Affectionately described as, “a sea of four-footed energy,” by loyal Dumb Friends League supporter Jonnie, our annual Furry Scurry community dog walk and festival is an event unlike any other! As one of our “Premier Pals,” Jonnie has been scurrying alongside her friends and beloved golden retrievers for nearly 25 years, all with the goal of helping the League end pet homelessness and animal suffering. She knows firsthand the exhilaration that comes with being at Wash Park in May, surrounded by dogs of every size, shape, and color. 

And while many people and dogs share Jonnie’s excitement, it’s essential for everyone – whether they be new or longtime participants – to carefully consider whether an event like the Furry Scurry is right for them and their pets. Indeed, the hustle and bustle of walkers, rowdy music, new smells, and hundreds of other animals all in one place may be fun for some dogs, but it can also be stressful for others. Depending on factors such as age, health, personality, and history with people and other animals, dogs can be very sensitive to environments filled with unfamiliar and overwhelming stimuli. If this sounds like your dog, we encourage you to either walk together virtually (until May 24) or attend the in-person gathering (on May 6) with your friends of the human variety.

Likewise, even if you believe your dog would revel in the experience, our Behavior Care team recommends working with your pup beforehand to prepare them for the big day. Here are six steps you can take in the weeks leading up to the 30th annual Furry Scurry:

  • Become familiar with common signs of canine stress, as well as your dog’s individual anxiety triggers. Distressed dogs may pant, pace, cower, whimper, have dilated pupils, tuck their ears or tail, and turn away from or avoid human contact. Even yawning, drooling, and lip licking can be indicators of discomfort. Get to know your canine friend and how they respond to various stimuli so that you can remove them from stressors, expose them to enjoyable activities, and support their overall well-being.
  • Gradually and incrementally introduce your dog to new environments, such as public places that allow dogs (e.g., certain indoor and outdoor shopping areas).
  • Start with settings below your dog’s stress threshold and slowly increase the intensity level of exposure (e.g., transition from quiet to louder settings).
  • Pair this exposure with plenty of praise, play, and, most of all, delicious treats!
  • Be consistent with exposure to new environments to encourage desensitization.
  • If you sense your dog is experiencing anxiety, scale back the intensity level of exposure and rebuild slowly.

Preparing your dog for the in-person Furry Scurry will help them feel comfortable at the park and in other environments, promote safe canine (and human) interactions, and even bring you closer together. For additional behavioral guidance from the League, please visit our free online resource library.

We can’t wait to scurry with you and your friends on May 6! As Jonnie says, participating in this time-honored event is a unique “opportunity to be part of a community that [truly] cares about animals.”

Register for the Furry Scurry here.