The weather is lovely and you’d love to see your dog enjoy some canine-canine playtime and reap the benefits of a tired hound later! You’re headed to the dog park. Ensure it’s a safe trip by following these tips:
1. Master obedience commands in distracting environments before going to the dog park.
If your dog is used to tuning you out when he’s having fun in distracting places, then you won’t be able to get his attention during a heightened moment at the dog park. How can you start practicing? Have your dog do “sits” and “downs” during walks and even do a recall (“come”) command while on a walk. Say “come” and then run backwards from your dog; when he reaches you, reward him with treats. Eventually transition these commands to be done in various locations - both on and off leash and with and without food rewards. Take a group dog training class to further practice! Group classes are fantastic for teaching your dog to listen in distractions and when near other dogs. Find a local class by using this link.
2. Consider carefully whether or not to bring toys.
Toys may give dogs something to resource guard as “mine, mine, mine!” Some dog behaviorists advise never to bring toys to the dog park. If you decide to bring toys, bring extras so there is not just one special toy.
3. Visit the park at non-peak times.
Visiting the park when there are fewer dogs is more enjoyable and helps to avoid some undesirable dog behavior. Try visiting early in the morning, later in the evening or when other humans are at work. Leave early or do not stay if the park is too crowded.
4. Watch dog language.
Be ready to leave if you see any dogs exhibiting non-desirable behavior. Staring, crouching, and other tense body language are warning signs. A group of dogs chasing one other dog is also very rude. This article further outlines both polite and impolite dog language.
5. Stay 30-60 minutes.
Have you seen a young child reach an overtired point? Suddenly the laughter turns to tears and temper tantrums! A similar thing can happen to dogs and suddenly they play too rough or get overly sensitive. Instead of staying for hours, go home before your dog reaches that point.
6. Don’t zone out.
Both humans and dogs must behave at the park! Pay attention to your dog. Do not engage in texting, web surfing, reading, or extensive human conversation. Keep your eyes on your pooch to ensure there is not a situation that requires you to separate the dogs (such as mounting or other rude behavior) or requires you to leave.
7. Consider the dog parks that require a paid membership or entrance fee.
These may be some of the nicer, cleaner dog parks as part of the fees likely goes toward maintenance. In addition, these parks may verify vaccination records of dogs and ban dogs that have not played nicely.
8. Pick up poop.
Many dog owners violate this responsible dog ownership concept! Dog waste ends up on shoes and on dog paws that track feces into cars and homes. Worse yet, poop may transmit disease. In general, dog owners who do not pick up poop ruin it for the responsible dog owners; often, these doo-doo violators are the reason that even good dog owners and their dogs are banned from certain venues. Offer the person who didn’t pick up his pooch’s poop one of your poop bags, pick up the abandoned dog poop of others, and always pick up your dog’s droppings. Perhaps you’ll generate some good karma, too!
Enjoy your visit to the dog park! If you don’t have a dog park near you, check out the local doggie day camp facilities as another option for playtime.