When it comes to dog parks, it’s a bit of a tricky one. On one hand, they CAN be a great place to exercise and socialise your dog when the park rules are adhered to correctly. But in the same breath, they are also the cause of at least 75% of my clients’ dogs’ issues
There are SOME rules in place at a dog park:
1. Pick up after your dog ?
2. No aggressive dogs ??‍♂️?
But neither of these really do much in regards to encouraging positive behaviour from your dog and discouraging the negative. By negative, I don’t necessarily mean just aggression. Negative/Unwanted behaviours can be play that’s too rough, not recalling, not engaging with owner, not respecting another dogs space, operating at an inappropriate energy level. With that being said, here are some other rules that we should think about sticking too, and if more people did, we’d have a lot less issues!
1️⃣ Don’t take your dog to the dog park until they’re 100% bonded with you and enjoy engaging with you. Why? You need to be the most interesting thing in your dogs life. If you’re not, they’ll choose chasing other dogs and greeting other people over coming back to you almost every time.
2️⃣ Don’t go until they have a reliable recall in that type of environment. Why? Recall is THE most important command every dog should reliably know. If you’ve taught it, you can call your dog away from roads, dangerous dogs, people who don’t want to meet your dog, snakes etc. If your dog’s recall isn’t at least 90% reliable, don’t let them off lead until it’s at that level.
3️⃣ Wait until they are emotionally mature (around 12-18 months) Why? So they don’t learn poor behavioural traits from other unruly dogs. If your young dog observes other dogs playing too roughly, behaving too intensely and being disobedient, what do you think they’ll learn to do? They’re just really not ready for this sort of thing at that age. You wouldn’t take your 4 year old to schoolies would you?
4️⃣ If you’ve got a rescue dog and are unsure of their history, sort out the above points and THEN try this one. Take them to meet dogs through the fence before letting them in. If they are aggressive, at least not a lot can happen through a wire fence. It’s a great way to avoid any nasty accidents and get a good gauge on how social they really are. For all you know, they could’ve been bred for fighting, been attacked or bullied as a puppy or NEVER have met a dog before.
Believe it or not, most dogs don’t need or want to socialise with unknown dogs. It’s not natural for them and we only teach them to enjoy it. If they’re never exposed to it they certainly don’t miss out. They get their social fix from you, your family and familiar doggy friends.
Lastly, practice your obedience at the park! Most of my clients who take their dogs to the dog park have NEVER practised any sort of training outside the house, and wonder why their dog won’t listen in those environments.. If your dog starts to learn to enjoy commands from you in that environment, whilst learning that they HAVE to listen to you, you’ll have a much easier time controlling their behaviour.
When your dog is under control, it’s more enjoyable for everyone in the park, dogs included.