As the weather starts to transition from winter to spring, you are bound to spend more time enjoying outdoor activities with your puppy! One of the most fun things you can do with your pooch is to spend an afternoon at your local dog park. If this is your dog’s first time to the dog park, there are some considerations you should keep in mind so that they have just as much fun as you do!
Your puppy should never venture to the dog park (or any other high-dog-traffic areas) until they have received all of their vaccinations. Your vet will let you know when it is a-okay to take your puppy to local pet stores or dog parks. Remember, dangerous diseases such as Parvo are not just transmitted from dog to dog. You can carry these infections into your home on the bottom of your shoes as well! Take all necessary precautions to protect your new family member while they are in this vulnerable stage.
Dog parks can be super fun, but they can also be very overwhelming! If your dog is not around other dogs at home, they can quickly become over-stimulated when surrounded by multiple other dogs, especially dogs that are larger than they are. We highly recommend working on your dog’s socialization skills before placing them in this environment. Over-stimulation can lead to fear or fear-induced aggression. The last thing you want is your puppy becoming anxious early on in life because they felt overwhelmed from one experience.
Introduce your dog to other dogs in a controlled environment. Allow your puppy to grow comfortable with the thought of meeting and greeting new friends on their own time. Never force your puppy into a situation that they are clearly uncomfortable with.
Archview tip of the day: Many training facilities will offer meet-and-greet days where your new pooch can get to know some friendly faces in a controlled setting! Ask your dog trainer to see if this is something they offer!
Understand What Your Pup is Telling You
While your new puppy can’t speak your language, they often tell us how they feel about certain situations. Understanding your puppy’s body language will help make this first trip to the dog park a successful one.
A happy puppy will be alert and have a wagging tail, but a scared puppy will tuck his/her tail and often stay close by your side. Aggressive dogs or over-excited dogs at the dog park can be scary. Let your puppy watch what the other dogs are doing from outside the fence. See how your puppy reacts to multiple dogs running, barking and playing together. Sometimes your puppy can even sniff and greet other dogs through the fence, which may make them more confident when you do enter the park.
As your puppy begins to warm up to the idea of play-time in the park, don’t lose your focus on his/her body language. It is imperative for the safety of your dog and the other dogs in the park that you keep a close eye on your puppy. If other dogs are being a little too rough or if your dog looks genuinely uncomfortable, it is 100% okay to cut the trip short. As your puppy learns about life and forms his/her opinions on different scenarios, it is super important to listen to and appreciate what they have to say.
Dog Park Etiquette
Your puppy isn’t the only one who needs to follow a set of “rules” while at the dog park! Many parks will have their own rules posted outside of the front gate, but here are some common best-practices to keep in mind:
- Never open the gate to the park if dogs are crowding around!
- Always pick up after your pup relieves him/herself.
- Supervise your dog at all times.
- If your dog part has separate sections for large and small dogs, honor those rules! Many small dogs can accidentally get hurt when playing with larger dogs.
- If your dog is sick, NEVER take him/her to the dog park where they can expose other dogs to illness.
- Always keep your dog on-leash when you enter or exit the park gate.
Another thing to keep in mind is that as much as we all may love a trip to the dog park, some dogs just aren’t comfortable in that environment. Your pup may be more comfortable on a walk around the neighborhood or playing with his/her best pal at the house next-door, and that’s okay!
Does your pup enjoy a day at the park? Share your photos in the comments!