3 Ways to Have Success at the Dog Park

Dog parks are a great resource for dog owners. Having access to an area where you can let your dog run off leash, get some energy out, and socialize with other dogs can be invaluable when it comes to training and learning manners. While there are many benefits to dog parks, it’s important to use this time correctly to avoid teaching your dog bad habits. We will go over some tips on picking the best dog park for your needs, as well as etiquette and training ideas to make the trip as successful as possible!

What you should look for in a dog park

If you live in the city, look for a dog park with a sturdy fence (at least 4 feet tall). There should be a double-gated entrance, which helps prevent a dog from slipping out of the gate and running away. Check if there is a water source, and if there isn’t one, make sure to bring plenty of water. Some dog parks have natural barriers in lieu of a fence. If this is the case, know the area well and make sure to keep a close eye on your dog. Dog parks are sometimes divided into two areas- one for smaller dogs and one for larger dogs. This is a great and safe option for anyone with a smaller dog that might get scared of larger dogs.

During your first visit to a dog park, do a good once-over and look for anything that could be potentially dangerous. If there is fencing, does it look maintained and sturdy? Is there trash in the area? If you live in a more rural area, keep in mind there may be wildlife or snakes to keep an eye out for.

Dog park etiquette

Just because it’s a dog park does not mean it’s a free for all. We all want our dogs to have a good experience, and no one likes getting jumped on or having to manage someone else's dog. Look for engaged owners who recall often and keep an eye on their dog. Proper play is very important when it comes to socializing in dog parks. A dog that is too rough can not only cause a fight, but can make other dogs fearful going forward.

When dogs play together, it’s important to keep an eye on their body language. You want them to have loose body language, like wagging tails and trading roles. You will see this often when they play chase and roll around on the ground. Keep in mind that just because someone’s dog is a “rough player” doesn't mean your dog has to be subjected to it. You can simply move on to a different part of the park.

Make sure you pick up after your dog. Keeping dog parks clean not only makes your experience better, it also helps keep the dogs healthy and happy.

Training practice at the dog park

A trip to the dog park is the perfect time for little training sessions. Keep a handful of Zuke’s Mini Naturals or a Z-Filet in your pocket, but be careful when bringing treats to the dog park. It’s always best to ask nearby owners first before presenting food. Some dogs may guard any food or treats, regardless of whether it comes from their owner or someone else.

Training exercises you can work on at the dog park include:

- Recall when surrounded by distractions.
- Proper play. If you see something you’re not ok with, interrupt the play and give your dog a few minutes to chill out before letting them play again.
- Meeting new people with proper manners.
- Entering and exiting the dog park politely on leash. Calm your dog down before taking them off leash. This will help them learn that calm – not frantic – behavior gets them off leash.