Things to Know Before Entering the Dog Park: Tip from Rick Alto, Certified Professional Trainer
Dog parks provide a great place for dogs to get exercise, become better socialized, and to simply have fun. It is also a welcoming place for dog owners and non-dog owners alike.
With that said, not every dog is suited for a dog park and you need to have realistic expectations about your dog’s suitability for going to a dog park.
I always suggest introducing dogs to a dog park gradually by bringing them to the dog park, but work them in basic obedience commands outside the park in the parking area and then the sidewalk on several occasions before attempting to go inside. If your dog is pulling uncontrollably, snarling or barking outside of the dog park, it is not time to bring them inside, as they will carry that unhealthy, unwanted energy inside the park and it may cause an issue with the other dogs.
Practice recall (“Come” command) with your dog at home and become proficient to ensure that you have a reliable recall. That way, if there is an issue or you see an issue developing, you can get your dog back safely and keep your dog out of trouble.
Be careful entering the gate into the park enclosure. Dogs must be off leash in the entry plaza and ushered inside their respective area based on size. Large dogs (over 30 pounds) belong in the large dog area, and small dogs (under 30 pounds) belong in the small dog area. This is done for safety as some large dogs see small dogs as prey and “predatory drift” is a real phenomenon where a large dog suddenly and without warning sees the small dog as prey and attacks. This is instinctual and a glitch (return to the original and ancient predatory sequence) in a dog’s prey drive that causes a dog to display predatory behavior to hunt and kill prey. It is a hard-wired behavior that can be triggered in any dog. The dog may try to stop an agitated, squirming; squealing, running thing from moving and, unfortunately, this involves using its mouth and teeth.
Rick Alto is a member of the Friends of Brewster Dog Park Board of Directors and the owner of ExFed Dog Training.