With open grounds bustling with games and activities, dog parks can be perfect places for your dog to play around with abandon! Not only are dog parks great for your pet to socialize and prance around in with some new pals, but they’re also excellent spaces for your pup to burn off some steam. However, to get the best out of such parks and avoid unnecessary hassles, it’s essential to take some precautions. Unsure about how to teach your dog to behave in a park? Here are some dog park behavior tips and tricks to help you out.
To ensure good behavior at the dog park, proper training so that your dog can follow simple commands like “come,” “sit,” or “down” is crucial. Here’s a list of common props that can be helpful in training your dog.
- Tasty treats
- A belt bag to store treats
- Long training leash
- A friend
- Lots of patience
“Solid Recall” Method
1. A new dog or a puppy automatically follows you wherever you go. Use this technique in his training session. When your dog is a few steps away from you, slap your thighs to get his attention and back away. When he starts following you, call out “Come” in an excited voice. Praise your dog when he follows and reward it with a dinner by saying “Come” as you put his dinner down.
2. Ask your friend to help you with this step. Each of you carries a treat in your hands. Call out your puppy’s name, excitedly clap your hands, and as he runs towards you, say “Come” and give him a treat. Next, ask your friend to do the same and you keep mum. Alternate between the two of you a few more times, but make sure to give him a treat every time he obeys.
3. Make your dog sit in the yard and slowly back away while making sure your dog remains sitting. Then call out his name excitedly, along with the “come” signal, and reward him when he responds.
4. Keep increasing the distance between you and your dog, and whenever he attempts to get up, begin the exercise from a little closer distance.
5. Practice this training for real in a dog park when the park is not crowded. Start with the sit position and pack extra tasty treats as rewards.
“Look At Me” Method
1. Make your dog sit in a distraction-less environment and carry a small treat in your hand. Get his attention by touching the treat to your dog’s nose.
2. While the dog is still sitting, you straighten up, take the treat slowly from the dog’s nose to the bridge of your nose in a straight line.
3. As your dog stares intently at the treat between your eyes, say “Look” in a firm but excited voice. While your dog’s attention is still on you, say “Good dog” and give him a reward. Remember, in the beginning, your dog will only be able to focus for a few seconds.
4. Slowly increase this focus time before you hand out a reward. Start with 10 seconds, then 30 seconds, then one minute, and stretch as far as possible.
5. Practice with the treat in various places. Then, slowly phase out the reward once your dog is consistently watching you on command. Start with rewarding every other “Look” and then every fourth “Look” so he feels he needs to work extra hard for the reward. This can keep your dog eager and focused.
“Halt Him Quick” Method
1. Make your dog sit down and use a treat to get his nose close to the ground. Place the treat in such a way that he has to flop down to get it. Say “Down” when he does that.
2. Don’t let him spring up, make him stay on the ground for a long time by stroking and patting him and slowly extend the time before he gets the reward.
3. Once your dog is steadily staying on the ground for more than a minute until released, slowly stand up and start stepping away from him. Increase the distance gradually as the dog continues to sit down.
4. Eventually, practice this command standing up, then with a slow walk, and later from quite a distance away.
5. Gradually, practice the “Down” command as you move around in your house. Then, slowly shift to an outdoor setting. If your dog struggles to obey in a distracting environment, retrace your steps and begin from the stage where he can respond comfortably.
Tips to Succeed
Though dog park training is a continuous process that changes and evolves as your dog grows up, here are some helpful tips and tricks on how to teach your dog to behave in the park.
Controlled Environment and Daily Training Time
Do not train your dog while on a walk or a leisure stroll. Always conduct training sessions in a controlled environment with no interruptions or disturbances, such as your home, backyard, or an open field. Make sure to set aside a particular time daily for training, especially if your dog is young and learning something new. As your dog grows up and matures, you can reduce the training frequency to once a week.
Never conduct long marathon training sessions in the hope that your dog will master a trick in one go. Ample rest is necessary before your pet can successfully follow a command. It’s best to conduct short 15-20 minutes sessions, followed by sufficient rest or playtime. End the session when your dog succeeds in an attempt, even if it’s a small achievement.
Train When Hungry
If you conduct a training session when your dog is hungry, the treats you offer during positive reinforcements can act as more effective incentives. If you conduct it right after a big meal, the treats may not be as motivating.
Train After Play Time
It’s always better to begin a training session after some playtime as it can help your dog get rid of excess energy. If you start a training session immediately after letting your dog out after a long day indoors, it can lead to frustration for both of you.
Punishments not only undermine your dog’s trust in you but may also lead to anxiety. In the long run, punishments can also result in aggression. It’s always better to go for positive reinforcement training by following up the desired results with treats and praises.
Instead of punishing your dog when he does something wrong, guide him to the more appropriate behavior and offer rewards when he gets it right.
Pick the Right Rewards
Depending on your dog’s performance, change up the treats and increase the frequency of the rewards so that it continues to be an enticing and motivating factor. Reward highly desired behaviors with highly gratifying treats so that your dog’s performance improves drastically.
Consider Clicker Training
Clicker training is a positive reinforcement method where you use a clicker tool to follow the dog’s appropriate behavior with a click. When you train your dog to respond to the clicker, it can accelerate the training process. Treat your dog immediately after pressing the clicker. This way, they will start associating the sound with the correct behavior.
Dog Park Dos and Don’ts
Dog parks can be fantastic places where your dog can make new canine friends. But it is equally important for dog owners to take responsibility and follow some simple dog park etiquette and rules to create a safe space for everyone.
Don’t Take a Young Pup
It might be tempting to take your excited new puppy to frolic around in the dog park, but this is not advisable. Wait until your dog is at least five months old before you head out to the park. Moreover, puppies under four months are at an increased risk of contracting diseases. There is also a higher likelihood of younger and smaller dogs getting bullied by the bigger dogs.
