DO teach your dog its name and basic call-back.â€¨
“Recall is an important component of preventing problem behaviours,” says Julie Posluns, a certified dog trainer and co-owner of online training school Treatpouch.com. After calling your pooch you should reward it for coming back with affection, praise or treats. You can use this technique to diffuse any stressful dog park situations and reinforce your place as leader of the pack.
DO watch your dog.
â€¨Getting wrapped up in dog park gossip while your pet’s off pooping in the bushes is not OK. And leaving your pup while you take your kid to the swings is plain irresponsible. “A dog park is not a day care,” says Posluns, who has 40 dogs on her walking roster. “It’s unfair for your dog, who could get injured while you’re not around, and for the other dogs and owners who have to share the space with an unsupervised and unpredictable dog.”
DON’T picnic in the dog park.â€¨
“Recipe for disaster!” says Posluns. And on the topic of food, don’t offer treats to someone else’s dog without permission -- it could have allergies, be on a diet or have annoying begging tendencies.
DO let your dog run free.
â€¨By holding a tight leash, you give the message that a scenario is stressful. “Your dog is unable to greet other dogs normally so conflict may arise,” says Posluns. And if you carry your little dog around in your arms, bigger dogs are likely to jump up at it to investigate.
DON’T tell other owners what to do.
It’s a lot like with kids -- everyone has her own approach and the best bet is to avoid confrontation. “My job is to keep my dogs safe, so if a dog is dangerous or making one of my dogs uncomfortable than we avoid them or leave the park,” says Posluns. That said, if someone you know well is having problems with her dog, it would be appropriate to suggest she consult a certified dog trainer or behaviourist.
DO respect other dogs’ toys.
â€¨If your pup pilfers a playmate’s ball, that dog can’t get the same intensity of exercise it came out to enjoy. And watch carefully if your dog is chasing another dog carrying a ball to ensure both are having fun. “Some dogs love it, but some value their toys more than food, and they have a right to not share them,” explains Posluns.
Page 1 of 2 -- Is your dog ready for the dog park? Find 7 more tips for a fun dog park visit on page 2.
DON’T tolerate humping.â€¨
“Recognize, prevent, redirect,” advises Posluns. Once you’ve figured out your dog’s patterns (going after puppies, say, or only humping when it's bored), keep a look out for triggers and recall your dog before it starts. The final step is to engage it in a more wholesome activity.
DON’T deck your dog out in a prong or choke collar.
“They especially don’t belong in a dog park,” warns Posluns. “There have been many incidents of dogs getting injured by such collars on other dogs during play.”
DO keep your kids out of the dog park.
It’s a place where dogs should be free to run, chase and wrestle. “As soon as kids come into the mix, for safety reasons we need to suppress these behaviours,” explains Posluns. And many dogs are actually afraid of children, so their owners need to be on high alert when kids come into the dog park.
DON’T walk around the park with a bunch of owners and dogs.
Dogs are responsive to a new person or canine entering the park, and this can easily set them off. “When they are in a pack they feel more confident and feed off each other,” says Posluns. This can lead to aggressive behaviour.
DO stay away if your dog doesn’t really belong in the dog park.
The no-go list includes puppies that haven’t had their final shots, very young pups still being socialized (they need only positive experiences) and unneutered, fearful, aggressive or easily overstimulated dogs.
DON’T hesitate to offer a bag if someone doesn’t stoop and scoop.â€¨
This is the politest way to get the message across.
DO remember all dog parks are not created equal.
â€¨To every pup, his park. It can be intimidating to be charged at the gate by a dozen eager playmates, so don’t take shy dogs to tiny, enclosed spaces. “A dog that needs socialization would be more suited to a ravine walk where they pass a dog, have a brief positive interaction and move on,” says Posluns. Some municipalities offer separate parks for large and small dogs, which are great for more evenly matched play. Check out all your options.
Time spent at the dog park is meant to be fun for everyone involved. By ensuring your dog is properly trained and having strategies in place for potential problems, you'll be guaranteed to have a much more positive experience.
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