Be in the know, keep your dog park adventures safe and fun!
Dog Parks, Dog Runs and Dog Beaches have cropped up all over in the past decade, offering a place for dogs to run and frolic in off leash play. Dog Parks near you may vary widely, from size, topography and special sections for whether your pooch is big or small, young or old. We get questions frequently about what environment is best for our clients pups. Team DogSense has frequented many of the local dog parks in the Twin Cities area, along with many others throughout the US over the past decade. We want to ensure you have good dog park tips assisting you and your dog’s safety and fun continues for years to come. Our Top 10 Dog Park Tips are here to help make your dog park adventures the best they can be.
There simply is no better outlet for your dog’s energy than playing with other dogs. Dog parks are great fun for providing your dog opportunity to run, play and enjoy life doggy style. Though, not all dogs are appropriate for off leash play and some just do not find it their idea of fun. If you are unsure about your dog’s social skills, contact a qualified dog behavior professional first. Most importantly, know your dog! If your dog is showing signs of fear or frustration while at the park, find another way to get your dog sufficient exercise and enrichment. Remember, it’s all about providing your dog great joy. It’s okay, if playing with other dogs is not your pups cup of tea, find that energy outlet that is just right for your pup.
Before heading out to your local dog park, it’s important to plan ahead and be in the know. Know what to be aware of to ensure your dog is safe and has a great time.
Top 10 Dog Park Tips:
1. Puppies under 16 weeks of age are not good candidates for the dog park yet. Dog/dog socialization is of high importance for puppies. We want this to occur in controlled settings where you can protect your puppy from bad experiences that could potentially make your puppy fearful. First experiences matter a lot in setting the stage for whether your pup will enjoy certain situations or be afraid long term. Set your puppy up for those early experiences with other dogs to be positive ones in a controlled setting. Local puppy socials and puppy kindergarten classes are essential until your puppy has lots of good experiences with other dogs. Once your puppy has lots of good experiences with other dogs, then you may join in on the fun at your local dog park.
2. Your puppy or dog is fully vaccinated. This is for the safety in health for your dog and all other dogs that enjoy the dog park. Minimum vaccinations suggested are Rabies, Distemper and Bordatella. Also make sure your dog is healthy for every dog park visit. Just like us, an ill dog can be contagious, keep them home until symptoms are gone.
3. Understand basic dog body language. Our best avenue for understanding whether our dog is upset or having fun is through our eyes. Dogs growl both during play and when upset, same goes for barking. If you are ever unsure whether your dog is having fun while engaged in play with another dog, remove your dog from the play. If your dog goes bounding back, he was having fun. If not, it’s time to go for a walk around the park and possibly find another playmate. Allowing your dog to feel bullied at the dog park is the quickest road to your dog no longer being a dog park dog – be your dogs hero always. Do not fall into the philosophy that your dog needs to suck it up or toughen up, the price paid later for this is not a desired outcome.
4. The safest dog at the park is the dog with a rock solid recall. Practice your recall at home first, then in your own yard, then on a long line in an area with low distractions. These steps should all be fluent before attempting a recall at the dog park. Initial practice at the dog park should occur after your dog has sniffed, played and is looking around for what else there might be to do. Practice those recalls often and reward generously! Soon you will be able to call your dog back to you even in full throttle play and everyone will be impressed.
5. Keep a close eye on your dog at all times! Many say dogs are equivalent to a two year old child. We would never consider taking our eyes off our two year old at the park. We really should apply this same logic to our dogs at the park. Also watch your dogs playmate. Does he appear to be having fun…if you are unsure, again move along. Don’t let your dog dampen another dog’s fun.
6. Keep toy size dogs with small dogs. If you have a toy size dog, research and locate your local dog parks that have small dog play areas. The risk of injury or death from rough play or predatory drift is of high concern. Once a predatory attack is in motion, it is just too late.
7. Move on swiftly away from the gate, when you enter the park. This is where most fights and resulting injuries occur. Best practices are to enter the park and keep walking. If your dog has been cooped up all day, he’ll be a much better playmate if he has the opportunity to get out some of those ya-ya’s before playing with another dog. Pent up energy is another big cause for dog fights at the park. Again, know your dog. If your dog plays with others best after he’s had opportunity to get some of that energy spent, give him that opportunity first every time.
8. Exercise extreme caution when dogs are engaged in flat out chase games. Though two dogs of equal size can have a great time in a game of chase, more dogs will join in at a crowded dog park. Many dogs love a game of chase and enjoy being chased. Most become overwhelmed and scared when they suddenly realize they have multiple dogs on their tail. If you see multiple dogs chasing one dog or a larger dog chasing a much smaller dog – always interrupt immediately.
9. Pay close attention when more than two dogs are playing together. Ensure that two or more dogs are not ganging up on one dog. Even two or more dogs barking in the face of another dog trying to get him to play can feel very intimidating to the dog being barked at. All dog parents should go in and gather up their personal dog to redirect to another game.
10. Be mindful that play is consensual and fun. When your dog is playing with a playmate watch for role reversals in play, the same dog is not always on top or the one biting at the scruff. They should be taking turns, one is on the bottom and it shifts to the other. Role reversals and changing up of game is what you are looking for in consensual play on the part of both dogs. Teach your dog to be a good and fair player and you will enjoy many years of dog park fun.
We prefer dog parks with a lot of space and an abundance of hiking trails. Some even have swimming holes, which is a magnificent energy burner.
Looking for a good dog park in Minnesota? Check out this map from Sidewalk Dog to find a dog park close to you, and keep our Top 10 Dog Park Tips in mind as you plan your next dog park visit.
Need some help with teaching your dog a rock sold recall? Check out DogSense Online dog training videos to help you make your dog among the safest at the dog park.
Until next time, Have Fun & Enjoy Your Dog!
Jody Karow – CTC
Your Personal Puppy Expert, Dog Life Coach & Online Dog Trainer