Take off the Leash
What’s the point of visiting a dog park if you can’t let your dog off the leash? Leashes can also cause injuries and fights if your dog or other dogs get tangled in them. Your dog must be fully mature, well-trained, and socialized to freely run off-leash. Observe how your dog behaves around other dogs when on a leash. If he barks, lunges, and whines, then it’s not yet time for a dog park visit.
Teach Basic Commands
Train your dog to follow some basic commands like “Stay”, “Sit,” and “Come” when they are off-leash. This will be of great help in case you need to quickly rescue your dog from a tricky situation or make him stay away from an aggressive dog.
Do a Practice Run
Check out the dog park when it’s not crowded, and do a test run by taking your dog off its leash. Observe his body language and try to gauge if he’s relaxed and calm. Crouching close to the ground, pinning his ears back, snarling, and hiding behind you are major signs of discomfort and an indication that you need to employ more training. It’s best to hold off the visit till then.
Visit Less-Crowded Dog Parks
Most dogs don’t respond well to chaotic environments. For a more enjoyable and peaceful experience, avoid weekends and peak times. Early mornings and late evenings are some of the best times to avoid crowds and unpleasant dog behaviors. Small and less-crowded dog parks also allow you to better monitor your dog without losing sight of him.
Be Wary of Your Dog’s Body Language
Look out for signs of hunger, discomfort, or fatigue from your dog. Leave the park when you feel your pet is not enjoying or if you sense any undesirable behavior from other dogs, or when it gets too crowded. Just like humans, dogs have their saturation limit too.
Choose the Right Dog Park
This is especially important if you own a small dog. Good dog parks have separate areas for large and small dogs as a safety measure. Additionally, never hold your small dog in your arms before you enter the park. It can make other dogs get a false sense of control, and they may perceive your dog as prey and cause them harm.
While it’s fine to socialize and check your phone occasionally, guarding your dog must always be your priority. Look out for their body language as well as the body language of other dogs. You must know when to intervene at the dog park. If you detect the slightest signs of aggression like growling and snarling, interrupt immediately before it escalates.
Don’t Take an Unvaccinated Dog
Dog parks can be a breeding ground for diseases and illnesses. Most good dog parks have mandatory rules that demand that all visiting dogs be vaccinated. However, some are slack on such rules. To protect your dog from infections and illnesses, always ensure your dog is fully vaccinated and healthy before visiting a dog park. And make sure that your dog has no injuries as it can instigate fights and aggression.
Limit Toys and Treats
Even if your dog is well behaved around food, you can’t guarantee that for the other dogs in the park. This can eventually lead to fights and conflicts. The same goes for toys and treats. However, it’s always advised to bring your own bottled water and not depend on the communal water bowls offered in the parks to prevent the spread of diseases.
Clean Up After Your Dog
Make sure you clean up after your dog’s pooping session. Bring a poop bag and clean up all the mess before exiting the park. Poop lying in the open is unpleasant and unsanitary.
Don’t Forget Identification Tags
Never visit a dog park without putting on an identification tag on your dog. If your dog escapes the park without your notice and gets lost, the tag can help you reunite with him.
Don’t Take Your Dog During Heat Cycle
Never take your dog to a dog park if its in heat as it can distract other dogs, create fights and conflicts, and also lead to unintentional mating.
Don’t Take Your Dog to Park Without Exercise
Provide adequate exercise to your dog before visiting a dog park to burn off their excess energy. An under-exercised, hyperactive dog can turn aggressive and wreak havoc in the park.
Issues to Be Aware of at the Dog Park
It’s best to familiarize yourself with some of the potential pitfalls of taking your dog to a dog park so that you can be prepared to tackle any unpleasant situations.
Shyness or Fear
Sometimes your dog can get overwhelmed by the park environment and feel shy and fearful. If repeated attempts at trying to make him calm down don’t work, it’s best to leave the park in such situations.
Just like humans, some dogs can turn out to be bullies. If it’s your dog who’s bullying, then give him a time-out. And if your dog is getting bullied, it’s best to intervene and exit the park before things escalate.
Fights and Aggression
Aggression is pretty common in dog parks, especially among dogs that are not trained well. Whenever you spot signs of possible fights or aggression, leave the park. If you find yourself constantly thinking, “My dog is aggressive at the dog park,” maybe it’s time to take a break from park visits.
Mounting or Humping
Mounting and humping is common dog behavior. However, when not regulated, it can lead to fights and problems.
Jumping on People
Some dogs mount and jump on people while displaying their affection. Though most people are accustomed to this behavior and might even like it, few others may find it offensive.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you keep your dog from being aggressive at the dog park?
The best way to keep your dog from being aggressive at the dog park is by training him well and making sure that he gets sufficient exercise before visiting the park. In case of mishaps, exit the situation and give your dog a time-out.
How do I train my dog to behave in public?
Teach him basic commands and use the right treats to reward good behavior. In the initial stages, use a secure and comfortable body harness to control your dog.
Do dog parks teach bad behavior?
Dogs are social animals who love playing and engaging with other dogs. But sometimes, the dog park environment can turn hostile if there are untrained dogs who may instigate fights and aggression.
How to know if your dog is ready for the dog park?
If your dog reacts calmly around other dogs when on a leash and responds well to your commands, then it’s time to take it to a dog park off-leash.
Whether you’re looking to spend some quality time with your canine friend, or you want to give him vast space to play around, a day out in a dog park can be the perfect solution! But if you don’t know how to teach your dog to behave in a park, your day can quickly turn sour.
So, take these tips and rules as a guideline to train your dog, and we are sure your pooch and you will have the time of your life in any dog park!