While it’s important that your dog gets proper daily exercise and regular walks around the neighbourhood, socializing with other canines is often overlooked. Exercise and socialization help dogs avoid boredom, and boredom is the leading factor behind destructive behaviour. Off-leash dog parks can be a great place to visit to give your dog some exercise and social time with other dogs, and get yourself moving too.
If you’re planning on visiting an off-leash park in your area, make sure you keep these 6 things in mind:
1. Wait until your dog is old enough
Make sure your dog is old enough to play properly with other dogs. If you’ve just brought home a puppy, make sure you know if it’s safe to take them to the park and let them play with other dogs. They may be too young to be around other dogs and may be susceptible to conditions they haven’t been vaccinated for yet. Make sure you get the go ahead from your vet before you visit!
2. Mind your manners
Work on good behaviour at the park. There’s no question that the dog park is an exciting place, especially if it’s your dog’s first visit. Lots of other dogs and people can create a distracting environment. If you can, take 10 minutes out of your visit to work on the fundamentals of training like sit, stay, or down. This will help you build trust with your dog, and help to refocus them if there’s a situation you need to exit quickly. Remember to reward good behaviour!
3. Mix up the treats
Try an alternative to treats. If your dog is food- or treat-driven, try using different ways to keep their attention at the park, such as a new toy. If other dogs smell treats on you, it could trigger your dog to protect you or the food you’re holding.
4. No rough play
Don’t allow rough play. Always keep your eyes on your dog while you’re at the off-leash dog park and if possible, always stay within 20-30 feet of your dog. No matter how much fun they’re having, it’s important that your dog doesn’t get out of control. If your dog is showing signs of aggression, it’s a good idea to leave the park. On the other hand, if your dog is having a great time, keep them hydrated and stay longer!
5. Size matters
Some large dogs can act or seem predatory toward smaller ones, which can lead to snarling, nipping, or worse. If you have a young or small dog and you’re comfortable letting them play with larger dogs, confirm with the owners that their large dog is calm and gentle around smaller pets, and then introduce them slowly. If you have a big dog, be respectful and only bring them to parks that are appropriate for their size. Accidents happen, and being aware is the best way to avoid injuries.
6. Keep your leash handy
A leash is the only sure-fire way to control your dog. When it’s time to go or if they’re getting out of hand, once you pop the leash back on them, you’re in control again. You may also have a walk to and from the car where you’ll need to make sure they’re safely on a leash.