Expo Etiquette

Every year, my husband and I attend the Pet Expo held at the St. Charles Convention Center in St. Charles, Missouri.  We would always bring at least three of our fur babies with us.  This was actually the first year when my husband was vehement about leaving everyone at home.

I could not imagine going without them!  I love including them in family outings as much as we can.  Not only does it provide great socialization practice for them, but it allows me to soak up all of the praise that our babies typically receive (usually for being cute).

I then began to think about an e-mail that I had recently received from Therapy Dogs International.  They provided tips for handler/dog teams in regards to the Ebola outbreak.  A few days later, I received another e-mail, this time dealing with MRSA (a.k.a. Staph Infection).  While our babies are ALWAYS kept up to date on their shots, other pet parents are not so vigilant.

Reluctantly, we left…alone.  The trip felt so awkward without a furry face pressed against the window.  My heart sank as we pulled into the parking lot.  I watched glumly as happy expo goers trotted towards the entrance with their dogs in tow.

What we could not see until we exited our vehicle was the long line.  The expo started at 10:00 a.m. and we arrived at 10:15.  As we got closer to the convention center, we discovered what the line was for.  Those that brought their pets had to sign waivers AND present the expo officials with a copy of their dogs’ latest shot record.

Since we did not have anyone with us, we got to breeze past the line and jump right in with the fun!  We love to see all of the different items that the vendors have to offer.  And I love to look at all of the adoptable animals!

What we had not expected was the complete and utter rudeness of many of the attendees.  I was actually glad that we had not brought our kids along.
Here are my suggestions for proper pet expo etiquette:

1. Do not bring retractable leashes.  These leashes are notorious for getting tangled.  Not only can they trip you (or someone else), but they can also trip your pet and cut off circulation if the rope remains tangled around your dog for any length of time.

2. Your dog is NOT a battering ram!  I cannot tell you the number of people that used their dogs to cut through the crowd.  One man in particular grabbed his dog’s collar and literally shoved him into people so that they would clear a path for him to get to the next vendor booth.  This is unacceptable behavior on many levels.  Your pet is there to enjoy himself/herself, not to be used as a tool for you to be rude to others.  If you and your dog need to pass through a tight space, simply say, “Excuse me, please.”  You would be surprised to know that the typical reaction is an immediate apology from the blocking party as they step aside.

3. Do not bring your pet strollers.  My husband and I had incredible luck when we won an awesome pet stroller for our babies to cruise around in.  However, the stroller is HUGE.   We could actually almost fit all of our dogs in it.  That being said, expos usually have tight quarters with which to move in.  Combine that with the fact that there are a large number of people and their pets in attendance, adding a stroller would make your moving space next to nothing.  If you cannot bear the thought of your precious pooch walking, try investing in a dog carrying bag.  Your dog can enjoy the expo from the comfort of a custom-made bag that you wear like a cross body bag.  This way, your baby remains close to you and off of the floor.  Our doxie, Hope, just loves hers.

4. Maintain control of your dog (s).  Just because you are at an expo with other animal lovers does not mean that they are responsible for your dog (s).  You must make sure that your dog (s) is under control at all times.  I have seen too many owners become lax about their dog’s behavior.  That is when the barking and snarling begins and others in attendance will avoid you and your pooch like the plague.

5. Your dog is still a dog.  We saw many different types of service as well as therapy dogs at the expo.  One incident that I saw was truly horrifying.  A woman was walking her large medical alert dog.  The dog became excited and started pacing back and forth.  This wrapped the leash around the woman’s arm.  She grabbed hold of the handle that was on the dog’s special harness and began shaking him!  She kept yelling the command, “Hold!  Hold!”  This was completely uncalled for.  While dogs can be trained to do many wonderful and helpful things, they are still, at heart, a dog.  You cannot train all of the dog out of a dog.  He was clearly feeling overwhelmed with all of the new sights, sounds and smells.  All that her shouting and shaking did was to make him even more anxious.  If you have a medical alert dog that you are not able to carry, please, consider bringing a friend with you that can assist with your furry companion should he/she become overwhelmed.  If your dog is not an assistance dog and he/she becomes anxious, consider walking outside for a few minutes to give him/her some space in which to calm down.  When you re-enter the expo, if he/she is still uncomfortable, you should respect your pet’s feelings and take him/her home.

6. Never touch someone else’s pet without asking.  I know that I sound like a broken record with this one, but it is so true.  Each dog has he/her own personality.  They cannot simply be lumped in together with the idea that “all dogs are friendly.”  Or even worse, “all [insert breed here]” are friendly/mean.”  If you are interested in petting someone’s pooch, just ask.  They will be so appreciative and you will get to make a new friend.

Pet expos are all about having fun, but as pet parents, we have a responsibility to make sure that we, as well as our pets, are on our best behavior.  Following these 6 tips will assure that everyone will have a tail wagging good time.


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