Dog Park Etiquette

Dog parks are not for everyone and certainly not for every dog.  Personally I’m not a dog park person but many of my clients enjoy taking their dogs to the dog park for interaction with other dogs.

Dogs are pack animals and accordingly, enjoy running and playing with other dogs.  If they are available in your area, dog parks are a great place where your dog can run off leash and socialize with other dogs.  Not only do they please your furry companion, but you can feel like a good owner in knowing that your dog is getting their social needs met.  As an example, Nashville, Tennessee, Morton Bay Regional Council in Queensland Australia also has several fenced in dog parks where your dog can be let loose to run and play.

Even though dogs are allowed to be off leash, they must still, obviously, be supervised by their owners.  The dog park environment seems relaxed and in the dog’s favor, but you still have the potential to maintain teaching your dog to be obedient.  Many dog park guests simply sit on the bench and wait for their dog to wear themselves out so they can leave.  Doing this is neglecting your responsibility to your position as your dog’s master and teacher.

In such an atmosphere, there is the potential for your dog to cause problems that you might not notice if you allow yourself to disconnect from your animal while they are at play.  To prevent such skirmishes and to remind your animal that they are still to obey you, take the time to do the following steps the next time you are out at the dog park.  Making sure your animal is still listening and obedient, even while excited and at play, will ensure their safety and fun while out.

1. Practice periodically leashing your dog and removing him from the fenced area.  Go over a few basic commands he is used to, such as sit or stay, and reward him before returning him to playing.  This technique reminds your animal that obeying you is still important, even when he is having tons of fun or is distracted.

2. When dogs are loose and at play, dominance aggression is sometimes an inevitable occurrence.  Social canine aggression can lead to dangerous tiffs in which your dog, or someone elses  dog, could get injured.  You can minimize the potential for aggression cropping up by reminding your dog and nearby dominant dogs that you are in control of him.  Do this by calling to your animal by name while they are at play, having him come to you and petting him before allowing him to return to the other dogs.

3. Be careful to keep a close watch on your dog and to dissolve or remove him from bad situations with negative behavior.  Red flags include tense or aggressive body language, mounting, intense staring, snarling or nipping.  While in a pack, as is the case in dog parks, dominant dogs have a tendency to single out submissive ones.  If your dog lies on their back, tucks in their tail or begins to urinate, make sure to remove him immediately, as this is a sign of being overwhelmed by stress and fear.

Good trips to the dog park can be a great experience for both you and your dog.  Remember a tired dog is a happy dog and playing at the park can give your dog the much-needed exercise he needs.

Mark Mansfield
 

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