Off-leash dog parks are a great place for your pup to get some needed exercise and social interaction with other dogs! However, not all dogs may be ready to venture in an off-leash environment. Off-leash environments are not ideal for overly nervous or aggressive dogs, and will require training before, if ever, your dog is ready. Even if your dog is very well trained, that doesn't mean that all the other dogs at the park are! Luckily, we can work with our dogs to help our odds of avoiding an embarrassing scene or any injuries.
Obviously, you want to make sure your dog is trained off-leash before going to an off-leash park. Bringing your untrained dog to an off-leash park is a recipe for disaster! Be patient, off-leash training will not happen overnight. Off-leash training really boils down to the recall of your dog, having your pup come to you when called, no exceptions or distractions. If your dog has no experience in an outdoor free-roaming environment, start off small. In a safe, solitude environment, practice short periods off calling your dog towards you and rewarding when done correctly. Consider picking up a training leash, a very long leash to practice recall commands without having to worry about your dog taking off (Pisces recommends Cotton Web Training Leash). It is very important for your dog to receive the recall ("come!" or similar) as a positive command. Always follow up your recall with praise and a reward (Pisces recommends Nutrience SubZero Single Protein Treats), never a punishment, even if your dog has done something undesirable. If your dog is not obeying, catch your dog, put the leash on and try again another day.
Socialization With Other Dogs
To have successful off-leash outing at the dog park, your dog must be able to socialize well with other dogs. Your pup must be confident and friendly with other dogs, in diverse environments. Taking your dog to the pet store is a great way for your dog to interact with other dogs, as well as exciting sights and sounds. Likewise, taking your dog on a popular dog walking trail so it can meet other dogs in a controlled environment is also a great way to improve socialization. Does your dog frighten easy and run off, or have an aggressive attitude toward other dogs? As the owner, it is up to your discretion to decide if your dog is ready for an off-leash environment with other dogs. Pisces does not recommend bringing any puppies under the age of 6 months to the dog park. They can be hard to control and can be exposed to diseases if they have not had their shots yet.
Reading Your Dogs Cues
Like your best friend, you should know your dog inside and out. Being able to read your dogs social ques in an off leash environment is a must! This will drastically help prevent any confrontations with other dogs or dog owners. Below is a chart showing the various social ques of dogs. Monitoring your dogs behavior and others your dog may be socializing with you will know when it is time to step in to stop a potential conflict.
First Day at the Park
Bringing your dog to the off-leash park for the first time will probably be a little intimidating. Relax, and remain confident. If you are not 100% confident with your dogs behavior, keep training together until you feel ready. To avoid spooking your dog and to build confidence, start going together during the off-times of the park, when it is the least busy. Pay attention, the dog park is not a day care. Read your dogs body language and keep an eye for nervousness or potential danger. Pisces recommends not bringing treats to the dog park, it can attract the other dogs in the park to you and start fights. Instead, bring an appropriate dog water bottle to keep your pup from getting dehydrated. Pisces recommends: Gulpy Pet Water Dispenser. Remember to always keep your dog well trained with the recall command!
After a few visits to the dog park, and following basic command and park etiquette, you and your pupper will be certified pro's! If you have any questions about off-leash training or dog parks, please visit us in-store, give us a call or message us on Facebook!