How to have a successful experience at the dog park

When you take your dog to a dog park or any other setting where there are other dogs, you have a responsibility to make sure he or she practices acceptable social behavior.  Yet dog parks often become a venue for excited, dominant and even aggressive behavior.

Be the Pack Leader

The key to having a successful experience at the dog park is for your dog to see you as his pack leader.  Asking your dog to behave properly in any setting is futile if you have no position of authority over him. 

Rules, Boundaries and Limitations

Assuming you are practicing rules and boundaries with your dog on a regular basis, you may be ready to introduce him to the challenge of a dog park.  Keep in mind that the dog park or any other play situation should be seen as an occasional treat for your dog, and should never be a substitute for his routine, structured walk.  

Have you dog earn their treats.

It’s natural for your dog to coexist with other members of his own species.  However, a dog park is nothing like a pack in the wild!  A dog or wolf pack in their natural state is calm, orderly and balanced.  To make your dog park experience more like that of a natural park, ask your dog to earn 

Everything he gets prior to leaving the house for the park.  This will set the stage for good behavior as the activity continues. 

Before the dog park, use calm energy and discipline.

Since your dog can pick up on subtle cues you’re giving him, as you’re getting ready to leave the house, he may begin to exhibit excited behavior.  Ask your dog to sit, wait and proceed calmly through the front door to your car.  Challenge your dog one more time by requesting he sit and wait for you to release him into the car.

If you’re driving to the park with someone else, ask him or her to correct your dog if he becomes overly excited again.  When you arrive at the park, go through the “sit, wait, release” ritual with him again before allowing him to exit the car. 

Try a brisk walk before entering the dog park.

Rather than entering the park right away, take your dog for a brisk walk for 15 minutes, keeping him right by your side.  Keep your demeanor calm, assertive, and relaxed during this time. 

When you arrive back at the entrance for the park, continue to enter the park with your dog on his leash.  Continue your walk making sure not to allow tension on his leash.  Once you are confident that your dog’s state of mind is calm and balanced, unsnap his leash and allow him to explore on his own.

Be aware of other dogs. 

Your personal challenge will be to remain relaxed yet vigilant.  Remember that just because you may have perfect control of your own dog, others may not have control of theirs.  As with children, playing cna sometimes turn into fighting if intensity levels are not kept in check.

May your next experience at the dog park be relaxing, rewarding and balanced!