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Pocket the Phone Your job is to actively supervise your dog and monitor the park environment, not zone out with texting. It doesn't take long for a dog to get into trouble with an over-excited gang of bullies which you could and should have steered him from.
Toys Do not bring any special favorite toy from home for your dog's play. The only "toys" which should be at the park are hoards of tennis balls on the ground which are meant for all to share. Toy possessiveness creates fights.
Treats Do not bring treats to "reward" your dog's behavior. Food - including treats - is not permitted at dog parks. Even the scent of the treats in your pocket is enough motivation to create food aggression with many dogs.
Wait until your puppy has completed his/her vaccine boosters before going to the park for the first time (at around 4.5 months). If possible, orchestrate a small play group with a dog or two you know to be healthy before your first park visit. This will help the pup ease into the park.
Spay/Neuter With males, do not bring them in if not fixed after the age of around 6 months. Even if they are gentle lambs, the scent their hormones exude communicate a message which is often not well received by dominant dogs.
It is best to apply this same rule to females as well. You will not know when she is coming into heat, but every dog in the park will pick up the scent. She will most likely be pestered with overly attentive and undesired interest.
Pick the Best Days and Times If possible, take your dog to the park on weekdays with savvy regulars. On weekends, too many dogs who have been couped up all week make the park into the wild west.
If weekends are your only option, head out at the break of day. The wild child gang tends to have owners who sleep in, so they arrive later.
Assess the Park on Arrival Quickly scan the park before going in. If you see a dog group with loud over-excited barking, wrestling and body slamming, plan to bring your pup in on lead and steer him to a quieter play group. If the park is small and is being dominated by red flag dogs, leave and take your dog on a walk instead.
Test the Fenceline Especially with dominant aggressive dogs, walk your dog along the fenceline before going in. Assess how he reacts to both dogs and people who come to meet him at the fence. If he shows dominant posturing or aggression, go home and get the help of a professional.
Benches Do not sit on the park benches. Instead, walk the perimeter, stopping for short times where your dog is enjoying a particular play group.
If you MUST sit, do not let your dog stake his claim of you and the bench by guarding you at your feet. Push him away with your foot, disagree with him clocking in for the guard dog job. When walking, stay away from all the people sitting on benches with their dogs territorially guarding them.
Cliques Do not join any of the regular chat groups with the same people congregated day after day, and their dogs all bunched around them. These dogs are not usually playing and exercising. They are in rest states as a pack. This is anti-social park behavior which does not fulfill the needs of the dogs.
Water Most parks have doggie water fountains. Make sure your dog has the chance to drink often, and fill the bowl for other dogs as well whose owners may not be giving thoughtful thirst quenches.
Do not bring your own water into the park. It can create competition, "Is what is in that bowl something I want that I am not getting?" If the park does not provide water, give your pup water outside. It's always a good idea to carry a jug of water and drinking bowl in your car as an emergency back-up for your dog.
Emergency Vet Game Plan Dogs will be dogs. At some time, you may need to scoot your dog to the nearest emergency vet due to a playground injury. Be prepared with the address and phone number of the nearest emergency clinic, and call them en route so they can prepare for your arrival.
Trips to the dog park should be immensely grand times for human and dog alike. Follow the tips below for safe, fun park experiences.