There are many benefits to regular dog park visits, including exercise and socialization. However, a first-time trip to the dog park can be intimidating for dog owners. Listed here is everything a dog owner needs to know about the dog park.
Dog Park Introductions
The way your dog introduces itself to existing dogs at the dog park can set the tone for the entire visit. First, enter the park safely. Most dog parks have a double gate that ensures no dogs already in the park can escape when a new dog enters. Always make sure the first gate is closed before opening the second.
Next, unleash your dog as soon as you enter the park. Keeping your dog on-leash while other dogs are free can create anxiety for your pet, and potentially cause leash aggression. Once your dog is free, allow him or her to greet new dogs however he or she pleases. Researchers have observed that newcomers to a dog park engage in more snout-to-muzzle interactions, as opposed to nose-to-butt engagements.
Dog Park Etiquette for Humans
Even though the dog park may seem like a lawless free-for-all for the dogs, it shouldn’t be treated as such by humans. When at the dog park, you should always:
Keep an eye on your dog
Always keep your dog in sight, and never leave your pet unattended. Follow the pack, if necessary, and keep your dog within recall range (i.e. the distance that you know your dog will return to you when called).
Leave Treats and Toys at Home
Unless you know the park will be empty, leave your dog’s favorite ball or rope at home. Dogs can become territorial over their toys, including toys that are not theirs. Similarly, keep treats out of the dog park because you never know whether other dogs will become food aggressive.
Understand Canine Body Language
Keep an eye on your dog to make sure he or she is not showing signs of aggression, dominance, or fear. Look for these signs in your dog’s new friends as well. If you are unfamiliar with canine body language, you can find a useful guide here.
Dog Park Interactions: Is My Dog Normal?
Most dog owners expect their pet will run and play the entire time at the dog park. Researchers have indicated that this expectation is not true for all dogs and have been able to pinpoint interactions based on age and sex.
For instance, senior female dogs spend the most time alone when at the dog park, followed by senior males. Young male dogs were observed to be the most playful, followed by young female dogs. Female-female dog pairings were more common than male-female or male-male playmates; however, muzzle bites were more common among the female-female playmate demographic. In addition, male dogs were 16 times more likely to mount other male dogs, than to mount females.
How Much Time Should You Spend at the Dog Park?
If the nearest dog park requires a lengthy drive, your best bet may be to play at home. Researchers have also found that dogs are most active in the first 11 minutes at the park. After those first 11 minutes, dogs tend to disengage and keep to themselves. Of course, some dogs will play for hours on end, in which case the trip can be very beneficial!
Are Dog Parks for Everyone?
Contrary to popular belief, dog parks are not for all dogs. While it should be obvious that overly dominant and aggressive dogs should stay home, overly submissive and fearful dogs generally don’t belong at dog parks either. For fearful or submissive dogs, the dog park can be extremely stressful.
Dog Park Recovery
Recovering after a trip to the dog park is equally important as the exercise and socialization. Whether your dog played hard or kept to itself, your pup will have experienced stress. Give your dog plenty of quiet time to recover and skip the evening walk if your pet seems tired.
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