Six Tips For a Better Trip to The Dog Park

This week I’m putting together a video based on two recent posts which listed my own rules and recommendations for visiting your local dog park.

After reviewing those posts I realized I missed discussing some essential guidelines for your pup’s first dog park adventures.

Here’s a quick rundown of six simple steps to set your pup up for a lifetime of dog park success.

Step 1:Visit your vet

A trip to the dog park begins with a trip to the vet. You vet makes sure your pup is up to date on vaccinations and ready to romp. In many cases your vet will issue any ID tags your pup may need to comply with local law.

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

Step 2: Know the layout and rules of the park ahead of time

When I first took Penny to Montrose Dog Beach she did not have strong recall. To make sure she was safe I knew we needed to stay on the side of the beach where she wouldn’t be able to swim around the fence. Knowing the layout of where you’re going can help you avoid any potential problems before they happen.

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

Step 3: Take your dog to the park when they’re tired

This is easily the most counter-intuitive suggestion, but it’s one I’ve found incredibly helpful. Penny crashed and burned (or more exactly, crashed and half-drowned herself) on her first couple visits to the dog park because she was so unbelievably revved up.

If you have an excitable, energetic pup, it’s a great idea to burn off some of that steam before heading to the park. The good news is that once your dog acclimates to the park this becomes less of an issue.

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

Step 4: Visit the park at different times of day

In my first post on the subject, I recommend visiting the park at off-peak hours. It’s good to avoid the crowd but you also want to make sure your pup has plenty of opportunity to socialize. Socialization, especially during formative puppy months, is an essential activity for raising a well-rounded pup.

As in the above photo, puppies often think they’re the biggest dog on the planet.

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

Socialization reminds them there is always a bigger dog!

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

And for the larger dogs, socialization teaches them to play safely with little pups who are big dogs at heart

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

Step 5: Go with a plan

We think of dog parks as places but I think it’s just as important to think of them as a tool. It’s important to ask how we can best use that tool to help our pups be happy and healthy. As you can see from the above shot, Penny loves wrestling and chasing her pals.

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

So we use the dog park to find her pals who also like to wrestle and romp

On the other hand, Eko often needs more interaction with me to enjoy the park. Your dog might prefer to play fetch or swim or just soak up the sun. Whatever your pup needs, make sure your plan for the dog park caters to their personality.

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

Step 6: Go to the dog park year round!

I love seeing so many well-loved pups enjoying the beach on a beautiful summer day, but don’t let a little (or a lot) of snow/cold/etc stop you from making a trip to the park. No matter the weather, consistent off-leash exercise is a great way to keep your dog in top shape.

rhodesian ridgeback, blog, chicago, montrose dog beach

And a little winter weather never stopped us from having plenty of fun

Dog park visits aren’t mandatory or necessary for all dogs, but for many pups they’re an invaluable tool for a happy and healthy life.

Like anything else, visiting the dog park is a skill with its own learning curve. Between these six starter steps and my previous recommendations, hopefully I’ve helped make that curve just a bit easier for you.

Happy romping!



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