Seven years ago I took my newly adopted dog, Daisy, to the dog park because I thought it would be fun for her to expend her energy as she barked, played, and cooled off with her new friends but, sadly, I soon found out that it wasn't everything that I'd imagined it would be because
many mistook her deep and often incessant baying to mean that she was ready to attack but they didn't understand that her posture and wagging tail meant just the opposite. She is a hound, I explained, and is simply expressing how happy she is by barking. For those who are used to hearing tiny yips from a dachshund, Chihuahua, or Yorkshire terrier, for example, barks from a hound can be quite jarring but this was a dog park so I assumed everyone understood that barking decibels would vary from dog to dog. While some thought she was ready to harm other dogs because of her tone others thought she was distressed and needed comforting so they pet her in an effort to calm her in the hopes that I would do the same but what she needed was encouragement to play and have fun!
Dog parks are excellent places dogs to relax, bond, and play with their kind but sadly their visit can quickly become a negative experience because many dog owners have not educated themselves about canine behavior or good pack leadership.
To ensure that you and your dog have a positive experience at the dog park here are some do's and don'ts to keep in mind:
1. Make sure your dog is spayed or neutered, has all her shots, and is in good health.
2. Check out the entrance before entering to make sure dogs aren't congregating there
3. Pay close attention to your dog's play style, interrupting play if necessary to calm your dog down
4. Move around the park so that your dog will need to keep an eye on you
5. Remove your dog if the dog appears afraid
6. Remove your dog if it is bullying others
7. Respect your dog's wish to leave
8. DRAIN YOUR DOG'S ENERGY FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES BEFORE GOING TO THE PARK. NEVER TAKE AN OVERLY EXCITED DOG TO THE PARK.
1. Allow your dog to enter the park if there is a 'gang' right next to the entrance
2. Congregate at a picnic table or other area and chat with dog owners who are not watching their dogs
3. Let your frightened dog remain in the park and hope things get better
4. Listen to other attendees in the park who may not understand your dog's needs
5. Assume a dog is aggressive when it is only trying to communicate its discomfort
6. Don’t bring food or your dog’s favorite toys as that often causes problems
7. USE THE PARK AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR WALKING YOUR DOG!
I hope these friendly reminders serve to help you and your dog have a wonderful and safe time at the dog park!