Dog parks are a great idea. - they allow dogs to be off leash and have a chance to run, play and socialise with other dogs. But just because these parks are off leash it does not mean that you lose your responsibilities as a dog owner. Although when all the humans in the dog park behave as responsible pet owners, it makes for a positive experience for everyone on two legs and four. Here are 8 things you should avoid doing when your visit an off leash dog park with your pooch!
1.) Not picking up after your dog
No different to anywhere else at the dog park you’re responsible for cleaning up after your dog. It is important to always carry poo bags with you and to keep a close eye on your dog when they are off leash so you are able to pick up after your dog. If your lucky your local park may even provide plastic bags available near the rubbish bins cans, but it is always a good idea to carry a few extras just in case.
2.) Assuming your dog enjoys the dog park
While we all envision our dogs running happily with their dog friends at a dog park. Not every dog enjoys being in a dog park, and not every dog park is appropriate for your every dog. Before you take your dog to an off leash dog park you should consider your dogs temperament, a nervous dog may not like the busy hustle and bustle of a dog park. Or a reactive or aggressive dog may be set up for failure if taken to an off leash park. It is also good to consider the features of the specific park, is it fully fenced? A good option if you a young dog or dog in training. And how big is this park? If it is a small area and you visit at peak hour it may not be suitable for dogs that do not enjoy being crowded together with lots of new dogs.
3.) Leaving your dog unsupervised
Talking on your phone, texting, emailing and Facebooking are all dog park don’ts. Your dog needs to be actively supervised at all times, even when you are visiting with the other pet parents or greeting one of your pooch’s friends. And of course it goes without saying, never leave your dog unattended in the park, even for a moment. It seems obvious, but sometimes you get distracted while talking to other dog owners. Make sure you know where your dog is at all times to avoid problems like fights. As with a child, you never know what your dog might get into.
4.) Bringing a dog who isn't ready
As a rule of thumb you shouldn't take a dog to an off leash park until it is at least 12 weeks old and up to date on all its vaccinations. The dog park is a great place to socialise your puppy and the sooner puppies can interact with a wide range of dogs, the better. But it is important for their safety to make sure they are protected against diseases and parasites.
It is also important to ensure your pet has basic recall skills so you are able to keep control over when they are off the lead. Your dog should be responsive to basic cues – at least “come when called,” “sit,” and “leave it,” so you can get control of him if necessary, and prevent him from annoying or playing too rough with other dogs.
And of course it is never a good idea to bring a female dog on heat or a pregnant dog to a dog park.
5.) Picking up or carrying small dogs
Puppy or small dog owners, although it may be tempting to pick up your dog and carry them around the park. It is generally best to avoid carrying a dog at an off leash park. Although it is a natural behaviour, we pick things up to protect it, from a dog's point of view, when things go upwards quickly it's because that thing is fleeing, which means "chase!". So by picking up a small dog it can trigger a dogs prey drive causing them to jump up in an attempt to get at the small dog.
6.) Bringing treats
Although it might seem like a good idea to bring treats to the dog park to reward their good behaviour. It's best to leave treats at home, as other dogs may not have good manners around food or may be food aggressive. It is also a big, big no-no when dog owners who bring a baggie of treats to share with all the dogs! Although they only mean well it is not a good idea to feed someone else's dog without their permission. As some dogs that have allergies or simply may be on a diet. Treats can make the other dogs jealous, and cause rivalry between dogs.
7.) Bring toys you don't want to share
When you bring a toy out in an open play environment, dogs see this as being fair game. You can’t get mad when another dog grabs your dogs ball or toy. Or even if they damage it. As a rule of thumb, don’t bring a toy you wouldn’t mind parting with. It is generally a good idea to leave toys at home especially in busy off leash areas as they can cause tension or resource guarding behaviours in dogs.
8.) Taking your dog off leash before they are in the designated off-leash area
It is good manners to not let your dog off the leash until they are safely in the designated off leash area! It is also an important safety precaution as if dogs are let off leash in dog park car parks it can cause accidents with tragic consequences. Also not all dogs on leashes like to be approached by off leash dogs - so it is good practice to follow leash rules closely to avoid any accidents or scuffles between dogs.