Dog Parks

030The topic of the dog park can be somewhat controversial. Some people love it, while others hate it, but the truth of the matter is that regardless of how you feel about it, people go there with their dogs. I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of dog parks. I think sometimes it can be misused as in dogs that are not properly socialized are there without appropriate leadership from their owners, and that some people use the dog park as the only outlet to exercise their dog. You can, however utilize the dog park as a place to practice social and obedience skills at the same time in a place of very high distractions.
My general protocol when I go to the dog park is to walk, walk, walk, and walk some more. When you walk, your dog will follow you. I don’t expect them to be in a ‘heel’ but I do expect them to check in with me. If I were to enter park and stand there I put my dog in position to make decisions that he may not be equipped to deal with, thus potentially causing a scuffle or fight with another dog.
Here is an example of what I did yesterday when I went to the dog park with a pack of four dogs. Before the dog park adventure could begin we needed to practice some general obedience skills. They all had to ‘wait’ for permission to get out of the car. Once allowed out of the car we practiced ‘heel’, ‘sit’, and ‘down’. I know they were excited to go out and smell the smells, run around and meet new dogs, but I want to reward their calm behavior and reinforce my leadership role. As we entered the park, I had the dogs wait as I opened the gates, and then I turned the direction of the fewest dogs and proceeded to walk the perimeter of the park. As we walked other dogs came over to say ‘hi’ but none of them had opportunity to greet too long. If any of my pack got too far away, or another dog whose body language wasn’t appropriate approached I simply reminded my pack to follow me and we continued to move.
Whether you already take your dog, or if you are considering taking your dog to the dog park please remember to use it as an additional outlet for your dog, not their primary source of exercise. Also keep in mind that movement dissipates energy, so maintain your leadership role and walk with your dog. Also, if your dog is not at all social with other dogs, then the dog park is not for you and you should consider contacting a professional dog trainer.


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