You’ve decided you want to take your dog to a dog park. You’ve never done this before. What do you need to know to make it a good experience and to keep you and your dog safe? Let’s discuss three main points to consider before you and your pooch head out for the afternoon: your behavior, your dog’s behavior and what to bring and not to bring with you to the dog park.
Your behavior sets the stage for either a good experience or one that is less than pleasant. You should be focused on your dog and not distracted. Think of it as taking your toddler to the playground and either not paying any attention at all to what is happening to her or giving her your undivided attention. Keep control of your dog. Always keep a leash with you, and especially the first time at the park, you may want to keep your dog on a leash (a least on a long one). This will give you a bit more control over the situation should a problem or challenge arise. Don’t take small children with you. You will be distracted, and a small child may be perceived as prey for a larger dog at the park. That wouldn’t end well, and we’re gearing up for a pleasant and successful time for all.
Your dog’s behavior – It’s very important for your dog to be good on recall. Personally, my adopted dog Chloe was never good on recall. Whatever her experience with her first family was, “come ” meant run as far as you can as fast as you can. Needless to say, she was not a good candidate for a dog park, and definitely not an off-lead park. We never went. Your dog should also not be allowed to charge up to strange dogs no matter how friendly or good-intentioned he may be. Another more timid dog may perceive this as aggressive behavior. I’m sure you can connect the dots on that one. Do I need to say that dogs who are aggressive towards other dogs and people should not go to dog parks? Yes, I probably do need to say that.
What should and shouldn’t you take with you to the dog park. Bring a lead. A long lead is a good idea especially for the first visit or two. Bring a bowl or collapsible water dish and some water. Don’t bring rawhide or food related treats; these can start trouble especially with dogs who lean toward food aggression. You may decide to bring small training treats to reward your dog for good behavior. (Side note: don’t give treats to another dog without that dog guardian’s permission. Dogs can have allergies to ingredients like wheat, soy, chicken, etc. so make sure you ask before giving another dog a treat. Make sure your dog has his collar and id/rabies tags on it. And… for goodness sake, bring poo-poo bags, and clean up after your dog!
As you can see, there are some important things to consider when planning a trip to your local dog park. Most of them are basic and not rocket science, but being sure to adhere to them can make your trip to the dog park a great experience for you and your pooch… an experience that you will want to enjoy again and again!