I am constantly asked by people about dog parks. My response is always the same – I have a love-hate relationship with them.
Dog parks can be fun for balanced, well socialized dogs as well as a place to help train dogs who have difficulties. The biggest problem in dog parks is people simply not paying attention. They are drinking coffee, talking on the phone or having awkward conversations with other owners. Meanwhile, their dogs are unsupervised with increasing levels of excitement – for some dogs this is a disaster waiting to happen.
When I am at the dog park, I take my responsibility to my dog’s fun and safety very seriously. I micro-manage all interactions and remain vigilant for signals of potential problems. My dogs usually aren’t very interested in other dogs, they will visit and interact as needed but their focus is on me, and me on them. This is something I taught them.
Not paying attention can have real safety concerns: here are some tips for having a positive dog park experience.
5 Second Rule – I always keep my dogs moving through the park. When they do engage, I give them 5 seconds to sniff, then move on. There is no rule that says you must stand there staring at each other like idiots while your dogs go over-threshold
Micro-Manage – Be hyper-vigilant! Keep your dogs within earshot and eyeshot and always make sure they know where you are. Pay attention to everything.
Body Language – Pay attention to the signals your dog is sending you, but mostly pay attention to the body language of other dogs. Watch other dogs and how they approach, if it doesn’t look good or you are unsure, call your dog over, put it on-leash and move out of the situation. Don’t stand there with your fingers crossed, be proactive.
Train your Dog! – Make your dog understands basic commands, and has excellent recall. If you do not have good control, or no recall then your dog isn’t ready for the dog park.