Puppy Fun at the Dog Park
Puppies are ideal candidates for dog parks as this environment helps meet two if its most important needs-socialisation and exercise. Anyone who has had a puppy knows that cooped up energy can lead to unwanted behaviours such as digging holes in the yard, chewing up items in the garden or house, or even sneaking out to explore the surroundings. When your puppy is young, it is very impressionable which is why socialising at a young age is essential; an unsocialised dog may develop a territorial demeanour or become fearful of others.
Many new dog owners wonder if other dogs at the dog park will be friendly. The answer is generally yes, but one must always be alert and cautious about other dogs and avoid those dogs who appear threatening or aggressive
The best time to introduce your puppy to the dog park is after he has had all it vaccinations, usually around 4 months; any earlier would be unwise as your pup isn’t fully immunised against infection or illness. When first introduced to the park, some puppies take to it like a duck to water, whereas others may be shy at first. If your pup is a bit hesitant, allow it the time it needs to get comfortable, and eventually it will come out from behind your legs to see what’s going on. Also, don’t be overly concerned about “rough housing” as dogs are pack animals and are used to wrestling with littermates. As long as there is no whimpering, yelping or growling, your puppy would be having fun. If you sense that your pup is feeling overwhelmed or just not having a good time, leave the park at that time and come back another day; it may take a few visits until your puppy is fully at ease and having a fun.
In order to keep your puppy from being overwhelmed by the new stimulus of the dog park, avoid visiting on the weekend or after work hours until your pup has gained some confidence. Also, when you do bring your pup to the park, let him off-leash immediately upon entering (supervised of course). When you arrive at the park, however, if a group of dogs come rushing up to the gate, wait until they lose interest and then come in.
It is important that you are in control in the park, and it is highly recommended that your dog has a grasp of the “come” command. Work on this in puppy school and practice diligently at home. By having confidence in the recall command, you can be reasonably sure that you can get your dog to come to you when necessary. Unfortunately, most dogs at the dog park do not come to their owners when called, but at least you can be the responsible owner who has a dog that comes when called. Just a tip on this, to have the “come” command work consistently, you must practice it as often as possible.
Most of all, HAVE FUN with your puppy at the park. Generally, stand back and allow your pup to interact the way dogs do. Watch all the dogs’ body language and be sure that your dog is having a good time. Occasionally use the “come” command and reward him for coming to you. This reminds him that you are in control and there if needed.