If you’re the proud pet parent of an active pooch, dog parks are a great way to not only socialise your pup, but also help them get a good dose of exercise. From observing off-leash rules to picking up after your dog, here’s how to ensure a trip to the dog park is a success, both for you and your furry friend.
The importance of good dog park etiquette
If you have recently welcomed a new, furry addition to the family, you’re probably excited to hit the local dog park – and chances are you’re in good (four-legged) company. Dog parks and regular outings offer a great many benefits for your dog’s personal development and your relationship. While dogs love playing freely as they chase the ball or run around with friends, it’s worth bearing some ground rules in mind to ensure it’s a positive experience for all parties involved.
Make sure your dog is ready
Prior to visiting a dog park for the first time, your dog should be fully vaccinated, micro-chipped and registered. The RSPCA also recommends your dog has received some basic training, such as puppy school or an equivalent.
To determine whether your dog is ready to mingle, try to pay attention to their physical cues around other people and dogs during your outings; do they seem happy and comfortable or a little bit stand-offish and shy?
In the beginning, especially in the latter case, it can help to seek out less crowded spots, for example, outside your local park’s ‘doggy rush hour’, to ease them into the new environment. Using treats or their favourite toy as a reward can help grow their confidence.
Keep an eye on your dog at all times
When entering an off-leash area, look at how the other dogs interact with one another. Once your pup is roaming around with the other pets, pay close attention to their actions and reactions. If you spot signs of stress, such as a hunched posture or cowering, flat and backward ears or even growling, it might be a good idea to put their lead back on and calmly guide them away from the situation.
Be a responsible dog parent
It goes without saying that if you’re letting your dog off-leash at a dog park, you need to take a pro-active role in safeguarding their health and safety, and that of others in the park. If there are small and large dog enclosures, make sure you’re using the appropriate one, always clean up after your dog, and manage your pet in an assertive and respectful manner. For example, if your dog steals another’s toys, it’s your responsibility to give it back to the owner.
Interact safely with other dogs
For dog lovers far and wide, a trip to the dog park can be just as much fun for the pet parent as it is for their canine companion. It’s a great way to meet other owners, comparing hound habits, exchanging tips and making new friends. But, just as you should keep an eye on your pooch’s park behaviour, there are some guidelines for humans as well.
For instance, while it may be tempting to pat every pup that runs your way, its owners may prefer you don’t enable their behaviour. It’s always best to ask first. The same goes for feeding unfamiliar dogs treats as it could disrupt their training or, worse, they may have allergies you aren’t aware of.
Dog parks can be a safe, fun and social way to interact with your dog as part of their daily routine.
By sticking to these guidelines, a trip to the dog park with your canine companion in tow can have a positive impact on both pooches and pet parents alike.
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