Dog parks are all the rage in the Outaouais! More and more common and frequently visited by canine owners, they can provide your companion with very enriching experiences... or very traumatic ones! Here is a little guide to put all the chances on your side so that Doggy gets the most out of his outing.
Like humans, dogs have their own personalities, which vary greatly from one animal to another. Some are more extroverted, others more introverted; the latter may prefer small play groups to dog parks, which can be intimidating and overstimulating!
It is important to know your dog well and to be able to read his body language. This way, you can quickly identify if he is feeling anxious or uncomfortable.
If you think your canine companion might enjoy a visit to the dog park, take the time to walk around the park with your furry friend on a leash to familiarize him with the environment. Take the opportunity to observe his body language to see if he seems interested or not!
Caution: Dog parks are not appropriate for puppies, as they are at a sensitive age where any good or bad experience may scar them for life. The risk of an incident is too high, especially since puppies are not yet familiar with all the canine codes! Instead, focus on interactions with dogs you know well.
Also keep in mind that dog parks present health risks, such as the risk of catching a disease or parasites.
We often see owners looking at their cell phones or chatting with each other while their dogs are having fun, and there's nothing wrong with a little socializing in the park! However, make sure you always keep an eye on your dog and watch for his interactions with other dogs.
Moving around in the park can also encourage Doggy to do the same and prevent potential doggie tussles.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell if two dogs are having fun or if they are fighting. A good trick to watch for is to see if the roles reverse in their interactions: there may be a natural dynamic and play preferences, but if it's always the same dog chasing the other, there may be cause for concern!
Ideally, your furry friend would interact mostly with dogs of similar size to his. To prevent resource guarding behaviors, avoid bringing toys or food. However, it is appropriate to provide your pet with water, as thirst can create irritability.
Of course, make sure you follow the basic rules of the dog park: pick up after your dog, don't bring him to the park if he's sick, make sure his vaccinations and deworming are up to date, make sure he has a current licence, etc.
If your dog seems nervous, overexcited or even aggressive, give him time to calm down before entering the park or postpone your visit to another day! Also consider that your canine companion may simply not be comfortable in a dog park.
It is not recommended that you bring your children to the dog park as there is a real risk of injury or negative interaction with a dog. Keep in mind that some dogs are not comfortable with children!
After your visit, take another look at your dog's body language: does he or she seem happy, relaxed and content? Or is he showing signs of stress and anxiety? This will tell you whether or not the experience was positive for Doggy, and whether or not he seems interested in repeating it.
To your leashes and harnesses, and don't forget the medal! 🐾