It’s dog park season! I don’t know about you, but every time I come within three blocks of the dog park, my dog knows. He’s ready to get in there and play his heart out. We frequent three different ones in the Seattle area: one in the city, one at the beach, and one in a field. Each one has different terrain and agility equipment. We love them all, and we run into similar problems at all of them, too. Over time, I’ve learned to recognize—and prevent—these four common bad dog park behaviors.
Just as all dog parks are different, so too are all dogs. Breed, personality, and history play a role in your dog’s particular behaviors. You know your dog, and you know what to look out for. At the dog park, it’s important to watch for your dog’s particular triggers, and to keep an eye on other dogs that might display these behaviors.
Recognize any of these?
Tips for Avoiding Problems at the Dog Park
- Problem: When too many dogs are ready to greet a new dog at the entrance, it can be overwhelming for the new arrival. They’re the celebrity walking into a swarm of paparazzi.
- Solution: When another dog arrives at the park, make sure you call your dog away from the entrance. Let the new arrival settle in first. If it’s just so thrilling that your dog forgets his commands—it happens!—then just make sure you’re on hand to physically remove your dog if needed. Bottom line? Watch the entrance. That’s where many problems occur.
2. Toy Nabbing
- Problem: A toy becomes a high-value item at the dog park. When that happens, resource guarding behavior is inevitable. In other words, it’s easy for a dog to become protective of that precious toy and start an altercation.
- Solution: Take a moment to unwind. Remove the toy, go to another area, and wait until everybody is calm. If it’s a recurring problem, try leaving the toy at home for a while. It gets trickier if the toy belongs to someone else, of course. Again, taking a break is often the best move.
3. Playing Rough
- Problem: Some dogs play too rough for others. Though they’re not trying to be aggressive, scratches or play bites can happen.
- Solution: You know your dog. If she seems to be getting overexcited, call her away for a break. Wait a few moments to breathe, hydrate, and connect, and then have her play with another dog or toy.
Note: be especially careful when you’ve got a big dog and a little dog playing. A large breed playing a little too roughly with a small dog has the potential to cause big problems.
- Problem: The dog park is just so exciting! Jumping happens. But keep an eye out for too much jumping, or jumping on other people. Worst case scenario, someone falls down, gets scratched, or just gets angry. Either way, it’s best to avoid.
- Solution: Walk away from an overeager pup, and if it’s your dog doing the jumping, give them a chance to take a break. Usually, some chillout time will help. If they’re so overstimulated they can’t settle, it’s probably time to go home.
The Bottom Line
Good dog park behavior isn’t always easy to enforce. It requires keeping an eye on your dog, and intervening before potential altercations. It also comes down to understanding how well your dog does in these settings, and when she needs a break. Keeping in mind the power of the break (even just for a few minutes) will improve your dog park experiences tenfold.
But these occasional problems are no reason to avoid dog parks. My dog and I will keep going, that’s for sure. Dog parks are fantastic places for our furry friends to let off steam—and for us to show off our dogs, right? Because they’re awesome, of course. We all know that.