A day at the dog park can be a great outing for you and your dog. If introduced correctly, dog parks can be a fun and social experience for your canine companion. Dog parks can also be a fiasco. Before going, it is important to determine if a dog park is a good option for your dog based on his own personality. 

Know Before You Go: Recognizing whether a dog park is the best fit for your dog. 

As fun as dog parks can be, they are not suited for every dog. Some dogs, for example, may become anxious when in public settings and may be more comfortable playing in their own yard. Knowing your dog’s personality and deciding whether a dog park would be the best fit for him is a very important part in being a responsible pet owner. 

Make sure your dog is obedient and listens well to your commands. With all the stimulation at a dog park, it is easy for a dog to become distracted. For safety reasons, it’s important that your dog responds to commands such as come, drop it, and leave it. 

Puppies under 6 months are too young to go to the dog park.

Before going to the dog park, your dog must be up to date on vaccinations. Check with your veterinarian and make sure your dog’s vaccines are completed.

Unless there is a separate small dog area, dogs under 30 pounds should best be left at home. Smaller dogs may have a harder time playing with bigger dogs and may even get hurt. 

Dog parks are not a good way to begin socializing your dog. The setting can be overwhelming and may even cause your dog to become fearful and anxious. Instead, bring your dog to a more controlled setting such as a training class. 

When your dog is ready to start going to the dog park, you should first go during a quiet time without any other dogs. At that time you can make sure your dog feels comfortable in the area, and work on solidifying his cues in a new environment. Once your dog will reliably respond to cues at the dog park alone, you can then start going to the park with a few other dogs.

At The Park

What to bring:
Do bring water, a bowl, and poop bags. 
Don’t bring toys or treats. Even if your dog shares well with others, it’s important to remember that other dogs may not be so generous. 

Keep your eyes peeled 
Keep your eye on your dog at all times. Under no circumstances should your dog be left unattended at a dog park. Be sure not to be distracted by your phone or talking to other dog owners. 

If he is playing too roughly, safely interrupt the play and take your dog someplace more quiet to calm down. 

Pay close attention to your dog’s body language when at the park. If your dog is communicating signs of fear or aggression, safely remove your dog, call it a day and head home. For more information on how to recognize signs of fear or aggression, please see out Canine Body Language article. 

When finding your dog a buddy or a group to play in, try picking one with similar qualities to your dog such as:

  • Age
    • Dogs who are the same age tend to have the same energy levels.
  • Play style
    • Dogs with similar play styles do the best together. 
  • Breed
    • Some dogs of the same breed have similar energy and play styles.
  • Size
    • When smaller dogs play with bigger dogs, they run the risk of being run over. However, if the play styles match, size is not really an issue. 

If you would like information from an Anti-Cruelty Society Behavior Specialist regarding this behavior topic, please call 312-645-8253 or email behavior@anticruelty.org.

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