So you want to take your dog to the dog park? That’s a great idea, but know what you’re getting into. A lot of myths surround the dog park, and you should address them before letting your dog (and yourself) into one:
• My dog is friendly.
o Some dogs are friendly to everyone. Some dogs are friendly with humans. If your dog has little prior experience with other dogs, springing something like a dog park on him will not improve his anxiety or demeanor.
• My dog has to be off leash.
o If you have never taken your dog to a dog park before – especially if he is not well-socialized – take him in to look around. There is no rule saying he has to be off leash, and it will give you a chance to gauge his behavior and reaction to the area before you remove him from the leash.
• Not many people have dogs.
o A census taken in 2000 showed that more households have dogs than children. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they are all at the dog park, but they could be, depending on your area. It might be more crowded than you think.
• My dog has to play with other dogs.
o Your dog is a dog – not a wolf. It is absolutely fine to socialize your dog with other dogs and people, but it is not innately necessary for your dog to be happy. They are a domesticated creature.
• The dog park will help socialize my dog.
o Most socialization in dogs occurs in the first few months of their lives. If they are not well-socialized at that point, it will be much more difficult to do, so do not expect to just take your dog to a highly populated area and expect him to be comfortable.
• A park is a good idea because there will be no health risks to my dog.
o You must get your dog vaccinated prior to bringing him to the dog park. There are many life threatening diseases that other dogs can carry that he can easily get, and not all pet owners are as diligent about vaccinating their pets. Protect your best friend; get him vaccinated on yearly basis.
• My small dog will be fine in a dog park because, well, there are dogs there.
o Always be aware of your surroundings. Untrained larger dogs can be prone to prey/hunter behavior when released in a dog park setting. That is not to say that you cannot take your dog there, but be aware of everyone around you that may not be as aware as you are.
Dog parks are a wonderful idea and a great option to have when socializing your dog and taking them out to play, but take the necessary precautions before going: get your dog vaccinated, socialize him as a puppy, understand when he is anxious and be aware of your surroundings. After that, throw a Frisbee and have a great time!