6 Items to Avoid Bringing to the Dog Park
You and your dog want to fit in at the dog park, but did you know that there are some things that you might bring with you that can make you stand out in the worst possible way? Or, worse yet, cause problems for the other attendees, both human and canine? Paying attention to the following list of no-fly items will keep you on the right side of dog park law.
Dog parks attract all sorts of visitors and, much like what can happen with children at the sandbox, not everyone is able to play nice and share. Even if your dog loves a round of tug with his buddies or happily lets others chase after his favorite ball, the rest of the dogs at the park might not be as amenable to a sharing philosophy and could believe instead that “what’s yours is mine.”
Your dog might find himself up against a dog that opts to get growly with the toy instead of giving it up to its rightful owner. Or, in a surprise turn of events, your dog might decide that he doesn’t want to share after all, and he might get possessive of his prize. And don’t forget that you run the risk of toy annihilation at the park, particularly when a group of overstimulated dogs get their paws on it. It’s best to leave your dog’s toys at home and find another way to have fun at the dog park.
High-value goodies help pave the way to better behavior, but the dog park is one of the few places where pet parents shouldn’t rely on treats. With noses that are over 10,000 times more powerful than ours, it’s easy for dogs to sniff out edible contraband buried deep within pockets. If you happen to forget even a tiny morsel, you might find yourself fending off a pack of dogs.
Rather than focusing on each other, the dogs might opt to try to find a way to get to the goodies, so save the treats for other training locations.
One of the best parts about the dog park is that it’s an enclosed space where your dog can run free completely off leash. Untethered dogs are able to stretch their legs and interact with their buddies in a way that wears them out unlike any other form of exercise.
The problem arises when people keep their dogs on leash in the park, even if it’s just for a few minutes when they enter. A leash prevents a dog from reacting appropriately to his peers, particularly when he’s outnumbered and can’t move away if he feels the need to. Plus, the first few minutes in the park are often the most stressful, as dogs tend to crowd around the newcomer and assess where he might fit into the posse that’s already assembled. This type of mob greeting while one dog is leashed can lead to misunderstandings.
Well-run dog parks have a small fenced “decompression area” at the entrance to the park, where pet parents can unleash their dogs before heading into the park itself.
Even if your dog and your child are the best of friends, that doesn’t mean that all of the other dogs who show up at the park will be equally understanding of a junior interloper. Some dog parks have rules barring kids from entering, or restrict attendance to certain ages, but it’s safer for all parties to keep kids out of the park. Small children move unpredictably, and their excited running, stumbling and screaming might trigger dogs to give chase. Plus, a group of speeding dogs can easily knock a child down and cause an accidental injury.
It’s also important to remember that some dogs just don’t like kids, which can translate in scary and dangerous ways (and keep in mind that the pet parents of these types of dogs might be managing their dog’s discomfort with children by exercising their dog in a space that supposed to be free of children). The fact is, the dog park is meant for dogs, so bring the kids to the jungle gym and let the pooches have the dog park.
Dog sweaters and coats serve a purpose in inclement weather, but they can pose a hazard at the dog park. Anything that restricts a dog or forces him to move in a way that’s unnatural (for example, a raincoat that drapes over the tail or a sweater that loops around the rear legs) can inhibit the important communication that goes on between dogs. That welcoming, wagging tail might not be noticed if it’s hidden under a rain slicker.
Additionally, a dog in clothing might become a target for the other dogs. A typical game of chase might morph into a game of “let’s capture the dude with the funny covering and strip it off so we can destroy it.” It’s best to let your dog go naked at the park and save the fashion for another time.
Think you can get a heck of a lot of your new puppy’s socialization out of the way at your local dog park? Think again. Young and impressionable puppies at the dog park can lead to a number of unforeseen consequences.
First, puppies don’t have the skills to navigate the type of group play that happens at the dog park. The rough-and-tumble behavior that goes on can overwhelm a young pup, and if the puppy has a particularly negative experience with another dog it might impact him forever. Add to that the fact that a puppy might not have completed his vaccination series and you could be putting your dog at risk for disease.
It’s best to socialize young pups with other puppies at a well-run, puppy-specific playgroup that pairs dogs by size and age, and takes care to disinfect the facility before and after meetings.