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  • Rick Alto

Dog Park Etiquette 101 with Rick Alto, Certified Professional Trainer!

Many trainers will tell you to avoid dog parks because a single situation gone wrong can escalate into an attack or fight, which can cause life-long reactivity or fear aggression in your dog. Being involved in the design, construction and operation of the Brewster Dog Park has enabled our World Class dog park to be as safe as possible. It was designed for maximum safety (large with many surfaces, attractions and clear sight lines) to ensure that our beautiful dog park remains a happy, fun, and safe place for our dogs to play. The most important element to safety is YOU, the human.

Many scuffles or play that have escalated into an attack could potentially be avoided if everyone involved had been reading the body language of the dogs and paying attention to some simple rules of behavior.

What are your responsibilities at the dog park?

Your dog should have recall skills. Recall is about more than having your dog come when called. It’s also about having a dog that is constantly attuned to you, checking in, and ready to obey no matter what, even in the midst of a game of chase. If you can disengage your dog from an activity that is escalating and have them return to you until the situation clams down, then you are helping to cut down the odds of an incident, and ensuring their safety and the safety of every dog with whom they interact. A rule of thumb is no recall skills, no dog park.

Clearly, recall must be practiced at home, on leash, and then on a long line, with increasing levels of distractions before ever going to the dog park. If you cannot recall your dog in your yard or in your neighborhood, you will never recall them at the dog park. By having a common language (e.g. “Come”) and progressively increasing the distance and distractions, while on a 6 foot leash and then a long line, it will assist in conditioning your dog that “come” means return to you every time. This conditioned response takes time, practice, patience and positive reinforcement (praise, toys and/or training treats) in all environments.

Rick Alto is a member of the Friends of Brewster Dog Park Board of Directors and the owner of ExFed Dog Training.

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