April 8, 2022
Park Life!: How To Prepare Your Pup For A Trip To The Dog Park
Visiting a dog park can benefit your pup in many ways. It allows them to burn off energy, learn proper socialization skills, and work on their off-leash training commands. The dog park also allows you to learn from other owners and maybe meet a few new friends in the process!
There are, however, a few key things you need to do to prepare your pup for the dog park and some proper etiquette you need to follow.
Before You Go
Never take a puppy under the age of four months to a dog park. Puppies have compromised immune systems and can easily catch viruses from other dogs. Beyond that, they are not big enough to keep up with adult dogs and may not have mastered their manners for dog-on-dog interactions. Keep your puppy play dates limited to small groups with dogs you know have had all their shots. Scheduling puppy play dates ahead of time and with familiar dogs allows you an element of control that you wouldn’t have in a dog park; making appropriate matches in energy level and temperament to create a positive association with socialization. Doing this will allow your dog to learn the basics of socialization before attending a dog park, giving them a paw up!
You need to ensure your dog has had all necessary vaccinations before attending a dog park. Getting your dog the necessary vaccinations will not only keep them safe, but it will keep other dogs safe as well by reducing the possibility of spreading viruses or illnesses. If your dog is feeling sick or is acting lethargic, you should make an appointment with a vet instead of heading to the dog park. Many dogs share water at dog parks, and your sick pup could easily transmit something to another dog or make an illness worse. Additionally, if your dog is exhibiting any physical limitations, such as troubles with paws, legs, or hips, you’ll want to avoid the dog park as it may lead to extraneous play.
When you attend a dog park, you are responsible for not only your dog’s safety but for the safety of all dogs present. Therefore, it is critical to have your dog’s basic training commands down before attending. Start drilling your pup and take a trip to a local park to try their commands out with distractions. It’s also important to brush up on your dog’s socialization skills by practicing with a friend or family member’s dog. Aggression and the dog park do NOT mix! Make sure that your dog can successfully follow commands when faced with distractions, and they are comfortable being around dogs of ALL personality types – you never know what you’ll get at the dog park!
At The Park
What To Bring
Bring your leash and always keep it ON you at the dog park. Do NOT hang it on a nearby fence or leave it on a bench. If a situation becomes unsafe, you’ll want to secure your dog as quickly as possible. Make sure your dog’s identification tags are up to date in terms of address and vaccinations, just in case.
Also, bring waste bags, as it’s better to be safe than sorry. Another option is a pop-up bowl and water if you’re concerned about your dog sharing bowls at the park. NEVER bring treats, this could spark aggression, and you can never if other dogs present are allergic to the treats you give your pup. It’s important to also have your cell phone with you at all times, you never know when you might need it.
Start Slow And Stay Vigilant
Most dog parks have double gates, which gives you a chance to take it slow getting into the general play area. This is a good opportunity to let your dog get familiar with their surroundings. If the entrance is immediately swarmed by a dozen dogs upon your arrival, taking a break also gives your dog and the other dogs a chance to calm down and get familiar with each other’s scent through the fence.
Make sure you are keeping a close watch on your dog at ALL times. Dogs can tell you a lot through their body language, so it’s important to monitor behavior. You’ll also want to closely watch any dogs playing with your pup for signs of aggression. If you notice their facial expression, posture, or tail motion change dramatically, it may be time to take a break.
Break It Up
Anytime you go to a dog park, you need to prepare for the off chance that a fight does break out. It is also important to know the difference between play fighting and actual aggression. Try to locate the owner of the other dog immediately, and If the fight goes on for more than a few seconds, try and reach for your dog’s back legs to pull them away. Do NOT reach for their collar, as they will try to bite your arm out of instinct.
The dog park can be a wonderful place, allowing your dog to exercise, socialize, and work off-leash training. It also allows you the chance to meet and learn from other dog owners. Just remember to take all proper precautions before attending and while you’re there to ensure a positive experience!