A dog park is a fun and easy way to get your dog exercised and socialized, but there are many dangers that go with dog parks. Having so many unknown dogs in the same area can sometimes lead to problems, and you wouldn’t want your dog caught in the middle of a fight. Here are a few pointers for having a safe and fun experience at the dog park.
Whenever I first arrive at a dog park, no matter how many times I’ve been to it, I will watch how the dogs interact with one other before entering. If there seems to be more than a few dogs that are too rough or picking on other dogs, I will go for a walk and come back later when the problem dogs are gone. Once I have decided the environment is friendly and safe, I make sure my dogs do a sit-stay before they get to run free.
The most important thing to remember when at a dog park is to keep a very close eye on your dog. Attacks can happen in seconds and often times without much warning. If you feel your dog is at risk or putting others at risk, leave.
Make sure your dog does not bully other dogs. My black lab tends to be a little rough when playing and I often have to stop him mid-play and calm him down when he starts to become too much for the other dog. Play has to be two sided, both dogs have to be having fun; it is not play if one of the dogs is running out of fear while the other has a blast chasing it.
Your dog can also be harassed by other dogs, if your dog is not having fun, or if any of the other dogs are too much for him, it is best to leave and come again another time. There will always be a few dogs out there that your dog does not get along with.
It may also be helpful to bring treats with you to the dog park. Dog parks are a great way to increase your dog’s obedience skills. Having them sit, stay, come etc. around all those distractions will be a great challenge for your dog if he is already reliable without the distractions. Use the treats to call your dog to you every now and again, not just when you are leaving. This way you can get your dog away from undesirable situations by just calling his name.
One last thing I would suggest is to not bring a young puppy to dog parks (or very small dogs for that matter). They are just too vulnerable and puppies are much more prone to develop behavior problems from traumatic experiences when they are young. If a puppy has just one bad experience at the dog park she may have a fear of dogs for a very long time.