You may be thinking, "Get a couple of hundred people together in one place with their dogs….what could possibly go wrong?" Yes there is a potential for problems with any event where any sort of crowd gathers. The key is to properly structure your event to keep all those tails wagging.
If your event is going to be all about the dogs, then it is better to keep the distances relatively short with a few options for everyone. Yes, many dogs can run a long way, but think of this as more of a social event than a workout.
It is important to properly communicate the expectations for behavior - for both dogs and their owners. Here are a few guidelines every canine-friendly event should have in place:
Make sure your waiver very clearly states that owners are 100% liable for the actions of their dogs while participating in your event and in the designated areas of the start/finish area. Also be sure to state that it is up to the sole discretion of race officials to ask a participant to leave the event with their dog at any time and that there will be no refunds in this case.
Race directing a doggy-friendly event is very similar to a human event. You'll need to make sure that your event has appropriate aid stations, medical support, volunteers, race timing (optional). With doggos added, there are a few additional considerations:
Dogs love to party! Especially after they have had a bit of exercise and are a bit more relaxed. Wait, this sounds like people we know! Create a festive, dog-friendly setting for people to hang out and socialize with their dogs. Have a few extra wading pools if it is really hot.
Dogs (ok, their owners) enjoy swag too. You can have finisher awards such as treat bags, or customized race bandanas that the pups can wear post-race to show off their accomplishment! Did you know....the Guinness World Record For Most Dogs Wearing Bandanas is 813?
You may find that some dog owners will dress their dogs up in costumes for this event. Turn this into a contest with prizes. Take lots of pictures!
Invite local animal rescue organizations to have a part in the event. They can help spread the word of your event and you can perhaps help a few new pets find their furever homes!
Whether your event is all about the dogs, or just allowing dogs, these guidelines will help keep those happy tails thumping.
Want more dog pictures? Check out some of the dogs of imATHLETE in Lessons from our Dogs (and Cats).