Dog parks may offer communities terrific opportunities to exercise their dogs. Well-exercised dogs usually have fewer behavioral issues related to boredom and inactivity than dogs who stay home and sleep all day. That said, poorly managed dog parks may present problems to dogs and their owners. Be sure to evaluate the dog park you are visiting and make an educated decision on its current status as a safe place for your dog to play.
Be sure to take your dog’s temperament into consideration and don’t assume s/he’s having a good time – watch your dog’s demeanor and make an informed judgment about how happy s/he is to be there. Some dogs will have no desire to play, yet will love to sniff all the bushes and trees; other dogs will be thrilled to race another dog from one end of the park to the other. Both of these dogs can benefit from the dog park – they just enjoy it in different ways.
• Ever bring a dog that is under 4 months of age.
• Take sensitive dogs to an enclosed dog park where there are more than 2 dogs per every 20 square yards of space.
• Take your dog to a dog park if s/he is uncomfortable — take your dog to a place that s/he enjoys.
• Bring or use treats and toys when other dogs are nearby.
• Allow dogs to form loose packs.
• Allow a dog to bully another.
• Let your dog off-leash in an unfenced dog park if he/she is not responsive to your verbal commands.
• Worry if some dogs don’t play with other dogs in a dog park.
• Bring intact males or females in estrus to a dog park.
• Spend your time talking on a cell phone – you must supervise your dog at all times and be able to give your dog your full attention.
• Consult your veterinarian about your dog’s overall health before going to a dog park.
• Make sure your dog is up-to-date on his/her vaccinations.
• Observe the dogs in the dog park to see if there are any potential health or behavior problems.
• Clean up after your dog.
• Supervise dogs when they are playing and interrupt any rough play.
• Be willing to leave a dog park if you feel that your dog is either being a bully, the play is getting too rough or your dog is just not having fun.
• Check to be sure there aren’t a large number of intact males at the park.
• Make sure your young dog is not being bullied.
• Be cautious about taking advice from other park patrons who are not dog professionals.
Reprinted courtesy Association of Professional Dog Trainers, @2010.