If you think about it, dogs spend their entire lives learning and reading human body language. To be sure, they’re incredibly sensitive to our fear, stress, pain, happiness, or excitement, and they’re equally responsive when we’re calm, patient, and relaxed. Reacting to our reactions is simply among the things they do best. With that in mind, it’s important that we treat dog body language as the critical communicator that it is – especially when it comes to preparing for the dog park.
If dog owners followed all the rules and watched their dogs closely, there wouldn’t be a lot of room for catastrophe. But that doesn’t always happen at the dog park. Sometimes, there are owners who are distracted or less involved than others. Also, many dogs simply aren’t ready for the dog park or have trouble negotiating those tricky canine social interactions. However, when good judgement and responsibility are carefully deployed, a dog park experience can be very enjoyable.
Facing the Risks
The dog park might seem like a good place to let your pet run free, but it’s critical to ascertain whether your dog is truly ready for the experience. Is your pet:
- Spayed or neutered?
- Fully vaccinated?
- Protected from parasites?
- A senior pet or younger than 6 months old?
- A veteran of socialization opportunities?
- A graduate of obedience class?
- A good listener?
The social dynamics at the dog park are substantially layered. Without strict adherence to basic commands or an easy-going temperament around other dogs, you might want to skip the dog park. Likewise, resource guarding or bullying are often seen at the dog park (even without previous displays of such behavior). Therefore, it’s ideal to be as prepared as possible and watch your dog closely the entire time.
Tips for Dog Park Success
For a positive dog park experience, you must be prepared with the following etiquette:
- Have waste removal bags and do not wait to clean up after your dog.
- Pay close attention to your dog’s behavior and to how he or she is being treated.
- Know when it’s time to intervene between your dog and others.
- Do not wait around to see what might happen if your dog looks scared, anxious, or tired.
- Never allow your dog to bully another.
- Do not scold or punish other dogs.
- Understand that wrestling, play biting, chasing, and other displays of dominance are natural, but they can escalate to aggression quickly.
- Bring lots of clean, fresh water (do not allow your dog to share water with others).
- Leave treats and toys at home, as other dogs may become aggressive around them and your dog could become very defensive.
- Seek emergency care if your dog is attacked or injured at the dog park.
With our tips in mind, we hope you and your dog have an enjoyable dog park experience. For more information, check out common dog body language and the Dog Decoder. As always, our team is here for you if you have any questions or concerns. Happy gallivanting!