Many owners have busy lifestyles these days, in between work and family commitments. Walking the dog in the mornings and evenings may be shorter than in the past! Fortunately, leash-free parks are popping up everywhere in cities and towns. These safe, fenced-in areas provide your dog with the opportunity to run, play and socialize with other dogs which is essential in keeping your dog physically and mentally happy. The only caveat is that throwing your dog, who may be used to being top dog in his house, into a big area with a bunch of strange dogs may scare or threaten him.
Here are some tips on introduce your dog to dog parks so that you both have an enjoyable experience:
-Only take your dog to the park if they are up-to-date on all shots and vaccinations.
-Practice obedience at home. Commands like sit, stay and come can become a distant memory to your dog once there are dogs running, barking and playing. Having your dog as sharp as possible to his basic commands makes life a lot easier, especially when it’s time to leave!
-Take your dog to a local park and walk him in the vicinity of the leash-free area without putting him in. Allowing him to observe the sights and sounds of the other dogs will expose him to the environment.
-Visiting the park during “off hours” such as early in the day or during the week will mean less dogs. For his first few visits, one or two dogs is the ideal.
-Learn to read your dog’s behavior. Friendly barking and posture is very different than angry or nervous yelping or raised hair on his back. If your dog is starting to become aggressive or threatened (tail between the legs, teeth bared, ears back) by the group or even by one other dog, get a hold of your dog immediately and remove him from the park.
-If you feel another person’s dog is becoming aggressive with your dog, identify the owner and speak up. Ask them if their dog is just playing or if you should be concerned. Many owners are also novices to dog parks, and may not be paying attention to their dog.
-Always go prepared. Bring water and a water dish and a baggie for scooping poop. Be aware that any dog toy you bring to the park will most likely be used or “captured” by other dogs.
*Some dogs that are not properly socialized will feel threatened by packs of other dogs. If you have any concerns about your dog’s attitude towards other dogs, be sure to consult your veterinarian or a dog behavior expert first on ways to socialize your pet.