When it comes to bringing their pooch to the local dog park, many people think it’s as easy as removing the leash off and letting them run free while turning a blind eye. But if one has this mentality, they’re probably making a ton of mistakes at their dog park that are unknowingly harming their dog and others. Here’s how to be a more successful — and conscientious — dog parent.
1. Put That Dog Down
Sometimes things can get a little rowdy at the dog park. While bigger dogs can handle themselves with ease, smallest dogs are definitely more vulnerable. This often leads to their owners instinctively scooping up their little pup. However, that act can in fact lead to a world of regret for dog and owner.
When one picks up their tiny dog, the bigger dogs might get a sense that their smaller counterpart is fleeing the scene, which might trigger their chase instinct. This can result in a number of dogs jumping on you. An extremely unlucky person might even end up getting bit. It’s best to keep calm and let your little dog approach you of its own will.
2. Exercise The Pup Before
Most people take their dogs to the dog park for the sole purpose of making sure their furry friend gets a little exercise. They figure that their puppy has been cooped up inside all day and that the dog park is the perfect place for him to burn off some of that energy. But the thing is, these parks weren’t designed to be a dog’s only source of exercise.
When you make the park the only daily source of exercise, you’re basically setting up your dog to be the wild one at the park. It’s highly likely he’s going to be overstimulated, jumping all over the other dogs and leaving little puppies in the dust. This behavior is often what causes fights at a dog park. To assure your dog is calm and cool at the dog park, take him for a little run beforehand.
3. Keep Big and Small Dogs Separated
While some dog parks have separate play areas for big and small dogs, a lot don’t. In those parks, you have to be extra careful when it comes to smaller dogs. Bigger dogs might view them less as a fellow canine and more like prey. Also, their high-pitched barks and fast movements can result in larger dogs snapping.
So keep a careful eye on your little Pomeranian when she trots on into that dog park. It wouldn’t be at all uncommon for a big dog to lunge at her. An accident like that can result in beef between dog owners, a lawsuit and even worse, an injured dog.
4. Pick Up After Your Dog
If you’re up to date on your dog etiquette, you’ll always make sure to have at least a couple of plastic bags in hand when you’re out with your canine companion. While a bit of dog droppings might not seem like a big deal for some, it can cause a dog or even human a lot of damage.
If your puppy comes into contact with a stranger dog’s poo, it can in fact expose them to a lot of diseases or parasites. Once at the dog parks, a dog is bound to roll on the ground and rough house in the area. By picking up after your dog and keeping the dog park clean, you’re helping maintain a clean and pleasant environment, as well as keeping a lot of dogs out of the vet’s office.
5. Take That Harness Off
Whether you have your dog decked out in a chain, prong collar, or basic harness, you should always remove it when entering the dog park. When dogs play in the park, it isn’t uncommon for them to take nips at each other’s back and shoulders.
If another dog latches onto your dog’s harness, it can be harmful for both dogs. They could easily get their teeth caught in the fabric or metal parts of the contraptions. If the dog gets loose, this can result in a fight between the two animals and even the owners if one is significantly injured.
6. Teach Your Dog Some Manners
Like humans, not every dog is going to click and be friends with yours. If two dogs are properly trained, they won’t get into a scuffle. A poorly-trained dog will likely aggressively approach any new dogs in the dog park. This behavior will definitely hinder the dog park for a lot of other dogs, especially the pups.
You should also prevent your dog from mounting any other dogs or sniffing their behinds for too long. This behavior is definitely considered rude and can offend other dog owners. Just like with humans, dogs have to mind each other with respect and class. It’s your job to teach them how to behave.
7. Don’t Let Your Dog Be a Bully
What could possibly be more cute than two dogs jumping all over each other and having a harmless wrestling match? Any dog owner would gush over such a scene. However, when two dogs start rough-housing, keep a good eye on them and make sure that it’s nothing but innocent play.
If you can see that the other dog isn’t interested in messing around and is becoming annoyed, you should immediately intervene. If one dog is anxious about tussling with a dog that doesn’t really want to play, those innocent nips can get out of hand and develop into a big brawl.
8. Keeping The Leash On In a Leash-Off Area
Every dog owner wants to feel secure about their dog’s whereabouts. That’s where the ever-so-famous dog leash comes into play. When he has that contraption wrapped around his neck, he isn’t going anywhere. It’s standard practice for owners to keep the leash on their dog whenever they go outside.
Even at the dog park, some owners will keep their dog on the leash. And while that doesn’t sound like a recipe for disaster, it can actually be very dangerous. Amid the excitement of the dog park, the dog can wrap his legs in the leash and have an accident. Also feeling trapped can cause the dog to become irritable and aggressive towards other dogs. By all means, if you are in a leash-off area, free your pooch.
