The dog park is the off leash paradise. That place where your dog can run freely, explore the nature around them and interact with other pups. But if you have never taken your dog to the dog park before, there are definitely some tips you should follow so you both can have the best of experiences.
As mentioned before, the dog park feels like paradise. There’s just nothing like watching your dog run and play with other pups, sniff around, roll in the grass, play fetch with sticks and well, just be a dog.
Although walking on leash around the neighborhood and having potty walks during the day are necessary activities for dogs, exploring the world off leash is also extremely necessary for them. In fact, it is one of the most important outdoor activities for dogs since it allows them to socialize.
If you want to learn more about the different types of outdoor activities for dogs and how much time of each one of them dogs need, read our latest article about it.
Let’s go back to the topic that concerns us: taking your dog to the dog park for the first time.
Without further ado, here are the most important things you should keep in mind before adventuring into the wilderness of the dog park.
Let’s start from the beginning. How soon can you take your puppy to the dog park? Well, it all depends on when they get their vaccinations. As a general rule, there are three sets of vaccinations dog need before going outside and interacting with other dogs:
- Parvovirus and distemper disease when they are from 6 to 8 weeks old.
- Influenza, DHPP and bordetella when they are from 10 to 12 weeks old.
- Influenza, DHPP, bordetella and rabies when they are from 16 to 18 weeks old.
Some vets recommend their patients to not go on walks and let alone to the dog park until they have received the three sets of vaccinations, while some others say that puppies can start interacting with the outside world after the second set. In order to make the best decision for your pup, you should consult it with your own personal vet.
On the other side of the age spectrum, you still need to have some considerations when taking your dog to the dog park for the first time. Although there is no problem with vaccinations, there might be one with socialization.
Dogs have a period of time called the socialization period. It goes from 3 to12 weeks of age. During this time, it’s easier for dogs to socialize, and the social interactions they have during this time will have a direct impact on their future ones.
If dogs don’t socialize during this period, it will be much harder for them to do so in the future. But wait! It’s not impossible. Don’t give up on your pooch! It might take more time and patience, but grown-up dogs can also learn how to socialize and behave at the dog park.
So, whether you have a week-old puppy or a three-year-old dog, the dog park is for you, you just have to be careful and cautious.
This might be one of the most important things to keep in mind before taking your dog to the dog park for the first time: they need to know the “come” command.
Some dog parks might be fenced, but others might not. Knowing that your dog will come back when you call them is absolutely essential.
What is more, the call command will also help you when things get a little bit out of control in the dog park. If your dog’s body language is telling you that they are feeling uncomfortable, if you perceive tension between your dog and another one, or if other dogs start a fight, you will need to use the come command to get your dog to come to you.
Don’t bring toys or food
Toys and food are the main fight starters in dog parks. One dog might be as good as they come, but when they have to share their water bottle or their treats, they turn into another dog.
This doesn’t mean that you are facing an aggressive dog, not at all. It means that the dog acting like that is resource guarding. They become defensive to protect an item they consider precious (yes, such as gollum saying my precious) such as a treat, their water bottle, a stick or even their human.
Dogs that do resource guarding but are not aggressive tend to spook others out with a warning, such as growling or teeth showing. As scary as they might seem, warnings are great, we love warnings, because the next thing to a warning is an attack.
This is why bringing toys or food to the dog park is not recommended. It can create tension and even start a fight between two or more dogs.
BUT, you can definitely have one or two of your dog favorite’s treats hidden in your pocket in the case of an emergency if your dog doesn’t want to leave the park. There’s nothing like food to get your pup to follow a command.
If you are a caring pet parent taking your puppy to the dog park for the first time, then you might think this is obvious. But you’d be surprised to learn how many people leave their dogs at the park, sit on the bench to chat with a friend and pay absolutely no attention to what’s happening with their pet.
You have to know exactly where your dog is at all times, never take your eyes off them. You need to know if they are going too far, if they are playing a little too rough with another pup and basically everything that they are doing.
If every pet parent paid constant attention to their dogs, many fights and missing pets would have been avoided.
Keep it clean
Once again, this might seem obvious, but it’s absolutely unbelievable the amount of people that don’t pick up their dog’s poop and just leave it there. Then, pet parents step on it. Even dogs can step on it. What is more, some pups have the weird and not so nice habit of rolling over poop and, even worse, eating it.
If everyone picks up what their dog does, we wouldn’t have to face these problems. Nowadays, there are multiple practical and even sustainable dog poop bags that make the job of picking it up extremely easy.
Whether your dog is neutered or not, they can still go to the dog park. But, if they are not, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Females that are not neutered must not be taken to the park when they are in heat, since it can cause severe problems. First of all, all males will be after her and can end up injuring her, of course, not on purpose.
What is more, male dogs can also become aggressive towards each other when there is a female in heat around them.
The dog park is only for dogs
The name says it clearly: DOG park. Taking other pets or kids to the park that’s for dogs will create nothing but problems.
Although your dog might live with a cat or a toddler and be used to them, that doesn’t apply to every dog. Some of them might get into fights with cats or even be too rough to be around a kid.
In order to avoid problems and to follow the rules, kids and other pets apart from dogs should not go to the dog park .
Lose the leash
The main purpose of going to a dog park is to let your dog explore the world and socialize with others off leash. We all know how scary it can be to let your dog off leash for the first time, but once you both get used to it, it will feel like paradise.
A great way of being less scared of letting your dog be off leash is mastering the “come” command. By doing so, you’ll be sure your pup won’t run away or get too far from you when they lose the leash.
What is more, if there's a park full of dogs freely playing and running around, the appearance of a leashed dog can cause some trouble. Some dogs might not react well to seeing a dog off leash when they are on leash. They can start to bark at them because they feel like they have more power being off leash.
It can also represent a problem for your own dog. Many pups suffer from leash reactivity. This means that when they are off it, they don’t have any issues, but when they are off leash, they are completely different dogs.