Preparation makes a positive difference
What’s hot? Dog parks! Since the world’s first dog park—Berkeley’s Ohlone Dog Park—opened in 1979, these specialized recreation areas have multiplied to approximately 1,200 in the United States alone. But taking your pup to one sometimes isn’t all fun and games: Here are some dog-park visit tips from the American Kennel Club (AKC) to make your first—or your next—visit go smoothly.
IS FIDO READY TO GO?
AKC’s first recommendation is to take a step back and consider if your dog is ready for a dog-park experience. Dogs who should not visit a dog park—at least not yet—include:
- Puppies younger than 4 months old who have not had all of their vaccinations, who should never be around dogs you don’t know.
- Any dogs not up-to-date on their vaccinations.
- Dogs in heat or coming into season.
- Any dogs showing signs of illness, which may be contagious and also could cause your dog to feel unsociable.
- Dogs unable to obey basic obedience commands—come, down, stay—in distracting environments.
- Dogs who are either shy and nervous, or reactive and aggressive.
- Dogs who are very possessive of people and things.
CHECK OUT THE PARK FIRST
All dog parks are not alike, so AKC suggests you visit a dog park without your dog before you decide to take your canine companion along. Look for:
- Secure, well-maintained fencing and gates.
- Separate play areas for large and small dogs.
- Clean play areas free of trash and poop (you and others should always clean up after your pet at a dog park).
- Numbers of dogs using the facility—too many dogs can overwhelm your pet.
- Attentive, responsible behavior of other dog owners.
- Water availability.
- Any park registration or usage requirements, such as proof of vaccinations.
IT’S ALL ABOUT YOUR DOG
Remember: Going to a dog park isn’t just a casual outing for you—it’s also a major event for your dog. Follow your dog’s lead. If there’s a group of pooches rushing the entrance and making things intimidating, wait until they disburse before you go in. Take your dog’s leash off as soon as you get inside the gate so your pet won’t feel trapped. Intervene if other dogs repeatedly roll your dog to the ground or chase your pup.
Even if your dog is having the time of his or her life, don’t overstay your welcome. A half-hour to hour-long visit should allow your pet time to run and play without getting overtired. When your dog only wants to hang with you or stands by the gate, respect your pet’s wishes and go home.
If you decide your dog and a dog park don’t make a good match, don’t despair: Instead, invite a dog you know your dog enjoys over to your house for a romp, or enroll your pup in a well-supervised class.
AKC reminds owners that, for your dog, nothing really replaces time spent with you. Go on walks, take a hike, enroll in an obedience class, or have a game of old-fashioned fetch. A dog can be happy with or without a dog park experience.
For questions about your dog—or any animal in your care—contact a professional licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Veterinary Medical Board; check a professional’s license at https://search.dca.ca.gov.
Related Reading: Rabies Vaccine Protects You and Your Pet; Dogs Need Space, Too