Dogs are basically social animals. Aside from spending time with you, puppies also love to socialize with other pups. Dog parks can provide the ideal venue for Fido to play around and exercise with other canines in a secure and controlled environment. However, introducing your pup to this new setting can cause you some anxiety. How do you keep your puppy safe in a place jam-packed with other dogs?
When is the Right Time?
· The only safe time to take your pooch to the park is when he has had all his vaccinations, normally around 16 weeks of age. Any earlier than that and your puppy is still susceptible to picking up illness and diseases from other canines.
· Ideally, you’ll want to start taking your pooch to the dog park as soon as it’s safe. Remember, this place is an excellent way for him to socialize with other dogs, and you want him to start as early in his puppyhood as possible. Besides, if you take your pooch before he hits adolescence, usually around 6 months of age, it’s more likely to become a pleasant and fun first experience since most adult dogs tend to be patient with younger dogs which have not yet mastered doggy manners, but quite snappy with an obncxious adolescent.
· Now, if your dog’s already in his teenage years, try starting off with securely fenced dog parks or by having him drag a leash so you can easily grab him if needed. Adolescent dogs are more prone to ignoring your calls to draw closer or even running off into the busy street if distracted.
Introduction Tips and Guidelines
· Choose the right park. Dog parks that are securely fenced are always the safer bet. Normally, its members keep the place cleaner by picking up trash and doggy-do, and aggressive pooches can be banned. If you cannot find a park with secure fences, try going for the one with a lot of open space. More space allows your pooch to keep a safe distance from bullies as well as adjacent streets.
· Avoid visiting on weekend or during after-work hours. In order to keep Fido from becoming overwhelmed or overly side-tracked on his introduction to dog park play, try making your first visit in the off-peak hours. Keep it sweet, short, and no longer than 20 to 30 minutes.
· Let Fido interact off-leash. If your pup has learned to come to you when called, try allowing him to go off leash the moment you enter the dog park. Dogs generally communicate with one another through body language, and for them, being kept on leash in this kind of social situation is somewhat the human equivalent of being kept blindfolded or bound at a party, which often leads to confrontation and even serious fights.
· Use a long leash. If Fido still needs to work more on his recall, try taking off his usual short leash and snap on a longer one that will drag behind him when he plays. This will provide him some freedom to roam around, at the same time making it easier for you to catch him if necessary.
Keep an eye on your pup at the park, be a good park citizen and clean up after him, and stick close by in case any conflicts arise. Also, watch your dog’s body language for signs of stress or agitation, and remove him from the park if he isn’t enjoying himself.
Over time, your dog will learn what time of day you make your regular park visits, and will start to show excitement about going. The dog park can be a wonderful place for you both to make friends and get some much needed exercise!