9. Make Sure Your Dog Has Recall Skills
If you absolutely have no control over your dog, then be responsible and steer clear of bringing him to the local dog park. He’ll go nuts and you’ll have a tough time getting him back on the leash when you want to go home. Recall skills are a must when you are at the dog park.
When your dog has mastered the recall command, it displays just how in tune you are with your dog. It’s also an important command to have down when you’re at the dog park with your dog. He or she might be causing trouble or having too much fun, and that command will definitely come in handy.
10. Leave That Retractable Leash
While there are a bunch of cool-looking leashes at your local pet shop, the one that should always be avoided is the retractable leash. It gives your dog the feeling of too much freedom and control, which can be very dangerous for the dog, especially once they enter that dog park.
Once at the park, the dog will run freely, only to roughly pulled back by the leash. This can really strain their neck if they aren’t careful. One must also consider how thin the cord is, as another dog can easily miss it in its line of sight and run trip over it.
11. Keep Small Kids Out
Maybe your dog and toddler are as tight as Timmy and Lassie, and that’s great, but don’t think every other dog in the world is going to take a liking to your kid. Once you let your stumbling toddler into the dog park, don’t be shocked when one of the collies gets excited and knocks him over.
Some dog breeds like the beagle or poodle are perfect for children and will gladly welcome some into the dog park. However, many other breeds won’t pay much mind to your young toddler’s well-being. If your kid finds themselves in a bad situation with a dog, it could lead to them developing an unfortunate fear of canines.
12. Don’t Bring Unvaccinated Dogs
So you just bought that new puppy and your list of things to do just got about a hundred times longer. You need to train this dog, buy her some toys, get her used to your house, and get her vaccinated. All the while, this little pup is a ball of energy. A trip to the dog park looks like the simple solution for this hyperactive state.
Better think twice about that. Taking a dog to the dog park that isn’t vaccinated would be a bad mistake. Those vaccinations mean a world of difference for the average canine, especially at a dog park, which is full of bacteria and diseases. Even a vaccinated dog can get a case of worms or giardia from the dog park, so a puppy that hasn’t been properly vaccinated can pick up an illness that’ll be difficult for him to fight.
13. Get Permission Before Petting
If you’re looking to be overwhelmed by cuteness, you should head to your local dog park. You’ll see these little furries running about in all shapes and sizes. While some people know better than to hug and pet a stranger’s pooch, others can’t hold back their need for some doggy cuddles.
This can be a big mistake. Firstly, petting a stranger’s dog without permission can be rude. You wouldn’t hug a random mother’s baby, would you? Secondly, some dogs respond differently to women and men. Moreover, many dogs aren’t immediately comfortable with strangers and need time to know someone. They can react angrily if touched without proper introduction.
14. Focus On Your Dog, Not Your Phone
A lot of people enter the dog park and then proceed to release their dog, sit at a bench, whip out their phone, and forget all about their fur baby and the havoc she may be wreaking. Sometimes, you’ll see a dog looking up at its owner with begging eyes, wanting attention or validation, and their owner will be lost in a text or Instagram post.
Don’t assume that dogs are dim-witted. Some will notice their owners lost in their phone and take advantage of the situation. Any rules you might have established with them will be thrown out the window. When you’re at the dog park, it’s important that they can feel your eyes on them so they don’t try to test the boundaries you’ve put in place.
15. Make Sure Your Puppy Isn’t Too Young
Puppies are little balls of energy and you want nothing more than to see itsy bitsy doggies burning their energy by freely running in a dog park. However, don’t rush your puppy to the dog park so fast. Puppies can be pretty fragile and should be at least 12 weeks old before making their first trip to the dog park.
Not only can they be easily thrown around by bigger dogs, but they are also very susceptible to disease, as they have not been fully immunized. Your puppy needs to be strong and healthy before going where the big dogs play.
16. Don’t Let Dogs Solve Their Own Problems
While it might seem counter-intuitive to some dog owners, a lot of people prefer to let their dogs solve their own social drama. When dogs first meet in a dog park, it is important to remember that these dogs are coming from very different living situations and handle themselves in different manners.
When things get a little too heated between dogs, an owner should always do their part by getting involved and breaking things up. This of course includes if your dog is bullying a dog, as well as mounting or being mounted by another dog. You want to do your part to make the dog park as comfortable as possible for everyone there.
