommendations for what to pack and how to navigate the parade so you keep your pooch's best interest as the priority:

  1. Keep your pup well-hydrated with a couple of portable water bottles.
  2. Bring the highest of value treats. "Even if this is a place your dog genuinely loves going to, the environmental distractions are through the roof. You'll need something like bacon to compensate for it," Kelley says. These chicken bacon biscuits are the perfect reward.
  3. Don't forget the poop bags!
  4. Outfit your doggo in highly visible gear, if you have it, and avoid any costumes that impede their vision or movement.
  5. Stick to one spot, or have an obvious direction that you're walking. Wandering all over can be confusing and frustrating for many dogs. 
  6. Go with a friend so if you need to use a port-a-potty or grab food, you have someone who can still watch your pup while you step away. 
  7. Don't linger around trash cans. 
  8. Keep your pup on a short leash (leave the retractable leashes at home, please). 
  9. Stay on the outskirts of a crowd.
  10. Check in with them often and really try to pay attention to their signals.
  11. "Be prepared to leave on your dog's time frame," Kelley says. "If you're bringing your dog to a parade, then you also have to respect when they communicate they've had enough."