Dog parks can be a sanctuary for both dogs and their owners. Parks give dogs the opportunity to be free off of the leash with others of their kind in a large area instead of a small, fenced-in yard… and the humans get the chance to socialize with other dog parents.
Because of the benefits that dog parks have to offer, it is important to practice proper dog park etiquette to make sure that everyone has a positive experience during their visit.
Before you decide to attend a dog park, make sure that your dog is up to date on all shots – you never know what he might pick up from the communal water bowl or the other dogs directly. A dog park usually holds the risk of bacteria, parasites and illnesses spreading between the dogs. If your dog has any contagious health issue like kennel cough, please reschedule your trip, and wait for it to go away.
When you enter the dog park, make sure that the gate is closed behind you. It happens more often than you’d think that people enter the dog park and accidentally let random dogs escape. Once you’re inside with the gate closed behind you, have your dog sit and maintain eye contact with you. Train him to stay until you unhook his leash and give him the green light to run. This will help him practice his discipline, so that he will listen to you in more stressful situations in that environment.
It’s important to keep an eye on your dog at all times. Your pup will be depending on you for guidance and protection, so don’t get too distracted looking at other dogs or talking to their owners. If your dog doesn’t feel safe, his anxiety will increase, and he may lash out negatively towards those around him. There are many factors that could happen to make your dog feel like he’s in danger. His peers could be playing too roughly and he could become aggressive; he could accidentally hurt smaller dogs; he could lose you and become scared; or a dog fight could break out around him and somehow he could get roped into it – it’s all unpredictable.
While watching your dog, observe his body language around the other dogs. Does he look nervous or excited? Is he initiating play or running away? Is he wagging his tail or tucking it in between his legs? If your dog seems happy and excited to be there, you probably won’t have any problems with him, but you should still watch him. If your dog seems to be acting nervous, kneel down next to him and pet him and the other dogs to show him that they are not a threat. If he begins to growl, hold his snout so he doesn’t bite, but pet him and tell him he’s a good boy when he’s not growling at the dogs interacting with him. Eventually, you can release his snout and continue to reward him for not showing any signs of aggression.
We recommend that you bring a leash, plastic bags for picking up poop, a water bowl and your dog’s favorite squeaky toy in case you need to get his attention quickly. If you decide to bring treats, don’t let the other dogs see that you have them, unless you want to be swarmed. If the other dogs do see that you have treats, don’t give them any; they might have specific diet restrictions that you don’t know about.
Because dog parks can be so unpredictable, you should always go with your gut if you think the environment is unsafe. If someone isn’t following dog-park etiquette, and they’re not watching their dog that’s becoming aggressive with those around it, you should round up your pup and call it a day. It’s pretty unusual for this to happen, but it doesn’t hurt to always be aware.
While at the dog park, make sure to have a Scout GPS Tracker on your dog’s collar just in case he accidentally gets let out or you lose sight of him in the huge park. You’ll be able to track his exact location from your smartphone on the Find My Scout app.
For more information, go to findmyscout.com.