It’s that time of year again when area farmer’s markets kick into high gear. Strawberries, lettuce, kale and asparagus are all making an appearance, along with more vendors, more customers, more kids of all ages, and, yes, more dogs. Some markets gladly welcome dogs; the Durham Farmer’s Market even had a vendor in the past that sold dog biscuits. When I’m finished with my shopping I love to sit in the shade and watch from afar as the people and their dogs enjoy themselves. I also get to observe how they handle the many situations that come up. I admit, I sometimes have to turn away as though a scary scene may be unfolding (people do not always keep their eyes on their dogs), especially when parents let their children run about without supervising them. But mostly it’s a real treat to see everyone blending in and enjoying themselves. One of my favorite regulars to see at the Durham Farmer’s Market is a little dog who rides in the basket of his owner’s bicycle. The dog doesn’t say a peep, seems to enjoy looking around, and no one even notices him. Very cute.
Should you bring your dog?
You should bring your dog only if you can:
- Supervise him and monitor his interactions with people and other dogs at all times. It is not ok to tie your dog to a tree or fence post unattended. That exposes you to liability (think: kids running around without their parents watching), exposes your dog to things you may not want (interactions, harassment, being fed things, and being untied or stolen), and makes dog owners as a group look irresponsible (thereby making it harder for you and other dog lovers to continue enjoying their dogs in public).
- Be able to coordinate your money, your shopping bags, and your leash with little difficulty.
- Know exactly how to coach kids who approach and hope to pet your dog. This goes for kids whose parents are standing right there. Many parents will tell you the information sometimes sinks in better when a friendly stranger with a cute dog is doing the explaining. (As a nice bonus for everyone, carry treats for the kids to feed your dog.)
- Remember to bring clean up bags to deal with any mess your dog makes.
- Be reasonably certain that your dog will not be aggressive toward other people or dogs (if your dog has a history of either, is uncomfortable being reached for, or doesn’t like commotion, leave him at home).
- Be sure that the outside temperature won’t exceed 70 if your plan is to leave him in the car while you shop (unrolled windows and parking in the shade don’t count; it is illegal and animal control will confiscate your dog…they take it seriously because hot cars and dogs—who cannot sweat to keep themselves cool—are a bad combination and brain damage can result in just a few minutes).
- Use a four-foot leash (not a 6 foot leash, not an extendable leash) and keep him close to you; never let him wander up to people and sniff them or their food items.
Remember that some people are very afraid of or just plain dislike dogs, so be respectful and discrete and keep your dog close to you. If your dog doesn’t enjoy this sort of thing, be sure you’ve not making him go to the farmer’s market just because you like the idea. Find some other outdoor activity you both can enjoy.
Use a nearby grassy area if you and someone else want your dogs to meet. In the aisle or between vendors are not optimal spots for nose-to-nose introductions.
Which markets allow dogs?
Raleigh, Carborro, Southern Village: dogs not allowed
Pittsboro, Hillsborough, Moore Square: no policy stated on-line
Durham: dogs are allowed, please see their website for rules
Not sure how your dog will behave?
Here are a few tips for taking your dog to the farmer’s market. If you have a new dog, a puppy, or a dog you’ve never taken to the market before, avoid going at the busiest time (8:00-10:00) or when you have a lot of shopping you need to accomplish. Exercise your dog before you go so he will be calmer, and make sure he’s relieved himself beforehand as well.
The first couple of times you bring your dog arrive a bit later so there won’t be as many people and other dogs to contend with. Stay on the periphery of the action and gauge your dog’s responses. He or she should look relaxed and maybe a bit curious. Make brief trips into the crowd, praising your dog for staying with you.
Make a note of what training you need to brush up on in order to have a more successful visit next time (helpful skills include leave it, watch me, loose leash manners, greeting people politely, and sit-stay). Gradually start going at busier times until your dog is acclimated to the environment and can easily cope with the tents, the musicians, the bustling crowd, other dogs, and last but not least, the temptations of the dog biscuit vendor.