If your dog is barking to go to the park, you’re in for a treat! Dog parks are known to be fun places where dogs can simply meet up and have their puppy playdates, but did you know how beneficial they actually are to both you and your pet’s life in the long run?
While dog parks are not every pet owners’ or dogs’ cup of tea, some can really benefit from weekly or even daily trips to your local puppy playground.
Benefits of Dog Parks
- Socialization - Your dog will be able to interact with a range of dogs consisting of different personalities, ages, breeds, and sizes, as well as receive attention from other animal lovers. Plus, you yourself will be able to connect with other people and interact with their dogs.
- Exercise - A majority of dog parks are meant for off-leash play, while some on the other hand are exactly the opposite. Off the leash parks will give your pooch the opportunity to be active by running around and wrassling with other dogs. On the leash parks will still give your pet the ability to safely go for walks and interact with other canines in a pet-friendly environment, which provides both physical and mental stimulation.
- Improved Behavior - Lack of physical exercise and socialization is what can lead to a buildup of excess energy or even stress. This in turn leads to a number of destructive behaviors that your dog can take on, including excessive barking, hiding, biting, or aggression. Giving your dog the chance to both exercise and socialize will help them to turn that energy into positive behaviors.
- Learning Opportunity - By watching how dogs interact, you can learn a lot about their body language, behaviors, and how they can indicate feelings. You can even watch how more experienced pet parents train their dogs and command obedience.
- Stronger Community - Dog parks make the community much stronger through two different ways. Firstly, socialization provides people and their pets the chance to come together and form stronger bonds. This can make the atmosphere friendly and amicable. The community also becomes safer. The dogs that go to parks will have improved behavior since they’ll have a new outlet for their excess energy. This reduces the risk of problems that arise from attacks or biting.
Dog Park Etiquette
- Will your dog enjoy? While you should expose your dogs to parks and let them try it out, you shouldn’t force them if they don’t seem to enjoy it. Not all dogs will feel comfortable surrounded by unfamiliar canines and their owners. Some may even feel anxious or stressed due to this. There are plenty of other ways to help your dog socialize, such as arranged puppy playdates or playgroups.
- Does your dog get along well with other dogs? Because it’s a guarantee that dogs of all different personalities will be at the park, your dog needs to get along with them fairly well. Not only should they not be aggressive or rude, but they also shouldn’t feel any anxiety from interacting with their playmates.
- Does your dog get along well with other humans? A lot of owners love to get to know other owners and their dogs. Your canine should be prepared to see and interact with other people. Whether people approach your pup or even stand from afar, your dog shouldn’t act on any impulses to jump on them, eliminate on them, bite, or bark.
- Is your dog well behaved and obedient? Your dog should be obedient enough to listen to your commands. For example, if you command them to “Stay,” “Stop,” “Come,” or understand “Yes,” or “Let’s Go,” they should immediately obey. This will ensure that they remain well behaved and promote a safer, more pleasant experience for all pets and their owners.
For Pet Owners
- Make Sure Your Dog is Vaccinated. Your pup should receive their rabies vaccination at a young age to prevent them from not only being more susceptible to sickness themselves, but to keep them from passing it on to other companions and people. They should be overall healthy, such as from ticks and fleas.
- Come prepared. Depending on the rules required by your park, a leash may or may not be needed. If the park is an on-leash environment, make sure to comply with the rules so that your pup and all others can enjoy. If it’s an off-leash park, allow your canine to experience the freedom of roaming and playing without restrictions. A collar with a dog tag will be sufficient. However, it’s always best to play it safe by coming prepared with leashes and harnesses in case they need to be separated or walked home.
- Clean up after your dog. Keep pooper scoopers or disposal bags on your person to readily clean up after your dog in case they use the bathroom. This will keep the environment clean and prevent people and their pets from walking into a mess.
- Ensure that your dog knows how to interact with others. As mentioned, your companion should get along well with dogs and humans. It is your responsibility to make sure they are well trained and good at interacting with others before taking them to the park. Your pet should be ready to be greeted and played with. Make sure they are taught not to bite, bark, or pee on anyone.
- Be able to take charge. If your dog gets tangled up in a fight or starts relying on destructive behaviors, be firm and be able to establish your Alpha position. You should be confident and unafraid to command your dog, and they should immediately listen to your requests.
- Learn to read the signals of how your dog is feeling. Dogs will express how they feel in various ways, whether it be body language or vocalizing. Know your dog well enough to discern if they’re acting out of the ordinary or are hiding, whimpering, barking, growling, jumping, wiggling, or in an unusual position for a specific reason. This can indicate they are stressed, anxious, or ready to pick a fight. This would be the time to take control of the situation by either leaving the park or stopping them in their tracks.
If you and your dog meet all of the criteria on the Dog Park Etiquette list, the both of you are ready to go! Take the trip to the dog park as an opportunity to give your dog the sunshine, exercise, and companionship they need and deserve. If you and your pup aren’t quite ready, there are still plenty of other ways in which your pet can socialize until you’re ready to take them to a pet friendly area specifically designated to letting your canine be their freest, most outgoing self!