7 Steps to Prevent Dog Park Mishaps
1. Beans, Beans, and More Beans!
Do not bring your excited dog to the dog park. It is very important that we bring calm energy into the dog park. Excitement can cause competition and fights, as other dogs will naturally want to slow your excited dog down. If your dog is full of beans, take them for a walk to drain their energy before heading to the dog park.
2. Pedestal Syndrome
Do not carry your dog into the dog park. It is important that your dog enters the park at dog-level, no matter what size your dog is. Dogs behave poorly when we put them on pedestals, and your dog is there to socialize with other dogs. If you are concerned for their safety, the best thing you can do is let them stand on their own four paws (or however many paws your dog has), this way they can’t use your affection to nurture or reinforce their unbalanced state.
3. Keep Moving
Find a dog park that has a trail that you can walk around while your dog socializes. It is not natural for dogs to stand in one place. Dogs are migratory animals that prefer to be moving forward. This also lets your dog know you are the leader, you just keep moving and they will want to catch-up. When we stand in a circle at the dog park the energy can build up, this is when playful wrestling turns into conflict. If you want a happy experience at the park, keep moving, this stimulates your dog mentally and physically - which is exactly why you’re there!
4. Pay Attention
It is important to pay attention to your dog while at the park. Be present, and refrain from using your phone. If your dog is doing something they shouldn't be doing, it is your job to correct them. For example, if they are jumping up at another dog’s face, dominating (“humping”) other dogs, or barking incessantly, don’t wait for another dog to correct them - as not all dogs know how to calmly correct without lashing out. Stop the behaviour before it escalates, and keep moving.
5. Benches and Tables (more pedestals…)
I’m surprised I even have to write this one, please keep your dog off of the tables and benches at the dog park. The benches are there for people who are less mobile, and your dog should not be given the chance to sit higher than the other dogs. You may allow your dogs to climb the furniture at home (and that’s another discussion), but if you want to achieve balanced behaviour from your dog, and the dogs around you, prevent your dog from perching on a pedestal.
Refrain from bringing “Chuckits!” and other toys to the park. This type of exercise does not provide your dog with mental stimulation, and is best suited before you enter the park. Ball-obsessed dogs (more often than not) are possessive over their balls. This can cause conflict when other dogs try to join-in or initiate play (by stealing their ball). Toys invite dominance and other behaviour that can interfere with a positive social experience. Your dog could be very friendly with their toys; but other dogs may not know how to interact positively around them.
Having your dog on leash at an off-leash park will cause unnecessary tension in your dog and the surrounding dogs. There are many dog parks that have smaller enclosures inside the large enclosure; I suggest using this space to get comfortable with having your dog off-leash, instead of inviting unwanted interactions which could negatively affect your dog’s experience with other dogs.
Keep moving forward!
Canines Moving Forward