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Having Fun at Dog Parks: What to Know Before You Go

More and more dog parks are springing up across the nation. But many dog owners and trainers have mixed reviews of dog parks. While they can be a fun way for your dog to burn off some extra energy and socialize with other dogs, they can also be a place where dogs get bullied, hurt, and traumatized for the long run.

If you're considering taking your dog to a dog park, you need to put effort and thought into you visits to make sure they're enjoyable for your dog. Here are some steps to take before, during, and after your dog park experience.

Before You Go

  1. Master Basic Commands. Dog parks are NOT the place to make sure your dog follows your lead. Be sure that your dog knows and follows the basic and important commands including "come" and "leave it." These commands will help you direct your dog's behavior appropriately when visiting the dog park. Training collars can be an effective and helpful tool in teaching your dog basic commands.

  1. Vaccinate Your Dog. Most dog parks require dogs to be fully vaccinated before entering a dog park. This means you can't bring your puppy until she's had her full series of shots, for her own safety and that of other dogs.

  1. Visit on Your Own. Before you take your dog, visit the park on your own. Read through the rules to know what's expected. Examine the way dogs enter and leave the park. Many parks have a double entry to the park where you enter a gated area to remove your dog from their lead before letting them in with other dogs.

  1. Consider who Your Dog Is. The dogs who do well at dog parks are usually younger, fixed, confident, well-trained, and sociable. Consider if a dog park is a good fit for your particular dog.

When You Go

  1. Go at a slow time of day. Try to plan your dog's first visit during a time when the park isn't very busy, such as during the workday. This will allow your dog the space to get used to his surroundings and the idea of the park before socializing with a large number of dogs.

  1. Don't take children, or your cell phone. With the rough and tumble play of many dogs, dog parks can be dangerous for small children, so leave them at home. You may also want to consider leaving your cell phone in the car. Your attention should be on your dog and the dogs he's playing with at all times. Cell phones can distract you from putting your full attention on your dog.

  1. Prepare Your Dog. To make sure your dog is on his best behavior, you need to start well before you get to the dog park. Reinforce good, controlled behavior in the car and once you get to the park. Go on a brisk ten or fifteen minute walk before you go into the park to ensure that your dog is following your lead and has his behavior under control.

  1. Always, Always, Keep an Eye on Your Dog. The safety of your dog and the dogs he interacts with depends on your careful watch, and if necessary, intervention. Check in with your dog regularly to make sure he knows you're around and available for support. Also keep an eye on the dogs your dog is interacting with. If they seem to be getting out of control, you should call your dog back to you.

When to Leave

To ensure that the dog park is a fun and comfortable place for your dog, be proactive about when you leave. You might want to limit your first few visits to 20 or 30 minutes at the most. Try to leave before your dog gets overtired. Your dog should return home relaxed and alert, but not exhausted. When you return home, praise your dog extensively and reward their good behavior at the dog park.

If your dog shows any signs of fear or aggression, or is simply not having a good time, leave immediately. Dog parks aren't for all dogs, and its okay if your dog doesn't want to go.

Whether you visit a dog park or not, Pet Super Store has a wide variety of products that can help keep your dog happy and healthy, from toys you can play with in your own backyard to dog seat covers to ensure your ride to the park is a clean one.

And for information about your dogs needs and problems, continue to check out Pet Super Store's Smarty Pets blog and knowledge center for helpful tips and how to's.