Planning Your First Trip to the Dog Park
Taking your dog to the dog park can allow them to get exercise and socialize with other dogs. While their first trip can be very exciting, it is not as fun if the proper care isn’t put into making the experience successful. Planning your first trip to the dog park using these tips will ensure a positive outcome.
Train to Respond to Commands
You shouldn’t take an untrained dog to the park. The “come” command can be critical when the situation calls for it. If something starts to go wrong, you need to be able to get your dog to your side at a moment’s notice. Training helps you to stay in control.
First work on commands at home, where there are fewer distractions than at the dog park. Once you’ve got it down in a quiet environment, gradually move to settings that make it harder for your dog to stay focused. A trained dog will have a great time at the dog park and, once you’re there, you can continue to work on enforcing commands like sit, stay, and down. Practicing in such a distracting environment can be a good way to challenge your pup in their training.
Train for Proper Socialization
Dogs should also be well-socialized and trained to interact well with other dogs. You don’t want to see behaviors such as aggressive sniffing, inappropriate mounting, or toy stealing. Proper training can keep your dog from behaving this way at the park and potentially causing fights.
Again, stick with a quiet and controlled environment to teach proper socialization between dogs. Before heading to the park, set up playdates with other dogs. Once your pet has demonstrated that they play well with others and you are confident in their social skills, you can go ahead with the trip. Until then, though, don’t take the risk.
Training isn’t the only preparation that you should take beforehand. If you don’t want your pet getting sick from other dogs, make sure that all the proper vet visits have been taken care of. Ensure your dog has had their vaccinations and that parasite prevention is in use before they run into a contagious or flea-carrying friend.
You should, of course, never take your dog out while they are sick. Not only is the dog park not the best place for them to get better, but taking them there can also get other dogs sick. If your female dog is unspayed, make sure to also leave her at home when she has gone into heat. The scent will only drive other dogs crazy, causing even more chaos, and your pup could become pregnant if you aren’t careful enough to keep her home.
Pick the Right Park
Before taking your dog, find the right park to bring them to by checking with friends and neighbors and then having a look for yourself. You want to make sure the park is well-maintained and that the dogs that go there will get along with yours. Some parks have separate areas for large and small dogs. If you find one without this separation that is frequented by larger breeds, you’ll want to keep looking for your small dog. The right park will allow your dog to be comfortable and happy.
Take the Leash Off
When you’ve found the right off-leash park to let your dog roam around in, make sure to remove the leash. If your dog is well-trained, there shouldn’t be an issue, and not removing it may make things worse.
If your pup is introduced to another dog that is off-leash while your dog’s leash is still on, your pet may feel particularly stressed, as this puts them in a vulnerable position. It can put unneeded stress on a dog as they try to adjust to a new environment. An uncomfortable encounter like this can even lead to fights. Leashes can also cause injuries. If the leashed dog begins to play, they may get wrapped up and hurt themselves.
If your dog can’t handle going off-leash, it would be better not to venture out to the dog park just yet. But if they’re trained and ready, unleash as soon as you’re inside the park.
Supervise Entire Visit
Once the leash is off, it’s still your responsibility to stay in control. Always supervise your pet at the dog park and don’t get too distracted with your smartphone or a conversation with another owner. It’s not the job of other owners to watch out for your pet and let you know if something’s going on. By paying attention, you may even prevent a bad situation from happening.
Be ready to call your dog to you if you see a situation starting and especially if they are bothering other owners or dogs. If there is a situation involving your dog and another, don’t try to simply let them work it out themselves. The longer you wait to intervene, the worse the situation may get. If your dog is behaving inappropriately, call them over. Monitoring dog park interactions ensures you can intervene when needed and that you will recognize the signs that it’s time to go home.
Certain situations that should mean leaving immediately. If your dog starts harassing other dogs, leave right away. This stops the situation from getting worse and an abrupt departure will teach your dog that the behavior is unacceptable. You may choose to leave before a situation even starts. If another dog can’t seem to behave themselves or if your dog is starting to get tense, it’s best to just get out of there.
Whenever your pet starts telling you that they are no longer enjoying their time, listen to them. If they repeatedly go to the gate, are staying close by your side, or avoid interacting with the other dogs, don’t make them stay any longer.
When your dog has done nothing wrong and it’s simply time to go, make sure leaving doesn’t feel like a punishment. Give rewards and praise before ending the fun. If everything has gone right, your dog will remember this first park trip as a positive experience.
A Successful Dog Park Visit
Dog parks can be a lot of fun and a great outing for you and your pet to enjoy together. While you may be excited to jump in the car and get them there, it is important to plan the experience carefully. If you’ve done the preparation and put in the effort while there, your dog can stay safe and may even love their first trip.
“Planning Your First Trip to the Dog Park”
About BCP Veterinary Pharmacy: The BCP Veterinary Pharmacy is committed to keeping pets of all types safe, whether that’s through ensuring safe dog park trips or making sure an animal gets their needed medication. They are a compounding pharmacy, providing specialized medicines for both domestic and exotic animals.
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