Dog Park Survival Guide: The First Time
Want a dog who’s friendly and trustworthy around both people and other dogs? With an increasing amount of dog parks around the country, it’s now easier than ever. It’s an incredible place where both dogs and people can learn so much about each other. Dogs need exercise, including play, but playtime needs to be a good experience for everyone. With years of dog park experience, staff at DoggyCrap all agree that most first timers seem to enter this wild paradise with little to no knowledge of dog behavior. This can lead to complications and may leave you with a bad taste. In this blog we will discuss some of the common mistakes first time dog owners make when entering the dog park. Equip yourself with a little knowledge so you fully understand what is really going on and ensure a fun experience for you and your furry friend.
Before You Enter
Before you take your dog to a dog park, check the dogs and humans at the time that you are most likely to go. Chances are that the same dogs will show up at the same time each week. Watch for anything that might be of concern. People seem to think of their pets as innocent children that would never do anything wrong. Don’t be afraid to enter the park on your own and ask some of the “old timers” for tips and what dogs to look out for. Take a few minutes and observe dog behavior. Like people, dogs have personalities and different behavioral traits. Keep in mind that they are animals so a growl might seem like aggression to you, but to a dog that just says ” come on lets play!” Here are some the most common dog types:
- Hyper King – The hyped up runner that wants to be near all the action.
- The anti-social – These dogs will only play with a few of their buddies but mostly keep to them selves.
- The ball crazed – Love the game of fetch but may turn on another dog if it tries to steal the ball.
- The humper – Humping is actually a pretty normal behavior ranging anything form domination, arousal, and play.
- The alpha – Keep a careful eye on the one that is trying to dominate every other dog in the park. They may hump or fight everyone around them. Knowing how dogs react to certain situations is critical to having a safe and exciting day at the park. Don’t get discouraged, most dogs are extremely friendly and the people will be more than happy to help.
PLEASE UNDERSTAND: Do not pay any attention to the breed or size of the dog. Many breeds such as German shepherds and pit bulls for example have gotten a tarnished reputation thanks to the media. Yes, some dogs have a purpose in the military to hunt down bad guys and others seem to never leave the bad news section. The realty is simple, a dog is a dog.., its how you raise them. Many people never enter the dog park because they are petrified of a dogs looks when in reality that is the sweetest dog in town.
The First Steps
As you approach the park, you’ll notice that all the dogs will run up to the gate like a pack of wild animals. This can be a terrifying experience. Stay calm, it’s completely normal. Keep in mind that the pack is rushing to say hello to the new comer . Close the gate behind you and take the leash off. Let your dog sniff the pack through the second gate to get a feel of the situation. If you have difficulty, simply yell out that its your first time. Most dog owners will gladly assist you and call their pets away from the entrance. Next, let your dog in and keep a close eye on him and everyone around. Here are the main behaviors that you will encounter in the first minutes.
- Butt sniffing. An average dogs nose is anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times more sensitive than ours, and smelling each others butts is just another example of chemical communication in the animal kingdom. Its their equivalent of saying hello.
- Fear. Some dog may get overwhelmed and attempt to escape the butt sniffing assault. Common signs of fear are, tucking of the tail between the legs, running away behind the owner and folding of the ears. ( DO NOT PICK YOUR DOG UP! This will only make all the other dog jump all over you)
- Aggression. The alpha will attempt to immediately test the new comers to ensure he stays on top of the pack. Some dogs will not take this lightly and begin to show aggression toward the alpha. In rare occasions, a fight might break out. Dogs that have short tempers don’t last long at the park because the people will boycott and report the owner. Don’t get discouraged if you encounter this on your first day. Leave and come back at a later time if you’re uncomfortable with a particular dog.
- Play time. Your pet will fit right in and have the time of its life.
Are They Playing or Fighting ?
There is a lot about dog play that we humans miss. Some chase each other for hours, some play tug or war and others wrestle. Play can look aggressive, but it’s generally enjoyable to both dogs. Wrestling in a way is like sparring for a dog. This might seem intimidating to a new dog owner because its easily mistaken for fighting. If two dogs are wrestling and it seems too rough to you, with all that growling and snarling, body slamming, and biting of each other’s necks, should you intervene? Believe it or not, dog do learn from each other just like we do. Growling and biting is part of the game but once in a while one of the animals might let the opponent know “HEY! that was too hard”. If one dog is absolutely dominating the other feel free to step in and reset the game. Most owners will easily identify how much is too much and discipline the dog.
Normal signs of playing:
- Both dogs will have a funny grin on their face sometimes never actually closing their mouth.
- Continuous growling and snarling.
- They will bow and stick their butt in the air waging the tail. Dogs version of saying “Bring it on!”
- Falling, exposing their bellies or allowing themselves to get caught and bit on lightly. Dogs that are ready to fight will never fall on their back. It’s a sign of submission.
- More side to side than forward movement.
- Dogs stop and start again.
Signs of aggression:
- Showing teeth while growling.
- Violently attacking and slamming the other dog showing no mercy.
- Intense loud intense bark while remaining tall and stiff.
- Direct eye contact and pricked ears.
Dog parks are an incredible social tool for both you and your dog. It’s the perfect place to find training advice and a powerful insight of understand your little friend. Just like people, dogs will develop a strong bond with some dogs and hate others. Be the responsible one and always keep an eye out on your dog. Never assume your dog is innocent, identify the problem and correct accordingly. Overall, the dog park is the best place for your furry friend to stretch its legs and tap into that wild DNA. People will be excited to talk your dog so feel free to ask questions. Go out there and show your dog a fun time. ALWAYS CLEAN AFTER YOUR DOG !
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