The dog park can be a great place for some dogs to run off steam and make friends with other dogs. The challenge is that the planets must align perfectly every time you visit with your dog.
Most pet parents don’t know how to navigate the dog park environment safely and effectively. At best, you’ll come home with a happy, tired dog. At worst, you could end up with a dog who develops fear or aggression toward other dogs, or one who gets seriously injured.
Below are 5 warnings signs it’s time to leave.
1. You have a young puppy
If your puppy is younger than 12 weeks of age, you should not go to the dog park. You may be thinking “I need to socialize my dog, so what better place than the dog park?”
Proper socialization means your pup is exposed to a variety of people, animals, objects, and environments all while ensuring he is having fun every time. The opinions he makes on these encounters will last a lifetime.
You can’t control anything at the dog park. People often bring dogs that have no business being there. If your puppy has even one bad experience he’s learning that other dogs are scary and dangerous.
Wait until your pup has been properly socialized and has already proven to enjoy the company of other dogs.
2. Your dog doesn’t want to be there
If you have a dog that actively engages with other dogs, happily plays with them, and seeks out their company, then he’s likely a good dog park candidate. If your dog spends his time sniffing around, ignoring the other dogs or only seeking out people, he probably doesn’t like other dogs’ company.
That’s okay! Not every dog wants or needs dog friends. Making him go to the dog park when he doesn’t enjoy it can lead to behavioral issues later on.
3. People aren’t following the rules
Rules are there to protect all park attendees and pets. If you encounter folks who are blatantly ignoring the rules, leave.
4. People are not monitoring their dogs
The best dog park people actively watch their dogs and make sure they are behaving properly. Others will be power walking, glued to their phones, or engrossed in conversation. This means their dogs could be bullying other dogs or getting bullied. Responsible dog parents keep an eye on their dogs.
5. You feel unsafe
Not every dog at the park may be safe to be around. Appropriate dog play is a give-and-take. All participants should look like they’re having fun. If you find a pack of dogs targeting your dog, or one dog doesn’t want to leave you alone, be safe and leave.
If you are responsible and careful and your dog loves playing with other dogs, then the dog park may be okay for you and your dog. When the risk is too great, consider finding a couple of canine playmates and arranging private playdates. This way, you can all relax and enjoy a good time!