Everything You Need to Know About Tailgating with Your Pet

Everything You Need to Know About Tailgating with Your Pet

Should you bring your fan-favorite tail-wagger to a tailgate? Absolutely! We’re huge fans of the pup-parade! Your dog loves the excitement, games, and (of course) food as much as you do, and they’re loyal to the team through and through.

So, what do you need to know about and prepare for when tailgating with your pet? 

  1. Make sure pets are allowed in the tailgating area and stadium. 
  2. Know your pet. 
  3. Have a dog treat station. 
  4. Include dog-friendly games. 
  5. Let your pet show their pride.
  6. Don’t be a puppy party pooper. 
  7. Mind their paws. 
  8. Provide plenty of shade.
  9. Bring all their pet necessities.
  10. Keep your dog on a leash.
  11. Have updated tags and GPS trackers.
  12. Keep an eye on your pooch. 


1. Make sure pets are allowed in the tailgating area and stadium. 

Not all tailgating zones and sports venues will allow pets. Look up the venue’s rules online or contact their sports directors to see if you can bring your dog (or other pet). 

If your dog is allowed in the tailgating area but not in the stadium, you’ll either need to make arrangements for your dog to go home after the tailgate with someone not attending the game or leave them home entirely. It’s unsafe to leave a dog in the car during the game, as the car can overheat or freeze to dangerous temperatures and seriously harm your beloved pet. 


2. Know your pet. 

Make sure your dog is good with crowds or your cat actually likes people before having them tag along for your tailgate. Your pet should have basic foundational behavior training and experience in large crowds, like shopping centers or parties, before you expose them to the excitement of a tailgate.

Animals can easily be overwhelmed in crowded spaces, and all the hustle and bustle can be intimidating. If your dog gets stressed easily, is shy or aggressive, doesn’t love people, or hasn’t been in a hectic environment before, leave them home from the tailgate.  


3. Have a dog treat station. 

Your tailgating friends will probably want to play with and feed your dog. But most scrumptious tailgating food for humans is off-limits for dogs. Greasy foods like chips, nachos, and burgers can cause gastritis or pancreatitis in dogs—even after just a few bites from a few tailgaters. There are also a lot of foods that can be toxic to dogs. 

Dogs can’t consume:

  • Chicken wings
  • Alcohol
  • Onions and garlic (like in salsa)
  • Avocados (like in guacamole)
  • Grapes
  • Chocolate
  • Xylitol

We recommend posting a sign and asking your friends to only feed your dog from a dog-approved table. Then, load up the table with dog-friendly tailgating goodies.

Some tail-wagging treat ideas include:

  • Bacon (in moderation)
  • Frozen Greek yogurt (put some Greek yogurt in an ice cube tray and throw it in a cooler for the dog)
  • Mini dog weenies
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables like cut up apples, blueberries, bananas, green beans, and carrots
  • Peanut butter
  • Dog biscuits 
  • Dog-friendly jerkies. 

If you like baking, check out these awesome homemade tailgating treats for pups!


4. Include dog-friendly games. 

Tailgating means corn hole, pong, horseshoes, and other games. Get your dog in on the fun—they’ll love the games, too! Put some dog toys, like tennis balls and frisbees, at the treat station. Of course, be careful not to get in the way of nearby tailgaters. Take the fun up a notch by buying these toys in your team’s colors to match your own fan gear!

Dogs like to stay busy, so having some play and treat outlets is a good way to make sure they stay out of trouble.

Check out some more ideas for your TAILgate party on Petco’s Pinterest.

5. Let your pet show their pride. 

This is our favorite part of seeing pets at a tailgate: when pups are dressed in their fan colors. Whether it’s with a bandana in campus colors or a jersey of their favorite player, we love seeing dogs flaunting their fan pride. We especially love when an owner wears a hat or t-shirt to match their dog’s bandana.

Start shopping here for your school’s tee and colors. You can search for your dog’s matching gear on All Star Dogsthey have the largest collection of NCAA-licensed collegiate pet products. 

If it’s going to be colder weather, get your pup a sweatshirt to match yours! If the weather is nice, consider matching costumes! However, if it’s going to be hot out, don’t dress your pet up, as they can overheat. 

Be careful if you paint your dog in your school colors. It’s cute, but the wrong dye can damage their skin and coat. Never use bleach or oxidizing dyes. There are pet-safe dyes on the market, but make sure to check with your pet’s vet first. 

