Dog Park Essentials & Tips

4:42 PM

Anyone who has a dog and lives in an apartment (or doesn't have much yard) will tell you that going to the dog park can have it's pros and cons. The pros are that your dog gets exercise and also gets to socialize with other dogs and people. The cons are more stressful like: getting your dog to the park, being sure to bring everything you need, and making sure there aren't any scuffles with other dogs.

Today I took my dog to a new park and it made me realize that I should probably make a list of items to bring. Made me think of mothers remembering everything in a large diaper bag for their kids. Also, I noticed some behavior issues with some of the dogs as well as their owners. I decided to put together some dog park essentials and tips for ensuring a happy and safe experience at a dog park.

Dog Park Essentials:
  1. Water! For some reason there were many pet owners that did not bring any type of water for their dog. I would suggest bringing bottles of water and a collapsible bowl for your pup.
  2. Leash/lead. I know this seems like common sense, but it's important to have your lead on your person at all times. If a scuffle happens with another dog you need to be able to attach your lead in order to safely separate them.
  3. Tennis ball/toys. Bring something fun for your dog to do. It's great bonding for you and your pup as well as other dogs. Keeps things moving if they get stagnate or if you are at the park alone.
  4. Plastic bags. That's right, you need to clean up after your pets. Be sure to pick up that poo!
  5. Treats/bones. A great way to occupy your dog in the car and keep them from distracting you while driving is to bring a type of treat or bone for them to enjoy.
Now something important to remember and understand is dog's behavior. Whenever introducing your dog to an off-leash fenced in dog park is to allow plenty of sniffing. I suggest keeping your dog on the leash until introductions are made. I've seen too many people just let their dog run immediately into an area where dogs already have established connections and they can get unsure of the newcomer. When dogs get nervous this can lead to snarling, nipping, or even full blown dog fights. I'm not an expert, but I have worked with dogs and rescues long enough to know dogs do give you warning. If you pay attention to their body language you can prevent incidents from happening.

Dog Park Tips:
  • Slowly introduce your dog on a leash. As I previously mentioned, dogs need to basically sniff each other out. I'm sure everyone has heard about "dogs sniffing each others butts" and this is basically their way of saying hello. Slow introductions allow your dog as well as the dogs already off-leash in the park to get to know one another and to gauge their reactions.
  • Ensure your pup is fully vetted. This one should be the #1 concern you have. Make sure your dog has had all of their shots. The last thing you want is to bring a puppy and for him/her to get sick because of another dog. Saliva and feces is how a lot of dog diseases are transferred. Your pup could get slobbered on by another or run through another dog's waste. Vets suggest to not take your dog in pubic places if they are under 6 months old. This allows them to form their own immunity away from their mother as well as have all the shots they need.
  • Watch other dog's body language. This is a big one! Today I said at least 3 times "that dog is about to bite" and I was right unfortunately. There are several ways and reasons why a dog might growl, nip, bite, or attack another dog. Understanding the warning signs can prevent an unnecessary attack. 
  • Do not take your dog if it has behavior problems. Another common sense one, but people do not seem to care. If you know your dog is not well socialized or attacks other dogs/people easily then simply do not take them to an off-leash dog park.
Dog's Body Language:
  1. Stiff stance. Whenever a dog locks their body, holds completely still and has a rigid stance then you need to pay close attention. One reason can be because the dog is nervous or unsure. If the dog relaxes their pose then all is well. Another reason can be protectiveness. A dog might take this stiff stance in preparation to guard or defend - it could be for their toys or their humans. This stance can escalate to the dog attacking.
  2. Don't be fooled by wagging tails. This is the #1 misconception that people have. "Oh it's tail is wagging, it's happy!" No. Paying close attention to exactly how the tail is moving can give you a clue as to how the dog is feeling. If a dog's tail is tucked between their legs then they are usually nervous and afraid. If a dog's tail starts from the middle and only wags to one side then the dog is unsure of the situation and is giving a warning. The only time a dog's tail wagging is telling you the dog is happy is if it completely wags from one side to another.
  3. Raised up & stiff stance. I have seen this happen all too many times where a dog will assume the rigid stiff stance while craning their neck up to appear taller than another dog. This is a sign of dominance as well as aggression. The dog might feel nervous, unsure of the situation, or feel it's defending it's people or toys.
Notice a pattern? A situation can escalate whenever a dog is nervous or unsure of the situation. There are so many factors that can cause your dog to feel this way. Introducing him/her to a new environment with new people and new dogs can stress a dog out and cause aggressive behavior. No need to panic. No need to never take your dog anywhere. Just slowly introduce your dog to the new situation (whether it's a dog park or anywhere else). Watch the body language of your dog as well as other dogs and you will enjoy this off-leash time with your pup.

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  1. Hopefully, our town will have dog park. You have some very good tips here, thanks :)

  2. Haven't a dog to take to a dog park in many year. All good tips.

    slehan at juno dot com

  3. Unfortunately we do not have a dog park anywhere near us. But fortunately we live in the country and have a huge back yard for our two dogs cinnamon and sugar.
    I do like the tips you have provided your readers.


All opinions are 100% my own. I am not paid nor given free products for review unless specifically stated in the post.