What to Know Before You Go to a Dog Park
Going to a dog park and letting your furry best friend run, play and make friends can be a great experience and a needed outlet for extra energy. But before you take your dog for the first time, here are some things you should know and consider to make sure your dog had an enjoyable time and is safe.
Know Before You Go
Before you head to the dog park with your dog, consider the following dog park rules of engagement to determine if park play is right for you and your pup. A safe dog park has divided spaces for big and little dogs, strong fencing, a double-door entry system, and enough land that it won’t get overcrowded. If you have the chance, take a look at your dog park before you go to get familiar with the layout and determine if it’s safe.
When considering a park’s features don’t forget about the patrons and their dogs. The best dog parks are frequented by responsible pet parents who are willing to pick up poop and stay in tune to their pup’s dog park behavior. Dog play can be rowdy and is easy to misinterpret, which is why the human end of the leash should have a solid foundation in reading dog body language. Understanding the difference between play fighting and the real thing will prevent misunderstandings or dog fights.
Puppies who are 6 months of age or younger should not visit dog parks. There are vaccination concerns for younger pups, and because puppies are still developing their social skills, a single bad experience with an inappropriate dog at the dog park might derail their socialization progress. And keep in mind that senior dogs with aches and pains might have aged out of rough play.
Is your dog protected against parasites?
When dogs spend time outside, socializing with other dogs or playing where other animals have been, they can be exposed to potentially harmful parasites. In a recent study of dog parks in the use found more than 80 percent of parks had at least one dog test positive for intestinal parasites. If you’re not already, consider a monthly chewable like Interceptor Plus, this is a safe and simple way to protect your dog against these dangerous parasites.
Also, ensure that your pet is up to date on his vaccinations (e.g., Lyme disease, Bordetella) based on your region’s requirements and the recommendations of your veterinarian. See your local veterinarian for the best recommendations.
The dog park is often a very distracting and chaotic environment for your dog, which can often put his training and manners to the test. Before heading to the dog park and attempting training cues there that you may or may not have used, take some time to review and perfect them in and around your home so that your dog has a strong understanding of what’s being asked of him. If your dog has become good at a set of commands make sure you try them in a new environment before going straight to the park. A drastic change in location can sometimes throw off your dog. As a reference, here are a few of the basic commands your dog should know well before going to a dog park.
Sit is often the very first command most new puppies learn, but getting dogs to perform this foundational behavior in exciting environments can be a challenge. Many start by using treats as a reward for performing the behavior, which is a great way to start, however keep in mind that most dog parks do not allow treats so you’ll want to make sure your dog can perform this and all other commands without a treat.
Before entering the dog park, ask your dog to sit, then open the gate and let him in. Ask him to do it again as you take off his leash. Any time your dog runs over to check in with you, praise him, ask for a quick “sit” and then release him to go back and play.
This simple behavior can help your dog hone his focus while brushing up on his impulse control in an action-packed environment.
Stay is a great command that encourages your dog to hold whatever position he happens to be in for a few moments or until you are ready.
You can begin teaching it to your dog right away. But you will want this to be a good behavior before you arrive for your first time at the dog park. Before your dog gets out of the car, take hold of his leash so that there’s no slack in it. Say “stay” then gently release the tension in the leash, pause for a moment and then release your dog out of the car with a cue like “free.”
You can also use this command inside the park when your dog comes to check in with you. Have him sit for a moment and add in the stay command, then release him to go play again.
Probably the most important cue for good dog-park behavior is a very solid recall. Without this command, you might end up chasing your dog when it’s time to leave, which is a game most dogs can’t resist and most dog owners hate. Nothing is more embarrassing than chasing your dog around a part calling out his name with leash in hand. A strong recall can also be very useful in keeping your dog safe if a scuffle breaks out.
Before you can even consider using your recall word at y our local dog park. You’ll want to do this to be sure that it’s reliable and consistent in other locations, and that your dog thinks coming when you call is a super-fun game. This is really key, it needs to be fun for your dog.
If you are having difficulties with this command try introducing it when your dog is already heading in your direction. When you see your dog coming toward say your recall word (don’t use your dogs name, choose something else), and praise your dog as he gets closer. It’s a quick way to start cementing an important training cue in a chaotic environment.
Set your dog up for success by calling him to you when he’s not engaged in play with other dogs, then release him to go back and play with his friends. Calling him when he’s not distracted makes it easier for him to be successful, and releasing him immediately helps him understand that coming back to you doesn’t mean the end of the fun.
If you're having trouble with the recall command consider adding a shockless collar, like the E-collar to aid in your training. These collars are NOT shock collars, instead they provide lite sensation that gets your dogs attention and have proven to work very well in getting their focus switched back to you.
Leash walking may seem basic as compared to the other commands we have mentioned, however teaching your dog to politely walk on a leash is an essential behavior to learn before heading to the dog park.
Most dogs have a tough time controlling their excitement as they get close to the gate, which usually results in an uncontrolled sprint to the door. Allowing your dog to escalate into a wild state of mind on the way into the park can ramp up your dog’s nervous energy level to the point where he’s out of control by the time he gets inside.
Pulling is often the main cuprite. The problem is that if you dog pulls he has likely learned pulling works—he pulls, you follow. The easiest way to help your dog understand that pulling is no longer an option is making the pulling have the opposite effect. The next time your dog begins pulling, stop, and start walk backward and away from the park. It’s important that you don’t just turn around as your dog might think you’re opting for a different route. The key to this exercise is showing your dog that pulling is taking him farther away from his goal.
The moment the leash goes slack begin walking toward the park again. You might have to back up several times in a row before your dog understands what’s going on, but don’t give up. In time, your dog will learn that a slack leash, not pulling, gets him where he wants to go. To learn more on our dedicated post for leash training; 8 Way to Stop Your Dog from Pulling on Leash
With these precautions and commands completed you are ready to head to the dog park for a great new adventure with your dog. Remember to make it fun and enjoy the time with you dog, we are sure he’ll really appreciate the opportunity to meet new furry friends.
If your interested in learning more commands for your dog, check our our blog post 7 Basic Commands Every Puppy Should Know
- Aug 01, 2021
- in Pet Blog