Should You Take Your Dog to a Dog Park?

How do you know if a dog park is a good match for your dog? All dog parks are not alike. Therefore, animal behaviorists suggest that you visit a dog park without your dog before you take your canine companion along. Here are some of the aspects to evaluate:

  • Fencing should be secure and prevent dogs from jumping over or crawling under, with no holes or rough edges. Double gates are safest, allowing you to close one gate behind you before opening the gate to the park area.
  • Separate play areas for large and small dogs are most conducive to safe and congenial mingling.
  • The park should be clear of trash, equipment, and dog poop. You should clean up after your dog and so should everyone else.
  • How many dogs are there? Large groups of too many dogs can be intimidating and difficult to control. Consider visiting dog parks at off-peak hours and leaving if the park is too crowded.
  • Communal water bowls allow dogs to share parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Dog parks that ask owners to bring their own water dishes help protect your dog’s health.
  • Dog parks that require owners to register their dogs and show proof of vaccinations also offer better health protection.
  • Notice what the dog owners are doing. They should be paying attention to their dogs, watching their dog’s body language, and intervening when play starts to get too rough.
  • Personal dog toys, balls, or treats can cause doggy disagreements and are best left at home.

If You Go — Or If You Don’t

When you go to a dog park, listen to your dog. If there’s a gang rushing the entrance and making it intimidating, wait until they disburse before you go in. Take your dog’s leash off as soon as you get inside the gate, so they won’t feel trapped.

Intervene if other dogs repeatedly roll your dog to the ground or chase your pup. “Especially when a dog is young, a bad experience with another dog can make the frightened dog wary of all dogs for the rest of his life,” says Dr. Klein.

Even if your dog is having the time of their life, don’t overstay your welcome. A 30 to 60 minute visit should allow your pooch time to run and play without getting too tired. When your dog only wants to hang with you or stands by the gate, it’s good to respect their wishes and take them home.

If you decide your dog and a dog park do not make a good match, don’t worry. You can socialize in other ways, like meet up with a familiar dog that your dog is friendly, or enroll your pup in a well-supervised class.

Remember, for your dog, nothing really replaces time spent with you. Go on walkstake a hike, enroll in an obedience class, or try a dog sport. A dog can be happy with or without a dog park experience.

Courtesy of American Kennel Club