Ultimate Guide to Tailgating with Your Dog

Football season is here, which for us humans means tailgating parties. Who doesn’t enjoy that big pre-game party, hanging out with friends and fans, firing up the grill and downing burgers, dogs and beer?

Speaking of dogs, and tails, why not let your dog in on all of the fun? Some dogs simply love being with the family and enjoy all of the action, while others prefer to stay home and watch the game on TV.

Before taking your dog to a tailgating party, make sure he or she is allowed and that it’s a dog-friendly environment. The last thing you want to do is get to a tailgating party and have to turn around and come home. Also, make sure your dog is well-behaved and used to being around a lot of people and a lot of noise.

If you’re good to go, here are some tips to consider and some items you might want to bring along.

Bring Plenty of Appropriate Food and Water

Hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and ribs might be okay for some dogs, while others may suffer from diarrhea and upset stomach, so it’s best not to allow your dog to over-indulge in people food. Fatty foods not only can lead to temporary upset stomach, but can cause long-term problems including gastroenteritis and pancreatitis.

While some folks enjoy onions on their burgers or hot dogs, they can be toxic to your dog.  And, while grapes can be a refreshing treat for humans, they are hazardous to your dog. Here’s a list of 10 Common Foods Your Dog Shouldn’t Eat.

Make sure you bring along plenty of the kind of food your dog is used to eating. Apples, carrots and his own treats are all safe options. That way he won’t be begging for things he shouldn’t eat.

You’re going to need something to feed your dog in and there are a number of options available. Collapsible travel bowls,  like this one from PetBonus are a good choice and are fairly inexpensive. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and bright colors, as well as materials, and are relatively inexpensive.

If you want an all-in-one option for carrying water, there are a variety of portable pet water bottles on the market that are lightweight and inexpensive. Remember, it’s important to keep your dog hydrated because, like their humans, they also can suffer from heat stroke. The Highwave AutoDogMug is BPA free and comes in a variety of colors. Remember, it’s never a good idea to give your dog alcoholic beverages. While you may enjoy a cold one, beer and other alcoholic beverages can result in a number of problems including alcohol toxicity.

Shade and Shades

Football season may be a winter sport, but early in the season, and in some parts of the country like in Florida where I live, the whole season can be quite sunny and hot. There are plenty of eye-catching suglasses, like this one from QUMY, are available for your pet and they not only protect from the sun, but also from the elements, especially if your dog likes to stick her head out the car window on the way to and from a game.

Although most sunglasses come with straps to keep them on, some dogs may not take too kindly to them. Another option is a doggy baseball cap. Like glasses, they come in all sizes and colors and some, like this one from PAWABOO, even come with a matching cap for mom or dad!


Koda prefers to wear his cap on backward when he’s inside and out of the sun.

If your dog isn’t into fashion accessories, another option is to provide some shade with a tent all his own. Reliancer offers an elevated cot with canopy shade to keep your dog off the hot pavement and protected from the sun.

If you want to keep your dog safe and secure, as well as in the shade, Ruff ‘n Ruffus Portable Foldable Pet Playpen may be the way to go. It comes in medium, large and extra-large and has a removable shade cover. It also comes with a carrying case and collapsible travel bowl.

Playing Fetch

While you’re throwing around the “old pig skin,” your dog may want to get in on the action and play fetch. You can keep him occupied by giving with their own football to play with. There are a ton of options out there. Nerf makes a variety of squeaker footballs in different sizes and colors. Nerf also offers a football that you can put treats inside so he can tackle the challenge of getting them out.

That’s the Spirit

If you’re a diehard sports fan who goes all out and dresses up for the game, there are plenty of clothing options for your four-legged friend as well. My friend Margaret’s three dogs, Luke, Moose and Mia are New England Patriot fans and wear their team shirts with pride.


Mia (left) Moose (center) and Luke (right) are ready for another championship season.

Having lived in Florida all of my life, I feel a certain obligation to root for my home team, the Miami Dolphins, even though they have gone to the dogs (pun intended) in recent years. This NFL licensed football jersey comes in sizes from extra-small to extra-large and you can find your choice of team as well from the Arizona Cardinals to the Washington Redskins.


Baxter, wasn’t big on football, but loved a good Red Sox game.

There are an endless variety of other sports fan clothing options including NFL sanctioned bandanas and even cheerleader and “rufferee” outfits!


Taylor wearing her “Rufferee” outfit.

 Safety First

There are plenty of distractions at tailgating events, so it’s important that you keep your pooch safe at all times. Never, ever leave him in a hot car, even if the windows are cracked. Instead make sure he’s on a leash and with you or someone you trust at all times. Sports fans can find a wide variety of collars and leashes with their favorite sports team logo. Pets First has leashes with a variety of team logos in small, medium and large. The NFL dog collar comes in small, medium, large and extra-large with logos from 32 NFL teams.

Speaking of safety, it’s always a good idea to have a first aid kit specifically for your dog, just in case of an emergency. The FabFur Gear Pet First Aid Kit comes with five types of bandages, an emergency dog collar, a flea comb, scissors and even an emergency handbook.

Finally, while your dog may not care, those around you at a tailgating party will definitely expect you to pick up after him or her. Make sure you have plenty of bags and even a pooper scooper to ensure that everyone has a good time.

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