6. Don’t be a puppy party pooper. 

Bring poop bags to pick up after your dog! You don’t want any tailgaters stepping in doggie doo-doo. Be a considerate tailgating neighbor. 

7. Mind their paws. 

Hot asphalt or pavement can be seriously dangerous for your pup’s paws. If you can’t keep the back of your hand on the asphalt for seven seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog. If it’s 77° F outside, the asphalt can be 125° F! At 95° F, it’s up to 149° F. That’s way too hot for your pet to stand on! 

The same idea is true in the cold; you wouldn’t want to be outside barefoot in cold weather, and your dog shouldn’t be either.

To protect their paws, you can purchase dog booties that protect their sensitive paws, keep them on the grass, or bring a mat or blanket for them to hang out on. 

Read: How to Keep Warm at Cold Games and How to Stay Cool at Hot Games

8. Provide plenty of shade. 

To escape the sun and heat, make sure your dog has a quiet, shady place to relax. Keep in mind that a tailgate can be a lot of excitement, and your pet may need a break every once in a while. 

We also recommend a cooling mat to help your pup stay calm amidst the heat and exhilaration of game day. 


9. Bring all their pet necessities. 

Make sure your dog always has access to fresh, clean, cold water. Dogs easily get dehydrated, especially in such an exciting atmosphere. Keep an eye on the water level in the bowl; you may need to remind them to drink more water! 

A checklist of items for tailgating with your pet:

  • Travel bed or crate for a place to rest and rejuvenate
  • Portable dog pool to cool down on hot days
  • Dog cooling vest for hot days or sweaters and jackets for cool ones
  • Travel water bottle with cold water
  • Outdoor booties for your dog’s paws
  • Leash and harness for safety
  • Healthy food and treats for a happy pup


Learn more about how to prep for your tailgate here


10. Keep your dog on a leash. 

Even the most well-trained dogs can get lost or injured in such an overwhelming and hectic environment. They can get scared by sudden loud noises, get lost in new areas, run near moving vehicles, make their way to unattended food tables, or meet unfamiliar dogs. It’s also important to keep your pup away from drunk, rude, or loud people. Dogs can lash out at people they don’t trust, and vice versa. 

It’s best to always keep your dog on a leash, either with a human guardian or tied to a safe, secure spot. Make sure the leash isn’t too long, since it could get wrapped around your dog, other humans, or tables. On the same token, also make sure the leash is not too short, so the dog doesn’t feel constrained and anxious.

Car tailgates with dogs shouldn’t be a complete free-for-all (much to your dog’s dismay). You brought your pup to the tailgate to enjoy having them around. So keep them close to keep them safe. They will love the extra quality time with you. 


11. Have updated tags and GPS trackers. 

If your dog were to wander off to a nearby tailgating spot to test their luck at snagging  some BBQ, you’d want to be able to get them home as quickly as possible. Make sure their dog tag is updated with your most recent phone numbers and return information, like a home address. You can even attach a GPS tracker to your dog’s collar or harness, so you can see your pooch’s exact location on your phone. Even if your dog is leashed, you want updated tags and GPS in case they break free. 

Check out these 25 best dog trackers and collars by Pet Life Today.


12. Keep an eye on your dog.  

While they’re at the tailgate, look out for signs that your dog is stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. Every dog has its limits, and they’re usually earlier than you might think. 

Be aware if your dog is exhibiting any of these behaviors:

  • Ears back
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Excessive panting 
  • Hypersalivation (lots of drooling)
  • Inappropriate elimination
  • Excessive barking
  • Clinging to owner
  • Hiding or running away
  • Destructiveness 
  • Aggressiveness towards people or dogs
  • More signs of stress here

Engaging in these behaviors does not mean they’re a “bad dog.” They’re just feeling agitated or overwhelmed, and they’re not used to this kind of environment. Now isn’t the time for training; if possible, just remove them from the situation and make them feel safe and comfortable.

Puppies shouldn’t be at a tailgate all day. Most puppies need at least 15-20 hours of sleep per day to grow. If you’re bringing a puppy, make sure to take a covered, cool crate so they can take a nap while the party is going on. Again, do not leave your pet in the car at any point; it’s very dangerous for them as they can overheat, freeze, or be stolen.


Car tailgates for dogs

Tailgating with your pet can be a blast. With just a little bit of preparation, your dog will be the best tail-wagging fan your team’s ever seen! Get your Campus Colors gear on, throw a jersey or bandana on your pet, and you’re ready to start cheering and celebrating together! Let’s go get some tail wags at the tailgate! 

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