Can You Bring Dogs to Farmers' Markets? Here's What to Know Before You Go
Few activities celebrate the joy of warm weather like leisurely passing time at a farmers' market. From delicious produce and other tasty treats to live music and artisans, it's a wonderful way for families to shop local and support the community.
But can you bring dogs to farmers' markets? It depends, so here are some considerations to evaluate before you hop in the car and head out.
Are Dogs Allowed at Farmers' Markets?
Certain state and municipal laws might not permit your furry and feathered friends to tag along on this type of outing, even if the market is open-air.
For example, according to California's health and safety codes, only service animals are allowed to attend farmers' markets in the state unless it's a specific pet-oriented activity. Kalamazoo, Mich., farmers' market stipulates "our markets are not a safe space for pets of any kind due to the crowds and food safety concerns. Service animals are welcome." The Countryside series of farmers' markets in Peninsula, Ohio, posts comprehensive guidelines for various events, including one that doesn't allow dogs at all, another with an extensive list of proper pet and pet parent etiquette, as well as a third location with a "Yappy Hour" where all good dogs are welcome!
Megan Renkel is the farmers' market manager for the Des Moines' Downtown Farmers' Market in Iowa. This event, ranked as one of the top 25 in the country, attracts 25,000 people each Saturday during the height of the season. It allows dogs—but wants pet parents to be on their best behavior.
"If patrons do choose to bring their dogs, they're expected to act in a responsible pet-owner manner and adhere to [our] rules to ensure a pleasant market experience for all," she says.
Renkel recommends always checking a market's website first for pet guidelines before your trip. If you can bring dogs to a farmers' market, some rules you might be expected to follow include:
- Dogs must be under control on a short leash (maximum 3-foot leash) and by the owner's side always.
- Dogs need to be kept away from produce, plants, and food products.
- Dogs need to be courteous and able to socialize with people and other dogs.
- Follow your city's laws regarding pets, which could include a leash law, cleanup of droppings, current tags, and a current rabies certificate.
- Bring doggy cleanup bags or use any provided bags.
- Be understanding. Not everyone loves dogs, and some fear dogs.
"We want everyone to feel invited and welcomed at the market. So it really comes down to being courteous and respectful of others," Renkel says. "Some people love dogs, and other people don't. Take your cues from those around you as to whether they're comfortable being around your dog."
Does Your Dog Want to Go to the Farmers' Market?
No matter how joyful your pooch is around your family and friends, it's important to consider your dog's temperament and experience around many people they don't know.
Jenna Stregowski, RVT, is the health and behavior editor for Daily Paws. She says farmers' markets aren't the best places to start socializing your dog. "It's too unpredictable. The crowds of people, kids, strollers, and other dogs affect our pets differently. Some dogs get overly excited, others become frightened. Either way, they could accidentally injure themselves or others."
She adds this type of experience is best for dogs who have already been exposed to public crowds. "If your dog is relaxed, walking on a loose leash, and paying attention when you give cues, they're probably having a good time."
Positive reinforcement training outside the market can help you introduce your pooch to various scenarios so they gradually learn to acclimate to all the stimulation of the market environment. Start small (like a pet-friendly store during slow hours), and eventually work your way up to a crowded farmers' market.
However, it's also perfectly acceptable to leave Fido at home, too—especially for their overall well-being. "It's best to avoid the farmers' market if you know your dog dislikes or fears crowds, loud noises, large objects, children, strangers, or other dogs," Stregowski says. There are plenty of other canine-centered activities for the two of you to enjoy!
7 Tips for Bringing Your Dog to a Farmers' Market
Stregowski offers additional helpful suggestions to prepare your pup for a trip to a dog-friendly farmers' market.
- Make sure your pet is up-to-date on all vaccines and parasite prevention.
- Your dog should know the cues "leave it" and "drop it" in case they find something on the ground—a very likely thing at the farmers' market (it's usually food and can be dangerous).
- Dogs shouldn't go to the farmers' market until they've been trained to pay attention to you and walk on a loose leash.
- No retractable leashes! Use a regular leash that's no more than 6 feet long, and keep your dog close to your side.
- Consider the weather: Keep dogs at home on hot, cold, or rainy days. "Excessive panting could mean stress or heat exhaustion. Take your dog to a cool, quiet location and offer some water," she advises.
- Avoid other dogs unless you know for sure your dog is calm on the leash with other dogs. "If two dogs meet, they should be able to greet one another calmly without leash-pulling or jumping," Stregowski says.
- Take time to sit quietly and soak in the sights, smells, and sounds together. "Give your dog breaks from the crowd periodically, especially older dogs and those with health concerns," she adds. "Take them off to the side where there are fewer people to do their business and rest."
Sounds like the perfect opportunity to enjoy a refreshing beverage and a tasty treat!