7 min read

Should I Bring My Dog to Mardi Gras?

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Overview

People and pets from all over the world flock to The Big Easy for the parades and festivities on Fat Tuesday. But Mardi Gras can be a dangerous place for pets if you're not careful. The loud, busy streets can be overwhelming and put pets at risk of getting lost, hurt, or frightened. We'll explain how to keep your pooch safe during the party and how to celebrate at home if you don't want to risk going out.  


Pros and cons of taking your dog to Mardi Gras

There are some pretty clear benefits to going to Mardi Gras. After all, it's a party like no other! However, bringing your fur-baby along can have some drawbacks. Let's weigh the pros and cons of bringing your dog to Mardi Gras.


Pros

  • New Orleans is the epicenter of Cajun culture. There's delicious food, rich history, and world-class entertainment at every corner, and the ambiance of Mardi Gras just heightens the cultural experience. Plus, you'll get to take part in a centuries-old tradition, all with your fur-baby in tow!  

  • You'll have lots of cute photo opportunities for you and your pup to commemorate your trip. 

  • Your pooch will be the life of the party and is sure to garner many pets and head scratches from other festival-goers.  

  • New Orleans has tons of scenic parks and lively walking opportunities for your pet to enjoy during Mardi Gras.


Cons

  • Most establishments and historic buildings don't allow dogs inside. If you plan on visiting the bars and restaurants, you may want to consider finding a local sitter to watch your fur-baby during the festival. 

  • There's a lot of waiting around. You'll need to get to the parade grounds at least 3 hours before the festivities start to secure a decent viewing spot. That's a long time to be in one place with a dog who needs regular potty breaks, and allowing them to answer nature's call on the street could land you a hefty fine (more on that later). Likewise, if you need leave for a bathroom break or a bottle of water, you're unlikely to get your spot back.  

  • It's not always sunshine and rainbows. The weather in Louisianna can be unpredictable, and thunderstorms can come up seemingly out of nowhere. Getting stuck in the rain with no umbrella and a thunder-phobic dog is a surefire way to rain on a pet parent's parade.


white dog wearing green and gold mardi gras beads standing next to a suitcase

How to keep your pet safe during Mardi Gras

Here are some tips for keeping your pooch (and yourself) safe and comfortable during the festivities.


Stay hydrated

It's easy to forget water breaks with all the excitement, but staying hydrated is super important for you and Fido. Bring a small cooler with water bottles and a collapsible bowl for your woofer, and be sure to drink plenty yourself, especially if you plan to partake in those famous frozen mixed drinks.


Avoid large, tightly packed crowds

It's no secret that Mardi Gras can get pretty rowdy. Dense crowds and dancing bodies can cause dogs to be injured or even trampled. Try to avoid clusters of tightly packed people when you can, although this isn't always possible when the party is in full swing. If you have a small breed, it might be best to bring a dog stroller to prevent them from being stepped on in the excitement.


Make sure Fido is ready for the party

Your dog should be well-trained and predictable before you even consider taking them to Mardi Gras. Loud crowds, sirens, horses, and flying beads may spook even normally calm dogs, and there's no telling how a stressed dog will react.

Desensitization can help minimize reactivity in stressful situations, but training may take months for your dog to master. It's equally important that your dog comes when called and is consistently responsive to commands before going to Mardi Gras — these can be life-saving skills if you and your dog get separated.


Know your dog's body language

Mardi Gras can be a lot for dogs to take in, and the noisy, unpredictable atmosphere can cause dogs to become fearful or even reactive. Watch your dog for signs that they're uncomfortable — these include tail tucking, vocalizing, hiding, or cowering. If your dog starts displaying this body language, it's best to immediately remove them from the situation.


Be careful about the human foods you share with Fido

Traditional Cajun and Creole food are among the best parts of Mardi Gras. However, these droolworthy eats can be very dangerous for furry parade-goers.

For instance, King Cake contains little plastic dolls that pose choking and intestinal blockage risks for hungry doggos. Not to mention, the high sugar content in this cinnamon roll-like pastry is not great for canines.

Savory Mardi Gras foods can be dangerous for Fido too. Onions are essential to the Cajun "holy trinity" and are used to season most traditional Creole foods (like gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish etouffee). Unfortunately, while tasty, these pungent bulbs are toxic to dogs and can cause significant stomach upset or worse. Avoid the temptation of human food by bringing some healthy dog treats from home.


