The Do’s and Don’ts of Dog Parks
Dog parks can be a great place to socialize your dog, but as a trainer I see a lot of ways in which dog parks are unsafe or even detrimental to the socialization process. Here are some tips on how to make the experience safe and fun for your dog:
DO always pay attention to your dog. I see a lot of owners chatting amongst themselves while their dogs run around. It is important to pay attention to your dog’s whereabouts and playmates at all times to prevent unsafe situations.
DON’T use a dog park solely for exercise. Taking a high energy, excited dog to a dog park is potential for disaster. Take your dog for a walk or run to drain energy so they can enter the pack calmly. A dog that darts into a park and zooms around is likely to be chased and corrected by multiple dogs leading to the chance of a fight or injury.
DO choose your dog’s playmates. Especially if you have a puppy, it is important to keep play positive. Choose older dogs who will teach your pup manners and good play behaviour, or aim for puppies around the same age and monitor closely. If your dog ever seems uncomfortable, no matter their age, don’t hesitate to remove them.
DON’T force shy dogs to go to dog parks. This will greatly hinder your goals in socializing as it is too overwhelming an experience. Instead, socialize your shy dog slowly with calm, quiet dogs one on one and then in small groups. Allow your dog to build confidence at their own pace and they will come around.
The bottom line is, you know your dog best. Pay attention to their behaviour around other dogs. Learn how they react and when they are uncomfortable in order to have a safe and enjoyable leash free experience.