17. Don’t Bring a Dog That’s Pregnant or In Heat
If you don’t want to cause a stir at a dog park, don’t bring a dog that’s in heat. Every dog will stop playing and running and give all their attention to the dog in heat. The likely result will be every owner taking their dog home and the park being completely empty. It’s a distraction that interferes with why the dog owners brought them there in the first place: to be active and burn energy.
You should also avoid bringing a pregnant dog to the dog park. This will also rile up the other dogs in the vicinity and also maybe put the unborn puppies in danger. The last place that a pregnant dog needs to be is a park full of running and rowdy dogs.
18. Paying More Attention To a Person
When you head out to the dog park, your primary responsibility is to be focused on your dog. This is her time, not yours. You have all day to text people and strike up new friendships. During that twenty minutes at the park, your dog needs your attention.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t chat up other dog owners — but to an extent. If you were at a real park with your kids, you would definitely keep your eyes on them while they play in the jungle gym, right? Dogs are no different. You can get lost in the eyes of one of the fellow dog owners and completely miss your dog getting attacked or running loose somewhere.
19. Don’t Bring a Territorial Dog
Unfortunately, some dogs just aren’t fit to be in a social environment like a dog park. Maybe they are rescue dogs with a sketchy past or just poorly-disciplined. You know your dog better than anyone else. If she doesn’t like sharing toys or likes stealing other dog’s toys and guarding them jealously for herself, she shouldn’t be at the dog park.
A dog with these behavior traits can be dangerous for the other dogs at the dog park. Not every dog is going to recognize your dog’s aggressive behavior off the bat. They might see it as simply rough play and then end up running into a vicious bite. Some dogs even get this way about food, which means they’ll sniff out food not even meant for them and then attack.
20. Don’t Bring Food
While dog parks can seem absolutely heavenly, they aren’t the best place to plan your next picnic. While your dog might be able to stop himself from jumping on the table and tackling your pizza, some dogs won’t hold back. They’ll bound onto the table, take the basket, and abscond with it to the far side of the dog park.
Not only is this annoying for you, but it’s not healthy for the dog, both in terms of nutrition and behavior. Maybe whole subway sandwiches and pizza aren’t the way to go when it comes to food at the dog park, as it’s bound to get you plenty of unwanted attention. However, you can always bring a few treats for your dog, and make a little snack for you to much on as well.
21. Bring Water
Dogs need to be walked on a daily basis, even on the summer’s most blazing days. When they are at the dog park running and wrestling with a pack of other dogs, things can heat up for your poor poodle very quickly. She might find herself overheated, dizzy, and suddenly a little panicked.
You should always make sure that you have some cool water on hand to refresh your furry buddy. They can’t tell you that they’re thirsty, you just need to know and be aware. Some dogs will need water and shade more than others, especially those with longer coats.
22. Always Be Vigilant
The person that’s going to know your dog better than anyone else is you. You see them in the morning, noon and night. Some people even bring their dog to the office with them. What’s more, you know when your dog is about to be up to no good, which is precisely why you have to make sure to keep an eye on him.
Nobody else in the dog park, human or canine, is going to know when your dog is looking for trouble. He could appear perfectly innocent in one person’s eyes, but you’ll know what your dog is thinking. When he’s running around with a group of dogs, some have to watch him like a hawk.
23. Alternatives To The Dog Park
Maybe your dog is a puppy fresh out of the vaccination room, or a seasoned canine who has low energy and walks on a shaky pair of legs. Both these types of dogs aren’t fit for the rough-and-tumble world of dog parks. However, some people still want their dogs to be social, so what can they do?
You can always take your pet to a doggy daycare. Over there, they’ll be able to connect with dogs in a less hectic and more controlled environment. If the dog is very young, you can take him there so he can get ahead on his socialization with other dogs. It’ll do him wonders in the future.
24. Choose Your Park Wisely
While many may live with the notion that all dog parks are the same, looks can be deceiving, and that actually couldn’t be any further from the truth. While some parks are private and cost admission, these are definitely the better parks to go to.
They’ll have a list of rules to follow and will provide your dog with play time of a much higher quality. They will also probably be much cleaner and more presentable. Public dog parks will come in all sorts of different conditions. While some will still be of a decent quality, others will be way too small and too packed.
25. Obedience Training Spot
The dog park is actually the perfect place for your dog to practice some obedience training. If you want a canine companion that will listen to every command no matter how distracting an environment is, the dog park is actually among the best places to work on training.
While a game of chase is going on with a dozen other dogs, you can call on your dog and feel a deep sense of pride when they abandon the fun and listen to your command. If you can get your dog under control at a dog park, you know that you can depend on this animal at any time.
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