Collier’s Weekly: What It’s Like to Take a Small Dog Out to the Ball Game

A visit to Pup Night at PNC Park, where dogs howl along with the organ (but are wary of home-run fireworks).


Peanut didn’t accept the treat he was offered on check-in. Sure, he’s a food-motivated dog — but there was just too much going on.

As an array of canine companions, from looming German shepherds to tiny yorkies smaller even than our 12-pound chihuahua mix, wandered excitedly around Federal Street, we searched for the dog check-in area. We’ve been meaning to take Peanut to PNC Park’s popular Pup Night series for a couple of years, but we kept missing out; tickets are limited for the evenings, and dog lovers snatch them up months in advance. (Watch later this summer for the 2024 Pup Night schedule.)

Eager though I was, I had questions — would the presence of dozens of adorable dogs make it impossible to watch the game? Would a dog relieve itself in the seating area — or, perhaps, on the Pirate Parrot? Would Peanut disapprove of the pitch clock?

I’m happy to report that it turned out not just to be delightful, but even relaxing — a beautiful night at the ballpark that just happened to feature a higher-than-usual number of four-legged spectators.

We found the dog registration area — a dedicated entrance, away from the lines at the usual gates — and affirmed that Peanut was with us. When you buy a Pup Night ticket, you get one dog per human; the furry admission is included with the human price. You’ll sign a waiver online beforehand stating that your pooch is vaccinated and relatively unlikely to cause any in-game chaos — such as, say, mistaking the racing pierogies for the genuine article and attempting to chase what looks like a very large snack.

With the formalities mostly handled online at the time of purchase, it was a relatively smooth process getting to the rooftop deck where humans and canines mingled before the game. Pet vendors and animal charities hosted giveaways and distributed further snacks (that the still-excited Peanut saved for later). The 2023 sponsor, local dog-food company Bully Max, handed out samples and coupons. Mostly, though, the dogs sniffed each other and frolicked around the lounge furniture distributed on the rooftop.

While Peanut is gentle as an evening breeze, he’s not exactly playful, so he grew weary of invasive sniffers after a few minutes. We headed to our seats — to the right of a couple with a pair of huskies and down the row from a man with a skittish Italian greyhound — and took an array of ballpark selfies featuring a mildly confused dog.

As the game got underway (I did not think to remove Peanut’s stylish kerchief for the National Anthem), we settled in — and so did the dogs. Something about the array of smells and fairly tight seatings actually seemed to calm the assembled pooches; dogs generally like finding a cozy and human-adjacent place to settle, so all the nearby pets happily relaxed for the game.

Miraculously — even mysteriously — Peanut simply sat and watched the game. I have no illusions that he was following the action too closely, and I’m skeptical that the visual acuity of any dog can actually discern baseball players standing 300 feet in the distance. Yet Peanut kept his eyes trained on the field. Perhaps it was the novelty of seeing a daylight-bright area after dark; maybe he was just looking at whatever we were looking at.

Perhaps he’s just a very good dog and wanted to impress us. (It’s definitely that one.)

Whatever the cause, both Peanut and our neighbor dogs did a fine job at remaining calm and well-behaved throughout the game — with one exception. On the night we attend, the Buccos managed four home runs. With each, a roar of crowd noise and flashing lights were followed by the traditional home-run fireworks.

This led to immediate chaos.

Dogs tried to bolt away from the seating area only to tangle leashes in armrests. Others began barking at each other, as if demanding an explanation. Peanut, as is his habit, merely shuddered nervously and flattened his ears.

I know that we never miss an opportunity for sudden sky explosions in Pittsburgh, but there are only a handful of Pup Nights each season. Maybe we forgo setting off artillery when there are 50 confused dogs visiting the park?

Otherwise, it was a lovely evening. There should be more outdoor activities across the city catering specifically to pet attendance; for dog lovers, an outing that encourages neighborly sniffing and endless adorable dog pictures is always welcome. And even if you don’t have a dog of your own, were you ever sad to find an adorable pooch somewhere unexpected?

Categories: Collier’s Weekly