How To “Play Nice” At The Dog Park

by Guest Writer – Tina Harper, a friend and accredited trainer here in Austin!

I’m a big fan of dog parks – they have so much potential.  Think about it: doggie-topia!  Dogs to play with, a safe place to run and play, socialization galore with people and other dogs and a tired doggie to take home after a few hours……

Ah, if only.

The problem with most dog parks is not the dogs, it’s the way that people use them.  Dogs will act like children in a playground.  Most will play nicely, but there are bullies, misunderstandings, instances of not sharing toys and someone will always get too rough.

Before you go to the dog park, and even while you are there, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Is your dog ready for a dog park?

Not all dogs are dog park material.  For a shy dog, a beautiful Saturday afternoon spent at the dog park can be pure torture.  Too many dogs, too many people, too much stimulation, just too much of everything.  If you have a shy dog, it doesn’t mean they can’t grow to love the park, just take it easy on them.  Pick a smaller park in your neighborhood that has fewer people and not as crowded as some of the more popular parks in your area.  Let them get used to the dog park environment with some gentle dogs you trust, and just a few at a time. Perhaps go early in the morning when there are fewer people and dogs.

Aggressive dogs don’t belong in a dog park.  Period.  Even if the dog park is empty at the moment, you shouldn’t expect other people to wait until you have control of your dogs, or wait until you’re aggressive dog(s) are finished running their energy off in order for them to use the park.

Monitor Your Dog’s Behavior and Prevent Bad Behavior

When you go to a dog park, please be sure that you watch what your dog is doing.  Always. Keeping your dog safe is your responsibility. Know how to read dog body language. This is a huge subject and will be covered in a later post.

Correcting your dogs behavior does not mean just yelling at them from across the park to “knock it off” or reminding them that “they know better”.  Although this can work from time to time, be prepared to physically remove your dog from a situation where they are not behaving properly.  Many times I’ve had to put my dog in “time out” by holding his collar right next to me and not letting him play until he calmed down a little.  After about 30 seconds I would release him to play again, but “time out” was ready and waiting for him if he got out of line.

Hopefully a few of these suggestions will make your dog’s time at the park more productive, enjoyable, and safe for both your and your dog.  And, one last quick tip – don’t let your dog greet everyone at the gate.  Pull them back, and let the new dog greet new friends one at a time. Gates, where many dogs and their people pass, and barriers are frequently the site of conflict.

Enjoy the summer, and stock up on your doggy shampoo for those “after park” baths!

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Image Credit: judithsweet on flickr

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5 Responses to “How To “Play Nice” At The Dog Park”

  1. Rod@GoPetFriendly 26. May, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    The most frustrating thing we see is people not monitoring their dogs’ activity. This is mostly caused by people talking with each other or on cell phones. And, in some people, you can almost see this feeling” OK, I did my part … I brought you ALL THE WAY to the dog park … I’m done … go play and don’t bother me until I call you to go home.

  2. Elizabeth Deitz 27. May, 2010 at 1:47 pm #

    Yes, I know that look. When I first started going to the dog park I got involved in a conversation. When I turned around I saw someone, thinking they were doing a good thing, handing out treats fast and furiously. It caused a riot as they all came running…and a fight. No one was permanently injured and it was actually a very good lesson for me. I learned it well!

  3. Tina Harper 27. May, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    Rod – I’ve also seen it happen where people bring their dog to the park and think that since they’re at a fenced in dog park, nothing bad can happen. As I mentioned in the post, it is wise to remember that dogs are just like 5 year old children, and need to be monitored. I’ve seen people who were too busy in a conversation to notice that their dog is in the middle of a dog fight, and other people in the park are helping break it up only to wonder who’s dog belongs to who.

  4. crazy dog barking 14. Aug, 2010 at 11:07 pm #

    Hei, these dogs are funny! You ought to check it out! Click Here: Funniest Dogs

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