Giving your dog time to socialize with other dogs – and their humans – helps keep him happy, tired, and healthy. Dog parks are a great place to let your dog run and play, interact with other dogs, and to meet people (for both of you!). In addition to knowing what to do if you encounter an aggressive dog, following these tips will help you be a good dog park patron and ensure a positive experience for you and your dog.
– Make sure your dog is in good health before going to the dog park.
– Ensure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations, flea, and heartworm treatments to avoid passing these ailments on to other dogs.
– Observe the other dogs in the park to try to determine if they may have any potential health or behavior issues that could affect your dog, as well.
– Clean up after your dog, always. Be prepared with plastic baggies and locate the waste receptacles in advance. During play time, monitor your dog for signals that she is about to eliminate and pick up quickly to avoid messes for yourself, other dogs or people in the park.
– Supervise your dog and interrupt if his playtime with another dog seems to become too rough or if your dog or another dog is becoming aggressive. Closely monitor your dog and intervene if it appears he is trying to eat something he discovered on the ground. Dog parks can be ideal places for dumping garbage, discarded food items, even drug paraphernalia, and these can injure your dog or cause serious illness.
– Take a dog younger than four months to a dog park. At this stage, puppies are still learning socialization skills and they are small and easily injured by larger and more aggressive dogs.
– Take aggressive or skittish dogs to crowded dog parks. Dogs that are sensitive or fearful may act out aggressively when confronted with more playful dogs.
– Use treats or toys. Even the most even-tempered dogs will react to protect their treats and toys from curious dogs.
– Let your dog off-leash in an unfenced park if she is not responsive to your verbal commands. Strong-willed dogs, and especially puppies that haven’t received obedience training, can get very excited by new sights and smells and dart away quickly.
– Bring intact males or females in estrus to a dog park. We always recommend neutering or spaying your dog, but if he or she is intact, keep them home and away from other dogs during their heat cycles.
As always, make sure your dog is in good health by consulting your veterinarian before attending a dog park. If your dog is very antisocial, consider seeking a professional trainer to improve socialization behaviors and ensure a happy and healthy experience for you and your dog.