May 7th is National Dog Park Day! While dog parks afford a great opportunity for furbabies to romp and play with other pups, they do come with some some rules, regulations and cautions. Well socialized pups can get some much needed dog on dog time, which can promote overall health and reduce anxiety. Socialization with other adult humans and dogs is also vital to a dogs’ health and happiness and benefits both dog and owner. Taking the time to socialize your pup will lead to your dog remaining more reliably friendly with other people and dogs as he/she grows older.
When weighing the benefits, it’s also important to consider the risks and responsibilities that come with attendance at a dog park before you first take your dog there to socialize. The team at Pets a Go Go pulled together the top 5 things to know before you take your pup to a dog park.
Preparation is key! Before you take your pup to the dog park, it’s important to prepare your dog beforehand. If you’ve never been to an off-leash environment before start by Introducing your dog to other dogs, on-leash, in controlled environments first. If your dog doesn’t interact well with other dogs on-leash, it is still a good opportunity to train your pup in basic commands to have their leave the other dog alone, come back to you and either sit or perform a down stay. If this commands are foreign to you pups, consider working with a trainer to get this right before attempting to introduce your pup in an off leash setting. Puppies especially may be overwhelmed by the activity level in a dog park but remember there are almost always a ‘small’ and ‘large’ dog area. Allow your puppy to get comfortable in a quieter or smaller pup area before introducing him to the ‘big dogs.’
Practice is essential! Do a test run first! Most dog parks are extremely busy in the evening after work, very early morning before work and especially on the weekends. Try and avoid peak times until your pup becomes familiar with the process of entering, exiting and greeting other pups either from his or others’ arrival. Practice your basic commands while youa re there. If your dog doesn’t obey your commands, then he probably isn’t ready for an off-leash dog park. If you’re at all unsure, take your pup to a fenced-in area alone (that is not a dog park) and practice giving your dog commands off-leash. Some great options are tennis courts or playgrounds in off hours.
Vigilance is necessary! While it may be tempting to check your social media, respond to emails, or text your friend while your dog is running around at the dog park, it’s important to practice constant vigilance. Even happy, well-trained dogs can get annoyed, play too rambunctiously, wander off and go number two. So while your dog is attending the dog park, make sure you watch him closely to ensure he/she is safe for his and all the other pup’s sake.
Health is required! This is possibly the most important thing to remember about dog parks. It is crucial that your dog is up to date on all vaccinations and treatments before going to a dog park but be cognizant that not all owners are that vigilant. Dogs can pass illnesses, fleas, ticks and worms/parasites to other dogs especially in an off-leash environment that doesn’t monitor the status of such things. By protecting your pup, you give him the best chance of not contracting anything icky.
Fun is the goal! But to have fun, you need to prepare, practice, watch vigilantly, and keep your dog healthy. Dog parks can and will be stressful and dangerous if these principles are not followed. And dog parks are supposed to be fun! They provide great opportunities for your dog to socialize and stay healthy though exercise. Putting in the extra work to attend a dog park safely is worth every minute. If you want to take your furbaby to a dog park but you’re anxious about preparing for this adventure, Pets a Go Go would love to help! If you would like to speak with someone about what you should do to help your dog be ready for a dog park, including any training that may be involved, please contact the team at Pets a Go Go at firstname.lastname@example.org or call one of our locations! You can also check out Pets a Go Go training programs here.