Your First Visit to the Dog Park
Your first visit to the dog park should be a fun and exciting event, not a disaster in the making. Here are some tips to help you enjoy that first day at the dog park.
Plan your first few visits to the dog park at off peak times when there are fewer dogs. This will make it less likely that your dog will be intimidated or overly excited by the number of dogs. Things will go much more smoothly if your dog has a chance to get to know the space without being sniffed and greeted by a large number of strange dogs. Plan on staying only a short time the first few times. Like a great television program, it’s best to end the run on a happy note, before things get boring and tiresome.
Bring the Right Supplies
Supplies to take include a water bowl designated for your dog only, training treats (only small training treats!), and if you want to be really safe, a muzzle in case your dog gets aggressive with another dog.
Get Your Pet Comfortable with the Dog Park Surroundings
Upon entering the dog park, take your dog around the perimeter of the fenced area, allowing him to see and sniff the other dogs from outside. Watch his reaction. If he seems relatively calm (he will be excited, no matter what) and friendly towards the dogs inside the fenced area, you can try taking him inside. If he is lunging and barking madly at the dogs on the inside fenced area, you will want to do some more involved social training with your dog before introducing him to large crowds of dogs.
Once in the dog park, move immediately away from the entrance, to the side but not against the fence. You do not want your dog to feel cornered or threatened when the other dogs run up to greet him. If it is an off leash park, do not keep your dog on the leash, since that will leave him at a disadvantage with the other dogs. Allow him to run free, but always be ready to leash him immediately if things take a turn.
Know When to Leave
Leave the dog park while your dog is still having a good time so that he looks forward to the next time.
Observe your dog’s reactions carefully. If he seems to be overly anxious or fearful, or behaves aggressively in any way, leave immediately and try again another day. Know the signs of submission and aggression. Crouching with the tail between the legs and licking the muzzle of another dog are signs of submission and possible aggression from the dog being licked. Closely observe interactions like this for signs of trouble and act immediately — whether your dog is the submissive or the dominant.