It is true that it can be complicated for a dog owner residing in an urban environment to walk his dog in complete freedom. Indeed, it can be rare or even forbidden to be able to let your dog roam without a leash in town. But an unleashed indoor dog park may be around your corner as they are starting to open up in different big cities.
We are therefore going to explain in this article how dog parks work and how you can turn the outings at the park into a fun experience.
Dog owners appreciate outdoor city parks for the convenience and location. An unleashed indoor dog park is somewhat different but the rules are rather similar. The parks are a real place of learning, dogs can run there as much as they want, meet new congeners and therefore work on their socialization. The parks are obviously fenced to keep dogs in a limited area and keep them safe.
Before entering a dog park
It is obviously preferable that your dog is in good health, vaccinated and protected by various parasites (fleas, intestinal worms, etc.).
It is not recommended that you take your dog to the park if he is a brawler or has anxiety problems (we advise you to read our article on anxious dogs to work on this problem before going to the dog park). Do not bring your bitch if she is in her heat period as this could cause fights between the males and your outing to the dog park will turn into a disaster.
Before entering the park, we advise you to systematically walk around the park. By going along the fence of the park, the dogs already present will be able to meet your little companion while being separated by the fence. This is called customary presentations. While the dogs are meeting, take a good look at your dog’s behavior. If he does not want to approach the dogs, do not insist, it is better to stay outside and work on his acceptance of the congeners. Likewise, if you notice threatening behavior towards your dog or conversely your dog growls in front of some dogs in the park, you should leave and come back later. Finally, if all goes well, you should enter the park without worry.
When entering the dog park
Entering the unleashed indoor dog park is often hectic because when your canine friend gets in, he becomes the new kid on the block and all the other dogs in the park want to come and smell him. Entering the park must be done as calmly as possible, in order to avoid conflicts or anxiety. If there are several entrances to the park, try to take the least crowded one and the furthest from the big group of dogs.
Avoid at all costs getting in the park while your dog is still on a leash. A dog on a leash cannot create a safe distance (of his liking) between him and another dog. In addition, if you are pulling on his leash you may create a level of stress and it may not put him under the best conditions to meet new congeners.
If a few dogs run right up to your companion while still on a leash, it can quickly escalate. So your entry into the park must be done peacefully and not in a hurry, by entering from a less crowded side so that you can remove your dog’s leash quietly and give him time to “take the temperature”.
By the time you remove the leash, your dog is still calm. Without necessarily requiring him to be seated, you should be able to unhook the leash without having to twist yourself in all directions because your dog agitated. Finally, once your dog is untied, whatever his reaction, whether he stays on observation or goes off like a rocket, start walking.
Behavior to adopt at unleashed indoor dog park
First of all, as said before, you must walk as soon as you untie your dog. As dog trainers explain, the fact that you remain static when you let go your dog will automatically signal that you will not move and that he can always find you at the same place. If you are also moving, he will keep his attention on you so as not to get lost.
The fact that you are also walking around does not create an area for the dog to defend. Some dogs quickly acquire a notion of territory and by remaining static you promote the appearance of a private space that your dog might need to defend.
Always pay attention to your dog. In addition, the fact that you are moving instead of being static will make you more attentive to him. Each dog owner should be attentive to the experience of his little companion in the park. This is even more true for young dogs. It is not uncommon to see some puppies sending some form of signal to their owner that they need help when they feel overwhelmed or threatened. While you are chatting with other dog owners, always keep an eye on your canine friend.
Have the right gut reaction
Do not bring your dog’s toys at the unleashed indoor dog park. It is better to give your doggie the opportunity to develop his behavior through games with his congeners. Dogs are very good at playing with each other on their own. In addition, a toy can very quickly turn into a treasure to protect for your dog and become a source of conflict.
In a public outdoor dog park you need to collect your dog’s droppings. In a private indoor park, you may not be allowed inside the fences and the staff will probably take that responsibility. You should know what are the rules prevailing before going in.
Learn to read you dog’s emotions and needs
Learn to decipher canine language. Many dog owners get stressed when they hear their dog growl. However, a growl by itself is not negative. It is a sound used by the dog that others understand very well. If your little companion growls, don’t punish him. You would likely stress him out (for no reason) and it may cause him to become aggressive without warning.
The warning growl is good canine behavior. It is used to avoid conflicts. If another dog is growling at yours, analyze your dog’s behavior. If he leaves or offers signs of appeasement, all is well, he has mastered dog language. If, despite the other dog’s warnings, he does not calm down, do not hesitate to call him to order and teach him to respect his canine friends.
How to react in the event of a conflict
Dogs have many appeasement signals to stop conflicts and you should know what they are. This will be useful to manage tense situations. The moment a fight breaks out, your own behavior can influence the outcome of a conflict.
First and foremost, NEVER use your hands to try to separate two dogs. The risk of accidental bite is too great and the damage can be terrible. Screams are useless because they accentuate the crisis more than they appease it. Stay zen, while being clear and firm about what you are asking your dog.
When a two-dog fight breaks out, use your voice first and give firm orders to pull them apart. Then if the voice is not enough, use objects such as a leash and a stick. Once separated, move the two brawlers away to calm them down, take them for a spin to calm their cardio and their emotional state. Check your dog to ensure he has not been injured.
An unleashed indoor dog park is usually much smaller than one outdoors and the maximum number of dogs allowed is a lot lower. Nevertheless, a general fight remains the biggest risk. A two-dog fight begins and all the dogs present arrive to either bring order or participate. Stopping a general fight is extremely difficult. We must do everything to avoid it!
The experience of the staff is very important but your responsiveness is essential. So in the event that a fight happens and your dog is not part, go get him and pull him away from the tension area.
Know how to anticipate your dog’s movements. Pay attention to what is happening, to movements, looks, signals that the dogs are exchanging. Before a fight, they emit a lot of signals. By knowing how to decipher them, it will allow you to prevent unpleasant situations and outcomes.
an unleashed indoor dog park remains a fabulous place for your dog to socialize, which is essential to his education. At a young age, it is important to make him meet his fellows to learn the language and as he grows up he can continue to practice and stay familiar with it. You will also be able to understand your four-legged friend better and you will learn his behavior in different situations.