A DogGeek.com exclusive by Teresa Barker
Going to the dog park can be a rewarding experience for both dog and owner. Watching your canine loved one play with other dogs, get exercise, and socialize is a fun and free activity for you and your pooch.
Before you jump in the car and head off, remember to bring the following items with you to ensure a positive experience at the dog park.
- Extra poop bags (to share and/or leave with others):
Not every park supplies poop bags, or they may have run out just before you get there. My dogs always take the opportunity to poop as many times as they can on walks and on “new grass”. Don’t assume that they won’t go #2, just because they went at home earlier. Also, bring extras. It’s a great way to meet new people and we’ve all been in the embarrassing position when a kind stranger helped us out with a poop bag after an unforeseen emergency.
- Water (and lots of it!):
The same is true for water supplies at dog parks. Not every park supplies water, and you can’t count on the functionality of the water system, without being prepared with back up. I keep a gallon jug of water in the refrigerator with cold, filtered water in it, ready to pack. You can bet that if you pour a bowl of water at the park, your dog won’t be the only one interested in hydrating. So bring more! It’s another good way to make new people friends, too. Reuse the jug by rinsing it out, refilling it with filtered water and putting it right back in the refrigerator when you get home. Don’t leave the jug in your car, where heat will make the plastic leach into the water and make the water unhealthy to drink.
Your presence might be the most important thing you bring to the dog park. Don’t plan on heading to the park and finally making that call to catch up with mom. You owe it to your dog, as well as the safety of all the other dogs, to monitor your dog’s behavior the entire time. Watch your dog’s body language to ensure that play with others doesn’t become too aggressive or that bullying doesn’t occur. You might also have eyes on dogs whose owners aren’t supervising their dogs. If you see that other owners aren’t paying attention, play is getting too aggressive, or that your dog simply doesn’t seem that interested, just leave! Try again another time, maybe at a different time of the day. People who take their dogs to the dog park regularly are often regular about the times they go, as well. Try an off-peak time when supervising your dog might be easier.
It’s important to keep your dog on a leash until you reach the double-gated entry area. Their excitement to get into the party and play will make them highly distractible and they may not respond to verbal cues. Keep your dog and other dogs safe by staying on leash until the double gates and immediately after exiting, again, leashing up in the double-gated area. Always leash and unleash before and after exiting the dog park, in the double-gated area, not inside the dog park. Dogs on leashes tend to be more aggressive, and you don’t want to put your dog in a place of vulnerability right from the start.
Dog parks can be down-right dirty fun! Dirt, mud, grass, and lots of running and rolling around can make for dirty dogs after the party. Pack a few extra towels, in case you need to wipe down your own “paws” or protect the car seat.
Take the time to be prepared before heading to the dog park. It will save you embarrassment, hassle, and it will ensure the safety of your dog. Have fun, stay alert, and enjoy socializing with your pooch!