First Day at the Dog Park
Bringing your new pup to the dog park is a great way to get them acquainted with other canine friends. Learning how to navigate pack dynamics is an essential part of your dog’s day to day life. Even if you have another dog at home, introducing your young (or new) dog to new playmates is great for their overall health and happiness. Read on to learn more about how to safely bring your dog to the dog park for the first time.
Waiting until your dog has been completely vaccinated (if they’re a puppy this is usually around 16 weeks) and asking your vet if it’s safe for your dog to interact with other dogs is a great first step. While dog parks are tons of fun, just like daycares, they can be an easy place for your pet to pick up a communicable illness if they aren't vaccinated. Once you get the green light from your vet, the fun begins!
Scout out your local dog parks. Does the park have a fence? Does it seem clean? What are the busy hours? Are there rules? If so, what are they?
After you’ve done some reconnaissance on the available dog parks and chosen one (or two or three) that meet your and your dog’s needs, start slow. If possible, bring your pup to the park for the first time on off peak hours/days. Overwhelming your dog with a crowded dog park could cause anxiety and leave them feeling apprehensive. A slow day will give your pup time to adjust to the new sights, sounds and smells and to make some new friends at their own pace.
Dog’s take cues from their owner’s energy. If you’re feeling nervous or unsure as you enter the gates of the park, instead of unclipping your dog’s leash, drop it on the ground (do not try this if you are using a retractable leash). Dropping the leash will allow your dog to un-tether themselves from your emotions and be independent. Trailing their leash gives you the ability to grab or step on the leash if something goes awry or if your dog does not yet respond to a recall.
Even if your pup loves to play fetch, leave the toys at home. Avoiding any possessive behavior and tension over toys is a smart way to keep tempers cool.
Make sure to bring poop bags to clean up after your dog. Leaving droppings in the dog park will reflect poorly on you and can quickly become a messy situation if your pup steps in their own poo and tracks it with them to the car and eventually the house!
Bringing your dog to the dog park is meant to be a fun way to let your dog burn off some energy and make new friends. Putting the time in to wait for your dog to be vaccinated and to scout out safe and friendly dog parks is worth it. Positive experiences at the dog park will boost your dog’s confidence and help them better understand pack dynamics as they blossom into their best selves.
Always update the information on your new dog’s microchip. If your dog gets lost, you want to be sure the microchip company contacts you - not the previous owner.