Dog parks, what a superb invention where our dog can finally enjoy his freedom, since many of us do not have a large yard. But not without respecting proper dog park rules!
Dog parks allow our dog to find playmates and add to that, an easy way for us, to make him burn his energy. However, it’s not uncommon for us to hear a lot of horror stories happening at the dog park. Some dogs behave inappropriately in the park, and few owners are informed of the correct behavior!
This is what causes, in my opinion, several incidents. For that reason, I came up with the 10 dog park rules to follow to ensure your visit at the park will be an enjoyable experience for your dog and yourself!
# 1 – Prepare and plan
Before even going to the dog park, I recommend that you burn off your dog’s excess energy. Some dogs need it badly in order to be able to politely introduce themselves to other dogs and to be able to respect the canine language of their comrades. It also helps a dog’s self-control in a tense situation. You can go for a leash walk with your dog, throw the ball at him or do a clicker workout.
Make sure to choose an ideal time to go to the park, ideally when there is not too much traffic and when the heat is not at its peak. Most parks offer a waterer for dogs, otherwise consider bringing water for your dog.
# 2 – Dog park rules: No sick or injured dog!
It is important not to contaminate the park, so if your dog has diarrhea, cough (kennel cough), or even worms, do not go to the park. Think about others who use this place.
If your dog is injured, has discomfort or a simple ear infection for example, your dog could become more irritable or aggressive. If there is pain, your animal may be the nicest in the world, the fact remains that he could react badly.
The same goes for females in heat. Avoid the park during such period, as it could end badly if she runs across a male that is not neutered. This could also create conflicts between several males hanging in the park.
In short, we want a dog in great shape and healthy condition so that we can really enjoy their play sessions with their canine friends.
# 3 – Dog park rules upon entering the play area
Before going in, you should always check who’s in the park. What kinds of dogs? What kinds of humans? It is not ideal to mix small and large dogs together. There is too great a risk of accidents and serious injuries (physical injuries, games between dogs that turn into predation, etc.).
Observe the interactions between dogs
Is there a dog that’s too intense and aggressive in his interactions with others? Do dogs in the park have posed and thoughtful attitudes? Does it look like they are playing sound games where there are breaks and everyone continues in their turn? Or is it always the same one that could become irritating to others?
How many dogs are there? If there are more than 10 dogs, the risk of incidents increases enormously! Many behaviors are accentuated by the presence of other dogs, which can promote aggressive behavior, conflicting and predatory behavior!
Observe your dog’s behavior
Does he want to go in the park? Did you know that by pressuring your scared dog, you can worsen their perception of the environment and make the situation worse. If you feel your dog is uncomfortable, you should leave because after all, you are going to the park for his pleasure!
When you get to the park, take the time to walk one or two laps around the park enclosure. This will allow you to observe the reaction of your canine friend and the behavior of the other dogs!
# 4 – Avoid conflicts at the dog park
In order to avoid conflicts between dogs, do not bring toys and if you bring treats for your dog, only give them to your dog and in his mouth and especially not between 2 or more dogs. Be careful not to drop them on the ground. Think about dogs with allergies!
In addition, it could prevent a quarrel between the dogs. Even with the owner’s permission I would avoid giving food to other dogs so that they understand that they don’t need to compete for it because they will NEVER have any.
All dogs tend to do resource protection, this is normal and natural behavior, so walk around the park to remove tree branches lying on the ground which are great natural toys that often bring conflict.
# 5 – Simple dog park rules at the entrance
Are you finally ready to enter the park? If you bring more than one dog, enter the park one dog at a time. Close the doors securely behind you at all times and unfasten your dog’s leash.
It is very important that your dog is unleashed and free to meet his comrades, this gives him the means of escape in case of discomfort instead of having to face the adversary (to attack), which could be quite unpleasant.
In short, before leaving the airlock to enter the park, wait for the entrance to clear or ask people to call their dogs back to them in order to clear the door. We don’t want your dog to feel overwhelmed while entering the park.
# 6 – Are dog parks safe? Prevention is key!
Get in the habit of turning off your cell phone because your attention must be constantly focused on your dog’s behavior. It is important that dogs and handlers learn dog language and the rules of a good game.
If you must go out of the park, hand over the responsibility of looking after your dog to someone else or take your dog out with you. Respect and politeness between humans are essential as conflicts between humans will create tension amongst the dogs.
In addition, the stress that you could impose on your dog (screaming, even hitting him) could spark a fight. In short, keep your dog calm at all times and this will help mitigate conflicting situations.
If your dog runs into a conflicting situation with another dog, put the leash on and leave. In such cases, conversations between dog owners are seldom respectful. Your best bet is simply to leave and come back another day.
However, take note of what triggered the conflict so that you can avoid it next time around (for example by picking up the branches that are lying around).
# 7 – Is your dog a victim or a stalker?
If your dog is the victim of another, become your dog’s safety point by “protecting” him and then take your dog away. In the long run your dog will understand that if he joins you in case of discomfort, he can count on you. This gives your dog one more option instead of getting into a fight.
If your dog is the stalker, he always chases the same dog without letting himself be pursued. He does not respect dog language. He gets way too intense in his interactions and he tries to ride one or more dogs. Try to pull him away gently and calmly and distract or redirect his attention to something else.
If that does not work, walk him out of the park, isolate him for a few minutes in a calm and neutral manner and in a suitable place. He will eventually understand that his behavior is inappropriate.
If your dog shows intense aggressive behavior, hides under a bench or under a table, seeks your comfort or is afraid of other dogs, you should leave. In short, if you feel that your dog has no fun at the dog park, then do something else!
# 8 Kids at the dog park: Good or bad?
It is not ideal to have children at the dog park. Dogs are crowded, and your attention should be solely on your dog. Children are susceptible to greater injuries due to their fragile skin and their size. So, it is highly advisable to keep children away from dog parks. In addition, not all dogs are comfortable around children.
# 9 Dog park rules: when and how to leave
If you see that there are too many dogs, if you perceive that your dog is no longer interested in the park, or just doesn’t want to play with his mates anymore, it clearly signals you should leave.
The rule is simple, you should leave the park when things are going well so that your dog keeps a positive feeling of the activity. Also, do not put the leash on in the park but rather in the park’s airlock. Do not forget to close the doors securely when you leave.
# 10 Socializing or not socializing your puppy at the dog park?
I do not recommend to socialize your puppy at the dog park. It is far too crucial of an age in a dog’s life to take such a risk. It’s best to focus on less but positive interactions at a young age. Rather, I recommend a kindergarten class for puppies where dog trainers will supervise interactions in a structured and positive way, rather than a park where rules are more or less respected.
In a perfect world
Even if your dog is very friendly with his comrades, know that it is not essential for a dog to interact with other dogs if all his needs are met. Despite the fact that I like the idea of dog parks, I don’t deny that often times they are a bit of a free for all environment.
The most serious conflicts that we can notice often take place because the limits of another dog who does not want to play are not respected, games turn into predation and dogs fight for resources.
The ideal thing, for maximum security, would be to go to a park, daycare or boarding house supervised by professionals who have up-to-date methods. They can often prevent a conflict that might erupt and guide you on the best way to intervene. In addition, it could help you and your dog understand that it is not always the one who gets angry who is at fault!