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Bringing your pet to a dog park is an excellent way to introduce them to other dogs. It’s where your pooch will make canine friends. However, not all first trips to dog parks are successful. As much as your dog may seem excited to go out, the tides will change once you’re on the park. Your pooch may become scared of other dogs, some will turn aggressive, while some will love it. The key to achieving the latter is to know how to introduce your dog to a dog park.
What are dog parks?
Unlike other parks, dog parks are exclusive for canines and dog owners. This is where pet owners can bring their furry friends to socialize with other dogs and humans. Also, it’s a canine-friendly place with scooper stations as well as dog poop bags ready for use. Most importantly, it offers an off-leash experience for dogs.
Usually, dog parks will have turf grasses as ground cover since it’s cooler, especially during the summer months. Some dog parks even have water fountains where canines can freshen up or dog washing stations where pet owners can rinse their soiled pets.
Some privately funded dogs parks will have swimming areas for canines as tennis balls that the visitors can use. And like any communal space, you should observe proper etiquette when bringing your doggo to the park.
But is it a good idea to bring your dog to a dog park? In this video, dog expert Zak George gives us a primer about the dog park experience:
Why should you bring your dog to a dog park?
Dog parks are safe places where canines can run, play, and socialize. The environment is also made to be dog-friendly. If you’re wondering why you should bring your pooch to this park, here are some of the right reasons why:
*It allows off-leash exercise
Most dog parks foster off-leash playtime for canines. This allows the pooch to mingle with other dogs, which the owners can use to dampen aggressive tendencies. Also, this place provides adequate physical and mental stimulation for canines with the presence of toys and other stimuli.
For those who want to raise a well-rounded doggo, socialization is imperative. If you don’t know anyone with a dog you can introduce to your pooch; you can head to a dog park instead. Still, meeting fellow canines won’t always go as planned, so make sure that you refer to our tips below.
*Community for pawrents
Aside from dogs, the owners also benefit from dog parks. It’s a place where they can share stories, tips, and experiences. It helps newbie owners with their struggles.
How to introduce your dog to a dog park
So for this specific trip, we have the following tips to make the dog park visit safer, more enjoyable, and free from dog fights.
1. Make sure that your dog got all the necessary shots
Dog parks are havens for pet owners, but it’s also the breeding ground for almost all types of bacteria and viruses that could infect your dog. This is why you should only bring your pooch to this park once it received all the core vaccines.
Never bring your sick dog to the dog park. As much as you want to perk up your sad pooch, you’re compromising the safety of other canines. This is much true if your pet has a contagious condition.
So be a responsible dog owner and wait until your doggo has been vaccinated. Besides, a pup is too young to be let out in a dog park. Nevertheless, a puppy will receive its vaccines once it reaches 8 or 10 weeks old.
2. Know your dog
As the pet owner, you must know your dog’s personality. It includes what your dog is afraid of, what it hates, and what triggers its potential aggression. By having this in mind, you can prevent any untoward situation while on the dog park.
Also, this will let you read the signs. That way, you can act fast and prevent your dog from being hurt or hurting other canines.
Remember, your dog should enjoy the stay in the park. But aside from fun, you should always keep an eye so they will stay safe.
Your dog should know how to keep eye contact with you. Also, you should know how to read any changes in their behavior so that you can apply the proper approach. This way, you can prevent panic attacks and other adverse reactions.
3. Don’t enter the dog park right away
If you see about 10 dogs swarming the entrance of the dog park, slow down and let the rest enter first. This is crucial, especially if it’s your dog’s first time to be in a dog park. Like humans, they can get overwhelmed by the crowd if they aren’t used to it.
Also, if you see a scuffle or a looming dog fight, back off and make sure that your doggo is as far away from it as possible. Remember that another dog’s aggression can trigger other canines.
Taking it slow is also beneficial to other doggos. This way, they won’t be distracted and overwhelmed with the presence of new a dog in the block.
Most of all, check how your dog reacts as you approach the dog park. Does it pull the leash to go back to the car? Does it pull forward out of excitement? Intense reactions should be dealt with right away. We recommend placing a few treats on your pocket so you can calm your dog down.
4. Train your dog for basic obedience first
Before you bring your doggo to the outside world, make sure that they are knowledgeable of basic obedience. This way, you can call them up and prevent any accidents while at the park.
Obedience training is necessary, so you’ll have full control of your pet. If not, you’ll likely encounter dog fights, which will injure your dog and other canines in the process.
Besides, dog parks are usually on an off-leash setup. If you let your pooch run free without training it for obedience, you’ll have to chase them around when it’s time to go. Other dog owners will also hate you for it since it will spook their pets.
You wouldn’t want to be that guy who has the ‘dog dork’. This is the name given to canines that don’t know how to interact. Most often, other pets find dog dorks to be more annoying than puppies.
5. Never consider dog parks as substitutes to daily walks
Going to a dog park is just a bonus activity for your dog so it can meet other people and canines. Never use it as a substitute for daily walks. Why? Let’s make this clear.
First of all, daily walks are an excellent way to train your dog to heel. It gives you full control over their destination and activities. Also, you can use daily walks as rewards to your pet if it behaves well or finishes a new training session.
6. Always put your dog on a leash
Leashing your dog is crucial if it’s the first time you’re bringing it to a park. This way, you can control its impulses and see how the pooch will perceive the park.
As much as dog parks are off-leash spaces, being cautious always pays off in the end. Let other dogs go near your pooch and see how your pet will react. Will it become scared? Aggressive? If your dog exhibits any negative behavior, it’s best to retreat and bring them to other parts of the park.
