Many pet parents enjoy taking their dogs to the dog park for off-leash exercise.
Here are a few helpful tips from our professional dog trainers on how to make this the best experience for you and your dog.
Try Dog Playdates (recommended most often by professional trainers)
Try and get your own playgroup for your dog. They don’t have to meet every dog in the park.
The dogs should all be fully vaccinated and be naturally social with other dogs.
Each dog should have at least basic obedience skills of sit, down, stay, and coming when called.
Dogs are generally safest when segmented by size. Small and medium dogs together and medium-large to large together.
A large dog can and may inadvertently play too hard or inappropriately with a small dog. If the dog is less than half the size of the larger dog, they should not really be together. Many families have large and small dogs mixed in the home; but that is a bit different since they know each other and are housed with similar rules, supervision, and boundaries.
Entering the Dog Park
If they are barking, lunging, or seem overly stimulated; wait till they calm down to enter the area.
Always make sure the park is fairly clean of dog waste or litter, and you have a source of water. It is wisest to use your own dog bowl for the least exposure to communicable germs.
Always pay attention to the dogs at play before you enter the gated area. Close each gate as you enter. They are for safety, so a dog cannot get free inadvertently.
Try to enter quietly, and without a big rush of dogs coming toward you. Give your dog some Space.
Proper Behavior at a Dog Park
Be careful if you bring your own dogs’ toys or ball to the park. Watch that your dog or other dogs are not resource guarding that object or toy.
Check in with your dog periodically. Have them return to you or focus on you by calling them back to where you. You must also be aware and walk up to them and intercede if the play is getting too rough with another dog.
Bring treats, a whistle, or a desirable toy to get your dog to come if you don’t have great recall. This will come in handy when you want to leave and need to get your dog to come with you. Many a person has had a difficult time calling in their exuberant pooch if the dogs are too far away or having too much fun and freedom.
When You SHOULD NOT Take Your Dog to the Dog Park
It is not wise to take a timid or fearful dog to a dog park. It may overwhelm them or can flood their senses and create anxiety or fear. Learn to understand your dog’s body language. When they look nervous or fearful by trembling, tucking their tail, or whale eye—wide open and whites showing, they are trying to tell you this is not a comfortable place for them.
You should never take a sick dog to the dog park. If your dog has loose stools, diarrhea, is coughing, or has any respiratory issue; do not take them. They are probably contagious through stools or shared water.
Also, if your dog has any ligament injury, abrasion, or back pain, it is not appropriate to take them to a dog park. Pain can make your dog more vulnerable, worsen the condition, or lead to an ill temperament with dogs they don’t know.
- Keep exercise supervised
- Provide fresh water
- Be wary of heat in summer
- Carefully watch the play between dogs. If it seems too rough, call your dog back.
- Trust your intuition. Remember, you are your dog’s guardian, and they count on you to keep it fun for all concerned!
~Layne Kizler, AZ Dog Sports (azdogsports.com)