Laura Mundy, an experienced dog trainer answers some common questions about dog parks.
What type of dogs should visit dog parks?
Mundy says dogs that manage best at dog parks are those who cope well with being around a variety of different dogs of different sizes without getting too overwhelmed.
“They should enjoy playful, mutually consensual, social interactions with other dogs. They should be well socialized, confident, have great social skills, be respectful of other dog’s communication towards them, and also be dogs with a higher threshold for becoming reactive towards other dogs,” she says.
When things get too rough, they should be able to breaking away from play and have a good ‘off switch’ and be able to settle down. They should also have good basic manners – a reliable recall (your dog will come to you every time it is called) and not jump up onto other people including children.
Should puppies visit dog parks?
“Puppyhood is the critical period of early development and early experiences they have during this time will shape their view of the world well into their adult life,” says Mundy. “Any traumas or stressful events that occur during the first few formative months can be extremely challenging to undo. In dog parks we can never be certain what dogs our dogs may encounter. It’s crucial to ensure safe, positive early social experiences for young puppies.”
Be mindful that recently rescued dogs need time to get to know their new owners and surroundings before being placed in high stress environment like a dog park.
What does a happy dog at the dog park look like?
Signs your dog is enjoying the park include walking in confidently without any obvious signs of fearful body language. Signs of stress include pinning back of the ears, showing avoidance, tail tucked, drooling, trying to retreat or get picked up by owners, hiding, yawning, lip licking and more and they should be taken out of the situation immediately.
Dogs should show relaxed, fluid body language and feel comfortable approaching other dogs. Polite greeting of other dogs should include some mutual bottom-sniffing before inviting another dog to play through behaviors such as play bows. They happily want to greet and engage with other park users including people and other dogs, and enjoy exploring the environment.
My dog gets overexcited at the dog park, what should I do?
For more boisterous dogs who may be a bit rough with other dogs at dog parks, there are a couple of techniques you can use to correct this.
“Teach your dog on a long line at further distances to slowly approach other dogs. If they rush in too fast, you can simply call them away or turn and leave,” says Mundy. “We want our more enthusiastic dogs to instead enjoy shorter, calmer interactions with other dogs.”
Practice recalling your dog out on the long line throughout play, give them loads of treats when they return to you, and release them back into the play again. This will help to teach your dog to regulate their play better, and also help enforce your recall skills.