Dogs that are overreactive with other canines while on a leash should be trained first. Just imagine how your pet will behave if you let them off the leash. It can be a disaster.
Make sure that your dog is calm when meeting other dogs in the park. Usually, the dogs will sniff each other and try to lick body parts. This is normal, but you should always be ready to retreat if any of the dogs exhibit negative reaction.
7. Eyes on your dog, not the phone
Once you enter the dog park, it’s your job to keep your dog secured. That means you’re not supposed to spend the whole stay tapping on your phone. Your eyes should always be on your dog. Besides, dog parks are meant for pets and their owners to bond.
Letting your dog roam freely without supervision is dangerous both for your pet and other canines around. Also, you’ll miss the chance to see how your dog will behave around other humans and pets.
You should remember that dog parks aren’t meant for human socialization. As much as you can have a good time with fellow dog owners, make sure that your focus is on your dog.
At some point, you may need to scoop poo, break fights, or call your dog back. If you fail to impose your authority, your pet will think that dog parks are lawless lands.
8. Leave when your dog gets scared
Dog parks could be fun for your dog, but you should know when to leave. If your dog is scared, it’s best to save them from the situation by bringing them away from other dogs. Some signs of fear among dogs are pinned ears, tucked tail, and looking away from other canines. These are tell-tale S.O.S. signals and you should be to the rescue.
By saving your dog from a frightful situation, you’re also strengthening your bond with them. You’ll teach your dog that you are the alpha and that you’ll protect them from harm.
Whenever other dogs start to gather around your dog, make sure that you are ready to act if anything happens.
What if my dog loves the park and we have to leave?
If your dog enjoys the park, but you need to leave, you should employ the right tactic. Calling your dog and leaving right away will make the pooch think that you’re punishing it for obeying a command. As pet owners, we don’t want this to happen.
What we recommend is rewarding the dog when they come to you. After that, play with them for a few minutes but avoid sending back to the field. Delaying for a few minutes then leaving will also help your dog calm down. There could be whining and resistance, but they will get used to it at some point.
9. Bring some water
Before you head out for the dog park, you should bring a large tumbler or a bottle of water. Like humans, your dog will get dehydrated from playing in the park. Take note that brachycephalic or flat-faced dogs are more prone to overheating, so always bring a fresh bottle of water at all times.
Even if your dog isn’t showing signs of dehydration, take the initiative to give them water.
Nevertheless, if you forgot, you can always let your dog drink from the park’s dog bowl. However, many dogs will be crowding the bowl, which will lead to a drinking competition. As much as you want to hydrate your dog, you have to prevent overdrinking so that they won’t get bloated.
Also, for dogs visiting the park for the first time, sharing the water bowl may not be a good idea. Some will be resource-guarding. This pertains to a dog’s tendency to be possessive and aggressive when their toys and food are shared with other canines.
10. Learn how to break dog fights
Dog fights happen at dog parks all the time. And for dogs visiting the dog park for the first time, this is somehow expected. The key here is to read the early signs even before the dogs engage in a major brawl.
Bared teeth, growling, and alert ears are just some of the signs of a looming dog fight. You should get your dog to retreat by calling its name and offering a treat.
However, if you have to break a full-on fight, try to remain calm. Remember that a dog engaged in a fight can still bite its owner. If calling the pooch doesn’t work, spraying water into the fighting canines can help distract them away. Throwing a blanket is also effective. Once your dog gets off from the fight, leash it and make sure that the other dog’s owner does the same.
Dog Park Etiquette for Pet Owners
Aside from your dog, you, the pet owner, should know how to act properly in the dog park. For first-timers, the following are some of the good manners you have to observe:
*Don’t bring a dog in heat to the park
A female dog that’s currently in heat will be a magnet to male canines. This is a recipe for dog fights. So be a responsible owner and do other pet owners a favor. Leave your dog in heat at home or just stick to typical walks around the neighborhood.
*Pick up your dog’s business
After your dog eliminates, make sure that you pick it up after he’s done. Leaving your dog’s mess in the park is unsightly, plus it shows how irresponsible you are. You can find poo bags in the park, but it’s best to bring your own.
*Don’t bring a whole meal
Some dog owners want to keep their pets full all the time. However, if you’re going to the dog park, leave that bag of kibble at home. Just bring a few bits of treats to reward your dog. After a few visits, you can leave any food items behind.
Some dogs don’t have the discipline to leave other people’s tasty treats. Also, the presence of food will trigger your dog to exhibit resource-guarding. This will create tension with other canines, which will ultimately lead to dog fights.
*Don’t let your toddler roam around
Again, dog parks aren’t for human socialization. The field is full of dogs across sizes. So at all cost, don’t bring an infant or toddler, much so let them mingle with the dogs. These canines can easily knock a little kid off, plus you never know how each dog will react in the presence of a child. Some breeds tolerate rough-housing, while others can snap easily.
*Get your dog microchipped
Dog parks are usually enclosed with fences, but there’s the possibility that your dog will bolt for the exit. When this happens, your dog should have all possible means of identification. A microchip is the most important as well as collars and dog tags.
*Always keep a leash ready
As much as your dog appears friendly and calm, you’ll never know how the other canines will behave. Dog fights may occur, and if it does, you need a leash to retrieve your dog right away. This way, you can prevent injuries both for your pet and the other dogs.
Knowing how to introduce your dog to a dog park is essential to keep your pooch safe. And as a responsible dog owner, you should know what to do in case of dog fights and other untoward incidents. Being prepared and informed is crucial, so your first trip to the dog park will be hassle-free and enjoyable.