Dog Park Guidelines
BEWARE: The dog park can be an EXTREMELY dangerous place! You should not go to the dog park unless you have excellent control over your dog. I have seen dogs get killed at dog parks!
If you go to the dog park with your dog be attentive and use caution at all times. If you do not follow these guidelines the results could be disastrous! A good daycare is a much safer option than the dog park.
If you want a well-adjusted dog, your dog needs to run full speed and chase other dogs and be chased by other dogs on a regular basis — and it needs to be dogs your dog doesn’t know! This is only safe in a fully fenced area such as dog day care or the off leash dog park. But the off leash dog park can be a VERY dangerous place! You don’t want your dog around unruly Rottweilers and Pitbulls, your dog can get killed! Follow the guidelines below to make your dog park experience safe and fun for you and your dog. The best dog parks have separate areas for large and small dogs — these are much safer for small breed dogs! To find a dog park in the Sacramento area see my map of dog parks showing all of the dog parks and which ones have separate areas and which don’t!
Be sure to ease your dog into the dog park. If five dogs run up on your dog the first time he goes into the park he’s going to be traumatized and never want to go back! The first half a dozen or more times you go to the dog park don’t go in if there are more than one or two dogs there. Don’t go in if there are any “rambunctious” or “in your face” type dogs there. It can be too intimidating to your dog. Even with no dogs there, all of the smells and the “newness” of the park can be overwhelming to some first time dogs!
- Make sure you are completely in control of your dog before you go into the dog park.
- If your dog isn’t walking on a loose leash as you approach the gate, don’t go inside.
- DON’T bring toys from home! NEVER play ball in the dog park or play with dogs that are playing ball!
- Many dogs have resource guarding issues and will exhibit aggression around toys.
- Playing fetch gives your dog a reason NOT to play with the other dogs.
- Walk all the way around the dog park and check out every dog in there before going in.
- If there’s a dog causing problems don’t go in!
- If a 100lb Mastiff drags the owner up to the gate, don’t wait around to see what happens, just leave.
- If they can’t control that dog at the gate they won’t have any control off leash!
- Greet a few dogs through the fence before going in (no barking or aggressive dogs)
- Put your dog into a sit.
- Go six feet away to the end of the leash and make sure you dog stays in the sit.
- Greet the dog through the fence yourself first.
- Only if your dog is sitting and calm, allow your dog to greet through the fence.
- Go through the first gate like you would the door to your house (watch this video).
- Once inside the first gate make sure there are no dogs waiting for you to come in.
- You may have to wait for them to leave or exit and come back in.
- A welcoming committee puts pressure on your dog and the dogs inside.
- Put your dog into a sit-stay. Take the leash off and walk toward the inner gate. Make sure your dog stays in the sit.
- You go through the gate first. If your dog is still sitting and waiting, release your dog.
- ALWAYS stay near your dog at the dog park!
- If your dog comes back to you to check in, encourage this behavior with praise.
- Encourage your dog to interact with the people and dogs there by interacting with them yourself.
Always keep an eye on and stay close to your dog at the dog park. Even if you trust your dog completely, you can’t trust the other dogs there. If a dog gets in your dog’s face and stops wagging his tail or lowers his ears for even one second, don’t wait around to see what’s going to happen. Get right in between them and break the tension. Chase the other dog away saying “NO, LEAVE IT!” Don’t put your hands down or you may get bitten. Don’t push the dog away, use your energy, have forward motion toward the dog and let him know you mean business. He has to think you’re going to step on his paws and back up on his own. As soon as you get out from in between the two dogs he will try to come back. Chase him away again. Then he’ll stay away or at least the greeting will be less stressed.
Other dog owners won’t like this, but it’s much better than letting your dog get hurt. They’ll say “the dogs will work it out on their own” or “don’t tell my dog what to do.” The dogs won’t work it out on their own — your dog will get attacked and injured. It’s like if you’re at the grocery store and some little kid comes over and starts throwing items in your cart. You say “Don’t put that in there, I don’t want to buy that.” His mom is over there talking on her cell phone and she says “Don’t tell my kid what to do.” You have to let her know that her kid is out of control and she needs to deal with it.
One last caveat about the dog park. If you are going to be around big dogs I recommend you carry pepper spray and a stun gun with you. Certain breeds are bred to “lock on” when they attack. When this happens it is nearly impossible to get them to let go. I love all dogs, but some breeds have been bred specifically for this behavior and they are very good at it. If you do get involved with a dog fight you don’t ever want to try to pull dogs apart. That tears flesh and does real damage! The best thing to do is to touch a dog in a sensitive area like the flank abruptly and with a lot of energy (like screaming when you do it). Don’t hit or grab the dog. It’s more like you are using your hand like another dog would be if he were biting, but not latching on. If you grab or hit a dog that is attacking you are likely to get attacked yourself.