Dog parks can be a blast. They can be a wonderful place to for a dog to let off some steam in order to become a good, tired dog. But they can also be also be stressful places due to other dogs' aggression or poor upkeep. Whether you are new to the world of dog parking or a very experienced dog parent, here are somethings to consider before your next visit.
Not All Dog Parks Are Created Equal
Check out the size of the dog park before going. Is there enough space for a dog who likes to run? Are you going to be cramped with other dogs trying to play fetch? You may be surprised by how small some of them are. Of course there are some that are constructed in a trail-mode where you hike with your dog: just make certain that your dog stays close to you.
Also be aware of the park fencing. Most barriers are about three feet. Is this merely a psychological barrier? Can the dog wiggle out underneath? Is it something solid or is it some type of chicken-wire set up? Know how your dog is going to respond if he sees a critter on the other side of the fence.
Keep An Eye On Your Dog At All Times
Know where your dog is at all times so that you may clean up after him, or so that you can quickly extract him from a situation that has the potential to turn ugly. The dog park is not a place for the dog parent to sit and do a crossword puzzle or finish reading a book. And if you think this is a great place to eat your sandwich, you'll have about twenty new furry friends who also think this is a great place for you to eat your sandwich.
Bring a roll of poop bags and be prepared to use them. It's handy to put a roll in every bag and every pocket that you own. And always bring more than you may think you need. Your dog can always surprise you with his - ahem - output. The Murphy's Law of Dog Parks is that your dog will poop more times than you have bags. Outsmart that law.
A Dog Park is NOT a Private Training Area
It is helpful to use the space afforded by dog parks to get some new commands in. But others will come up to your pup for a sniff. If you are rewarding with treats, then other dogs will try and get a few from you too. If you are playing fetch, then you may get a small pack running after the ball.
The lack of privacy could become a handy tool if you are trying to teach your dog to pay attention to you first. This might be a good place for a loose-leash training walk if you want plenty of distractions. Please be aware that nearly everybody else there is not using the park as a training place and may not have the same obedience expectations you are trying to develop.
Generosity is a Wonderful Thing
Occasionally somebody can forget to bring a poop bag. Be the person to offer one or two. Consider bringing a gallon of water to pour in available bowls that all of the dogs can use. If no bowls are available, consider donating a water dish to the park. Possibly pick up some unclaimed dog poop. No, this is not your job at all, but dog people ought to be a nice community that supports one another. Dog parks often function on the honor-system of people cleaning up after themselves. A little generosity offered to one person can spark more generosity from that same person.
Avoid Disparaging Remarks About Certain Breeds
Whether you are a big-dog person who can't quite figure out the appeal of little dogs (or vice-versa), or a pure-bred dog person who can't quite figure out the appeal of mutts, or someone who finds certain breeds odd or terrifying: keep those opinions to yourself. People's dogs are their family. If you come across a dog who is not your cup of tea, you can either move to another area, or you can strike up a conversation with the dog's owner. You may learn something about the dog or the breed or the rescue the dog was rescued from. Honestly, your dog will not hold one iota of any size or breed prejudice.
Make Sure Your Dog Can Handle A Dog Park
Some dogs, as loving as they are to you, cannot handle being in a dog park without starting some type of argument with another dog. Other dogs may want to simply bolt as soon as you remove the leash. Or your dog may have a roughhouse style of play that other dogs do not enjoy.
If you can, test out your dog's play antics in a back yard with some friends' dogs. This may tell you everything you need to know. There is nothing wrong with deciding that dog parks are not for your dog. Dog parks ought to be places for owners to relax as well, and if you are stressed out or constantly concerned, your dog may feed off of your energy and worry that you are in danger. Plenty of trainers recommend that some dogs avoid dog parks, and that is fine. They are not for everyone. As long as you have your dog's best interests at heart, you are doing your job.