Try these real life tips for having a fun and safe days at the dog park!
- Make sure your dog is healthy when you come. Don't bring dogs that are not up to date on shots! If your dog might be too frail because of age to be rambunctious with younger dogs, don't come! If your puppy is very small, it just isn't time yet.
- Do expect to allow your dog to be OFF leash at the park. A leashed dog cannot behave normally toward approaching dogs and may become defensive and aggressive. This is not the place to practice training or tricks, and your dog is NOT safer if he is tethered to anything, even you. He must be able to evaluate and react on his own terms if he is EVER to feel comfortable interacting with new dogs.
- Please spay and neuter your pets. There simply is NO good reason not to, and tons of bad things that will happen to your good friend if you neglect this important step of responsible pet care. If you don't agree, reconsider coming to the dog park. There is a low cost clinic in town, so they can't play the poor card, either.
- DO expect to get WET and DIRTY at the park. Don't wear nice clothes or jewelry: this isn't a social scene for people - it is one for dogs. Most dogs know better than to jump, but there are always puppies and adolescent dogs that are still learning how to behave. Mud is fun, and a dirty dog is NOT a bad dog, she (yes, even your blonde Princess) is a happy dog! There will be mud and stink on you, on your dog, and in your car, so bring a towel and learn to appreciate it. RELAX, shampoo will never stop working and vacuums won't disappear.
- PLEASE watch your dogs! Don't read, talk forever on the phone, play on the PSP, or anything other than enjoy being with with your dog. The fences are not always secure. There may be holes where a determined dog can squirm through, or short spots where one can climb over. If you can't see your dog, put your eyeballs on her before you do anything else.
- Be nice, don't neglect to introduce yourself to other dog owners; you obviously have something in common already. DON'T be ugly if you find another visitor's dog offensive for whatever reason. Violence between dogs is very rare, and is usually the result of a dog being kept leashed while all the other dogs are not. Don't confuse playing with fighting and start making a scene. People are often hateful over things that would never make sense to dogs, so try to think like a dog at the dog park, and don't attempt to correct other people's dog attitudes or techniques. YOU are responsible for YOUR dog; if you really fear for your dog, then leave. Do not linger and continue to harangue other dog parents. Don't expect other dogs to avoid your "baby" if you are afraid of them being the recipient of slobber, mud, play-growling and barking, humping, chasing, and wrestling. These are ALL normal dog behaviors, and ways they communicate with one another and establish pack order. If you cannot accept the dog-like dog behavior of dogs with other dogs at the dog park for dogs, staying home may be the best course.
- Educate yourself on dog behavior. Just because you would or wouldn't do something, you cannot expect such behavior from a dog, even your dog. There are LOTS of good sources out there, and you cannot expect to intuitively know what your dogs or other dogs are doing or why. If you just adopted a dog for the first time, don't come until you are fully acquainted with their quirks and mannerisms. If you can't yet differentiate play wrestling and mouthing from fighting and biting, happy barking from angry barking, joyful postures from fearful ones, or a game of merry chase from predation, then PLEASE learn before you come.
Don't bring your dog if he has ever shown aggression toward strangers, dog or human. This is not the place to "break" a dog of violent behavior. If you have adopted a previously abused/neglected dog, be very careful. It is often too late to unscramble a mistreated animal's mind and heart, and you may have to accept that your new friend will never fully heal. Love her more and hope that unwanted animals will stop being inadvertently (or intentionally) produced to lead fearful, desperate, painful, cold, and/or lonely lives.
Choose an off-peak day for your first visit so you won't have as many new friends to meet. Weekend afternoons are not a good first visit time, try Wednesday morning instead. Pay attention to the reaction of other people. If they aren't concerned, don't worry too much. Slowly acquaint yourself with the way dogs act with each other. Dogs are not dolls, babies, cats, etc, and each one has it's own personality.
Likewise, dog breeds are not "all" this way or that way, so don't assume a dog is vicious just because you once saw one of the same breed that was. I have seen hatefully violent teacup poodles and butter-soft hearted baby pillows of pitbulls. Male dogs and female dogs are equally capable of displays of aggression, though obviously, many behavior problems are remedied with a simple, routine surgery just before puberty. DOMINANCE and SUBMISSION are the most important aspects of a dog's social consciousness, and you must allow the dogs to work things out amongst themselves, as long as there is no blood. Dogs, like children, live up to expectations, so please convince yourself that you have a good boy or girl and expect them to behave that way at the park, unless given evidence otherwise.
- Don't confuse mounting with mating. It isn't. It is a dominance display, not exhibitionism. Dogs are not people. You wouldn't ask your dog not to sniff the new dog just because you wouldn't sniff a new friend, would you? Let it happen: you WON'T stop it. It will stop once everyone gets acquainted and knows their relative pack position. Your dog is not homosexual or a pedophile. It is not bad, or done to embarrass you or others. RELAX. If someone wants to get excited about it, let them, but you don't have to do so as well. Girl dogs do it, boy dogs do it. Altered and unaltered dogs do it. Pretty much the top dog ends up on top, and that's the point. Your dog may be normally very timid, but is feeling brave that day. Your dog may be on top one day and bottom next time. Your dog might get sandwiched. So what? Try to see stuff from your dog's perspective...everything has a purpose and a reason, people just have to try harder to see it.
- Lastly, come often and stay long. Focus on nothing but your dog and what them happy and you will all have a good time.
Have fun, and be happy just to watch your good dog grin!