5 Things To Know Before You Take Your Dog To The Dog Park
A dog park can be an excellent environment for your dog to let out all of their dogness with other dogs all while getting a healthy dose of exercise!
Dogs can exercise each other better than humans ever can - running at full speed, flipping around, playing with full energy... a dog tired from exercise is a very very good dog. And all dogs need regular exercise every single day.
So, taking your dog to a dog park can be a wonderful way to let them play and exercise but there are some major pitfalls to watch out for!
PLEASE NOTE: Most trainers will tell you that a dog park is dangerous and an accident waiting to happen. And they are correct. I only take Sage to the dog park at very specific times - weekday mornings when there tends to be responsible dog owners present and there are VERY FEW DOGS there.
I know, for me, the dog park seemed a perk when considering to get a dog. Just keep in mind everything below and always ALWAYS leave the dog park if your dog seems scared, is being bullied by another dog, or there is one (or more) jerk dogs or owners present!!
TOPICS COVERED IN THIS DOG PARK INFO BLOG:
1. All Dogs Do Not Like / Enjoy The Dog Park
"How can I make my dog like the dog park?"
The Dog Park Experience is not only for dogs but many of us humans enjoy it, too!
It's fun to watch the dogs play and enjoy themselves and casually mingle with other dog owners. But...
some dogs just aren't into the dog park
And that's fine. They are not casual-relationship types (hah!). They do not get joy from random dog butt sniffs (given or gotten). They may be hyper people focused.
It's all good! Don't make your dog go to the dog park if it visibly causes your dog anxiety or they just don't care about being there and stay by you the whole time.
2. Be Alert - Watch Your And Other Dogs' Behavior Signals
There are 3 Categories of dog play styles shelters and rescues use to categorize the play style of a particular dog and their likely compatibility with other dogs.
PLAY STYLES: Dainty & Gentle, Rough & Rowdy, Push/Pull
All dogs will fall into one of these three categories and then there are "Helper Dogs" who adapt to the style whatever dog they are playing with prefers and has fun.
"Is dog growling or playing rough in a dog park dangerous?"
It is not always threatening if dogs are growling or play-grabbing each other around the neck. A big signal things are fine is if the play is mutual. If one dog seems scared or only on defense, it is safest to stop the interaction, right away. If you ever feel nervous or threatened about another dog's behavior at the dog park, just leave.
Click to our blog post "Dog Play Styles and Compatibility, Explained (coming soon!)" for information on what traits each style has and which dogs are likely to play well together!
3. A Dog On A Leash May React Defensively
You may be wondering if you should have your dog on a leash inside the dog park.
DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG ON A LEASH in a dog park.
First, the whole point is it is an area for a dog to go off leash and be free!
Second, a dog on a lead may react in a protecting or defensive way if a loose dog runs up on them. The leashed dog is essentially trapped and also tethered to their human which may trigger them to be defensive.
Do Not Walk Your Dog On A Leash In A Free-Run Dog Park
If your dog has *never* interacted with another dog before DO NOT TAKE THEM TO THE DOG PARK.
Learn more about acclimating your dog on leash and in the park in post, "(Coming soon, stay tuned, friends! This site is a work in progress)". :D
4. Some Dog Owners Are Assholes
There's really no way around this.
Some people will bring dogs to the dog park who are not socialized properly (human's fault).
Some people will be not so nice to their dog (human's fault 😭).
Some dog owners will not pick up after their dog (poop city) or correct them when they are not being cool in the dog society (bad human!).
Personally, I have found some specific times I like to go to the park. For me, that is earlier in the morning on weekdays (we generally go twice a week).
I avoid weekends when it is overcrowded and evenings when it seems like people may be tired or not paying attention, as much.
If there is a dog or dog owner disturbing you, you should just leave.
And remember: bad behavior not the dog's fault. It is their human's.
5. Do NOT Take Food Or Treats Into The Dog Park
If this is the first time you have heard the term "Resources Guarding" absolutely click that link to learn more!
In short - animals may compete for things like attention or food. Some totally cool and chill dogs can suddenly turn into competitive, assertive, or even aggressive if there is suddenly something of high value they feel is not guaranteed FOR THEM.
So - just make it easy on everyone and don't bring high-value treats or toys into the dog park. Balls and frisbees are fine. Tacos and squeaky toys are not!