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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.
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.
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.
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.
Socialization reminds them there is always a bigger dog!
And for the larger dogs, socialization teaches them to play safely with little pups who are big dogs at heart
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.
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.
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.
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.