Keep Fido away from beads

Exchanging colorful beads is a beloved Mardi Gras tradition, but these plastic necklaces can become are a choking or strangulation hazard for curious doggos. Never put beads around your pooch's neck or let them play with them — instead, let your pup's Mardi Gras spirit shine with a purple and gold bandana or sweater.  


Use the right equipment

Mardi Gras is not the time to break out that new retractable leash. You want your dog on a short, sturdy leash that will give you the most control possible. Likewise, it's a good idea to attach the leash to a body harness rather than their collar since dogs can easily slip out of their collar when startled. Even with the harness, you should still use your dog's collar and tags for identification purposes.  


Offer frequent bathroom breaks away from the festivities

Make sure you give your fur-baby plenty of opportunities to potty away from the excitement. If you're caught letting your pooch relieve themselves on the street, you can face hefty fines and mandatory community service.


Stay alert at all times

The festivities can become dangerous for you and your pooch if you don't stay alert at all times, so don't get carried away with the daiquiris. Beads can become dangerous projectiles if you can't catch them midair, and Fido's leash can easily slip out of your hand if you aren't paying attention. If you plan to drink in celebration, it's best to take it easy, wait until you get home, or make alternative arrangements for Fido.


Have a backup plan if things go south

It's a good idea to have a plan B if the festivities prove too much for Fido. The good news is impromptu parties crop up all over the city during the week of Mardi Gras, and these parties are typically more laidback than Bourbon Street and Jackson Square.

If you still want the parade feel, but without the massive crowd, check out the Krewe of Barkus Parade. This parade is all about the four-legged New Orleanians, featuring fun, festive floats and doggies dressed to the nines. There are actually two Barkus parades: one before the main parade and another afterward. Several other Mardi Gras parades take place in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday, and you might find that these are less busy and intimidating for your woofer. 


black and white dog wearing colorful mask against purple background

Ideas for celebrating Mardi Gras at home with your dog

You can still have a "pawsome" celebration even if you decide to stay in for Mardi Gras. Here are a few ways you can take your Fat Tuesday house party to the next level!


Have a watch party at home

Want to watch the Mardi Gras festivities without the crowd? Why not stay in and livestream the parade and shows? Your canine will love cozying up on the couch with you to watch the party, and you don't even have to change out of your PJs!


Whip up some dog-friendly Cajun classics

Mardi Gras isn't Mardi Gras without authentic Cajun food — but many traditional recipes contain toxins that can make your fur-baby sick. That doesn't mean your pooch can't enjoy a little Creole flavor on Fat Tuesday, though. There are plenty of Cajun recipes that you can tweak to make dog-friendly.

A seafood boil with crawfish, shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes is sure to please the whole pack! Just scoop some out for Fido before you add the seasoning, and make sure to cut their corn off the cob.

Shrimp and grits are another Cajun classic that you can easily alter to make the dish safe for canines. Simply make your grits with water (or broth) and unsalted butter, and top with unseasoned shrimp — it may lack seasoning, but your pup is sure to give it two paws up for flavor!  


Decorate your home in true French Quarter fashion

Is it even Fat Tuesday if every available surface isn't covered in wall-to-wall Mardi Gras colors? Get in the Mardi Gras spirit by decorating with purple, green, and gold streamers around your house, and hang some masks to really set the mood. We don't advise wearing masks around the house, though, since this may frighten your pup.


Dust off those jazz records

Jazz music is the heartbeat of New Orleans, so it's only fitting that your Mardi Gras house "pawty" includes some zydeco jams! Throw on some tunes by Louie Armstrong, Kermit Ruffins, or Trombone Shorty to get the party started in true NOLA fashion.


Watch a French Quarter tour on YouTube

YouTube has tons of "furrific" (and super informative) history tours of the French Quarter. Pop some popcorn and snuggle up to Fluffy as you learn some weird, wild, and even downright spooky facts about the oldest and most iconic area in the Big Easy.




Thinking of bringing your woofer to Mardi Gras? Be sure to pencil in a few training sessions beforehand. A dog trainer with Wag! can help your woofer master their obedience skills and desensitize them to sights and sounds that might otherwise frighten them during the festivities.

If you decide Mardi Gras might be too much for your buddy, consider booking a dog sitter to keep them company while you enjoy the party.



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