Taking your dog to the dog park is a great way to socialize and let them get some exercise. It can be a nice moment to let your dog run off-leash while you take a breather, but it’s important not to take your eyes off your pup. With other dogs around, you need to be as attentive as possible to your dog and their interactions. Your dog may be friendly, but you never know who they’re playing with or how they’ll get along.
With this in mind, there are plenty of things you can do to be the best dog parent in the park.
Is Your Dog Ready for the Park?
Please only take your dog to the park if they’re healthy and cleared by a vet to be around other dogs. Especially puppies! Socializing puppies is important, but not at the cost of their health.
Make sure they are:
- Spayed or neutered
- Up to date on all their vaccinations
- Not sick or injured in any way
Before You Get There, Plan Ahead!
It’s best to make sure your dog has some basic training before going to the park. A wild dog off the leash who doesn’t listen when you call could be a recipe for disaster. The most important commands that would be helpful to know are:
- Leave it
Here’s a few things you might want to pack for your day in the park:
- Poop bags. Don’t be the one who lets the park get smelly!
- Water and a water bowl
- Treats to use in case a distraction is needed for your dog
- A leash. Even in an off-leash park, a leash is preferred when coming in and out of the park
Leave your pup’s favorite toys at home. If you opt to bring a toy to play with, make sure it’s one your dog is cool with sharing (and you’re cool with losing).
Time for the Park!
It’s actually a good idea to walk your dog for a little while before they get into the park. Letting your dog enter the park with full energy can be too stimulating for the other dogs. If the park is nearby, walk to it! If not, consider parking a little further away to create some distance.
It’s tempting to relax while you let your dog run and have their fun, but try to be attentive. Don’t be glued to your phone or let yourself get too far away from your dog. Situations can develop quicker than you think. Paying attention can help you diffuse tension as soon as you see it.
Make sure you’re paying attention to your dog’s body language. If they seem scared or overwhelmed, take them out of the park for a moment to catch their breath or head home. If they’re the one scaring another dog, distract them or take them out.
If your dog is resource guarding or being aggressive about sharing something, remove the item they’re guarding. If resource guarding is a habit with your dog, you might want to consider if a park is the best place for them. Dogs who are territorial don’t typically do well in public settings.
The Most Important Thing
No one knows your dog like you do! If the dog park is a place you think your dog would love, try it out. They might not be the most well behaved pup at first, but practice makes perfect. If your dog’s personality wouldn’t mesh well with the energy of a dog park, find another way to socialize and exercise them. It’s all about what’s best for them.