Dog Park Socializing

Two dogs chasing each other in a park

How To Safely Enjoy Socializing With Other Dogs

Dog parks are a common convenience found in many cities and towns. They operate on the idea that dogs should socialize with other dogs to reduce aggressive behaviour. Though this is fine principle, it doesn’t always work out in real life. You should always use caution when taking your dog to the dog park and be prepared to deal with any problems.

Before You Go

Have your veterinarian give your dog a physical examination to ensure that he is sound and able to withstand the roughhousing that may occur at the park. Also ensure that the animal is current on all vaccinations, including bordetella, rabies and distemper. Individual communities may require other vaccinations. Avoid bringing small puppies to the park that may not have their complete vaccinations. Many dog parks require a dog license, as well.

Small Dogs and Large Dogs

The best dog parks have separate penned areas for small dogs and for large dogs. Small dogs can be injured by the rough play of larger animals. If your dog park does not have separate areas for small and large animals, try to stay in an area with the smaller dogs. You and the owners of other small dogs can use your bodies and voices as the artificial “fence” between the two groups of dogs.

Aggressive Dogs and Timid Dogs

You will always find a mixture of aggressive dogs and timid dogs at the dog park. Though some dogs run from area to area and dog to dog with no trouble, other dogs need a bit of extra supervision. Be ready to step in to protect your dog when play becomes too rough. If your dog confronts other dogs or plays too rough, correct him with commands or put him back on leash. If your dog is the sensitive type and finds the group of dogs too intimidating, give him some “breaks” by picking him up and letting him watch the play from the safety of your arms. If he seems over-stimulated or frightened by the group, keep the visit short and gradually lengthen the stays.

Dog Park Etiquette

Every dog park observes the same basic rules of etiquette. Always pick up waste your dog leaves behind. Many parks provide plastic bags for this purpose. Use the bags and deposit the waste in the provided receptacle. Never leave your dog unsupervised, not even for minute while you go back to your car for something. Do not bring unsprayed female dogs that are in season to the dog park. Do not bring more than 2 dogs to the park. It’s difficult to properly supervise more than this number. Close all doors or gates to the park as you enter or leave. Remove an unruly dog from the area immediately. Don’t bring children to the park unless you can properly supervise them.

Problem Dogs

Some dog breeds are predisposed to act aggressively or even engage in fights. Most people know they have a fighting breed, and may have even chosen that breed because they admire those characteristics. However, these dogs can be a hazard to other dogs. Unless your dog is accustomed to socializing with other dogs, and you feel confident that he will behave properly, avoid going to the park. Some dogs cannot help but bully less-assertive dogs. If you find your dog bullying others, remove him from the park and work on socializing the animal in the neighborhood or in a supervised canine daycare facility.


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