The sight of other dogs, the smells, and the chance to run around makes your dog want to haul his/her butt to that gate to gain access to that fun. You as the dog owner experience the dog park differently and sometimes know or do not know if your dog should be there. The obvious benefits of going to the dog park could be socialization for meeting other dogs and people (and for you to meet other dog owners) in a secured environment, lots of exercise, freedom for you and your dog off-leash, and saving time if you drive over and let other dogs tire your dog out rather then going on a long walk.
There are many factors that can affect your experience at the dog park. While I am not going into detail about them in this post, I did create a Dog Park Cheat Sheet (you can grab below this post) with some more tips to make your experience better. However, I want to share three tips to help you and your dog now to have a successful time at the dog park.
Know your dog
First of all, really knowing your dog and who he/she likes to play with is important. If you have a small dog, then playing with other small dogs makes more sense than large dogs. Also, has she/he played with more than one dog or many at a time? How did that go? Maybe for your dog to play with one or two dogs at a time is better than ten. Recognizing how to set your dog up for success or knowing when to leave the dog park if it is not working out is essential.
Timing is important
Secondly, when you go to the dog park is important too. There are times like in the morning or evening when other dog owners are thinking the same thing (my dog needs to get rid of his/her energy, exercise, and it is easy for them to hop in the car or walk to the dog park). There are going to be way more dogs and people and that might not work for your dog. Choosing times that the dog park is less crowded could still meet your needs but be easier for you and your dog to handle it. Moreover, if your dog has other dog friends, you could set up a different time to hang out at the dog park. Everyone knows each other and the dogs get along so that will make it fun and safe for everyone.
Watch your dog
Finally, my last tip is for you as the dog owner. Sure it is great to chat with other dog owners and share stories and have fun but your main priority should be your dog. Instead of standing next to another dog owner you should be moving around. Therefore, you can watch your dog and be ready to take action if something happens. Part of being a dog owner is keeping your dog safe. Even if the dog park is secured with a fence you still need to be proactive as well as remind your dog you exist among all this fun. Practicing “come” while there will give you another way to gauge if that cue would work with your dog or need more practice. I have seen from time to time dog owners who are hoping by saying their dog’s name several times (different tones) to call them over but get no response.
Unfortunately, it is unrealistic to expect your dog, especially in such an exciting environment, to respond to you if they have never done that before. My last point is to keep training on the behaviors you want your dog to do and use your time at the dog park to see where your dog is on learning them so if something happens your training together can work in your favor.
I hope these tips are helpful and remind you that there are ways to improve you and your dog’s experience at the dog park. If you have any questions or suggestions please comment below.