How to Survive the Dog Park – 3 Big Dog Park Mistakes Novice Owners Make

The dog park sounds like a magical place, right? Dogs running and playing together? Almost anytime you go there you can find a dog to play with. But while the doggy park is amazing, it is not without challenges lurking behind. Surviving the place without making any common dog park mistakes is possible.

Before we go further, let’s say there are two types of dogs and owners in the park. There are those who pay attention to their dog. And then those who do not. Which dog owner are you? And which one do you think is the right type of pet owner?

Simply put, dog parks can be play heaven for your furry friend. They provide off leash area for socialization. And if you and your dog show good behavior, dog parks are amazing.

Today, we will take a look at some dog behavior mistakes that you should stop doing in the park.

Mistake No.1 – Failure of recall command

So, you go to the dog park, you let your new dog play, and after a while, you call him to go home. During his playtime, you, the dog owner, sit patiently at the bench and wait him to have his fun. And when your dog finishes, you can go home, right? WRONG!

If you have not mastered the recall command in dog training yet, you will surely not master it in the dog park. You probably think I can go to the dog park and catch him/her easily. After all, it is a closed space.

What you are doing is you are punishing your new pup for having fun and behaving well. Raise your hand if this happens. You have a bad recall command, but you go to your dog, catch him, put him on a leash, and then take him home.

As we know, dogs behave according to positive reinforcement and punishment. What do you think you have done there? Praise or punishment. The latter, of course.

Your dog had loads of fun, behaved properly, and as a reward, he gets put on a leash, and has to go home where there is no fun. You stopped the fun. Awful puppy training right there.

What can you do instead? Well, even if you have a bad recall, you can still go there. But, once you catch your dog, show him the collar, give him a treat, and then let him go. Take a step back, call him, give him another treat, praise, and then put on the leash. Then, release him, call him again, give him a treat, and take him home.

The goal here is to make the dog want to come with you home instead of you making him come home. And of course, reward the good behavior.

Remember, for your dog, the leash is usually an association that he has to go home and that is when the play session and fun end. But you have to teach him that the leash is not the end of the fun.

Mistake No.2 – leaving your dog free for all

We said at the beginning there are two types of owners. Well, those who pay attention to their dog are the ones that have a well-behaved dog. You have to be part of the party. You have to make yourself part of the fun. The biggest mistake you can make is let your dog have all the fun, and then he has to come back to the boring owner.

Any pet owner and pet parent will hate you. Most of the complaints by dog owners are that people come to the park, sit on a bench, look at their phone, and do absolutely nothing with their dogs.

What can you do instead? Well, you can interact and play with your dog. You can see a pet parent playing fetch with their dogs, or any other game. Or you can just call your dog every now and then, give him praise, treat, and then let him go play again. This way, you make him want to come to you. When play follows come here, it serves as a reward for coming.

During your time at the park, pay close attention to your dog’s body language. Fights happen, they are part of the dog park experience. So, if you notice any signs of discomfort, remove your pooch from the situation. If you have a rock solid sit stay command, you can use that.

Just for info, signs of discomfort include ears pulled back, wide-eyed stares, tense mouth, tucked tail, yawning, and lip-licking.

Mistake No.3 – Coming to the park with zoomies

Many dog owners think that the dog park is the place where they can exercise their dogs. WRONG. The dog park is a supplement and complementary part of the training and daily activity. They should never serve as the only source of exercise and socialization for your dog.

Think about this for a second. Your dog has been inside for hours. He has accumulated loads of energy. And then he/she goes to the dog park. What will he do? Well, burn that energy of course.

But, your dog might be overly excited and want to play with dogs that are not into it. That can result in aggression and a a dog fight. Your dog might also try to burn its energy by running around. Other dogs will start chasing, turning your dog into a prey object for smaller dogs or even a large dog. This can also result in a dog fight.

Dog Park Etiquette

dog in dog park

Now that we talked about some of the common dog park mistakes, we have to talk about dog park etiquette as well. What should you do in the doggy park? Well, there are certain dog park rules you have to follow.

  • Call your dog away from the gate when others are entering or leaving
  • Call your dog if he is being overly excited around anxious dogs
  • If your dog wears a metal collar, remove it before entering the park to prevent any playtime injuries
  • Always pick up after your dog’s waste. This is the single biggest complaint of pet owners
  • Some parks have a rule for not bring dogs that are not sprayed or neutered
  • Do not ever bring a dog in heat to the dog park

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