New puppy owners often think that one of the most important socialisation experiences is Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park. Dog parks can be great places for puppies to interact with other dogs but they can also be potentially dangerous and harmful if you’re not prepared.
Just like in the case of a child visiting day-care for the first time, your puppy could get scared or overwhelmed by this experience. We share our trainer and behaviourist’s top 10 tips for making Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park a smooth and positive experience for everyone.
If you’re wondering how, what and when to take your puppy to the dog park; here are some tips to help make the experience more positive.
Table of Contents
- 10 Tips to Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park
- Puppy worming schedule
- Steps to teach your puppy a new command
- Conclusion – Tips for Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park
10 Tips to Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park
1. Make Sure Your Dog Is Vaccinated
You cannot take your 8 week old puppy to the dog park. Vets recommend not taking puppies out to public places for at least 2 weeks after their second set of shots. This means you should wait until 14 weeks/3.5 months old so that its immune system is strong enough to fight diseases like canine hepatitis, parainfluenza, distemper, parvovirus, etc.
This is a general rule and you should consult your vet about when it’s safe to take your new puppy out in public after their vaccinations. If you go to the local vet clinic near you, they will have some insight as to whether the deadly parvovirus is active in the community and might advise you wait till your puppy is fully vaccinated at 4-5 months of age.
Also, use a dewormer and flea and tick prevention to keep your young pet safe from internal and external parasites.
Note: If your puppy is in the habit of eating dog poop, please try and break this habit before visiting the dog park. Dog faeces could expose your pet to parasites but with a regular worming schedule your puppy will be protected.
Puppy worming schedule
- Worm at 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age.
- From 12 weeks of age, worm every 4 weeks until 6 months of age.
- From 6 months of age, worm every 3 months for the life of the dog.
Use a broad spectrum wormer such as Milbemax, that treats all worms including Tape worms.
2. Train Your Puppy In Basic Obedience
Before Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park, teach your puppy some basic obedience commands like ‘Come’, ‘Stay’, ‘Heel’, and ‘Sit’. It is also important that they do not jump on other people. In this case, the ‘Down’ command can be useful.
Training a puppy not to jump can be achieved by rewarding the behaviour you do want. Many obedient dogs have been successfully trained without the use of punishment, fear and intimidation. Positive reinforcement based dog training is highly effective and grows your dog’s confidence and optimism.
Steps to teach your puppy a new command
- Show your puppy what you want them to do – this can be achieved by luring them into a position with food. If you’re training a puppy to sit, put the treat to their nose and raise it up guiding them into a sit. The moment their bottom hits the ground, say ‘yes’ and feed the treat. Eventually the lure can be faded out when the do is reliably offering a sit. You can also capture the dog offering the sit behaviour, saying ‘yes’ the moment their bottom hits the ground and feeding the treat.
- Give the command clearly, once. For example, while teaching your puppy to ‘Sit’, Once the puppy is reliably going into a sit, you can start to add the verbal cue ‘Sit’. When their bottom hits the ground, say ‘yes’ and give them a play reward, treat and/or praise.
- Repeat the training in short 1-2 minute sessions throughout the day.
- End each puppy training session with fun, games, and lots of cuddles so your puppy will look forward to it.
Keep the training positive. Positive reinforcement training helps show results faster, unlike negative methods like punishing or scolding. Practise the commands several times at home before attempting the exercise out in public where there are more distractions. Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park will be a more pleasurable experience, once your puppy has mastered some basic obedience training.
3. Seek Professional Dog Training
Remember – an untrained puppy could be dangerous for itself and might also put the safety of other dogs at risk.
4. Keep Your Puppy on Leash
It is also important that your puppy learns how to walk nicely on the leash before taking it to the dog park. Unless your puppy has a reliable recall, do not let them run free at the dog park.
- Online Puppy Training Courses are available to teach your puppy the foundations of loose leash walking.
- You can practise walking your puppy on a leash at home or in your yard.
- Encourage the puppy not to pull on the leash by teaching them to give in to leash pressure and training an attention noise (all covered in the training of loose leash walking).
- When your pet pulls, stop walking until the leash slackens. Then resume walking again once your dog is back on track. You can practise changing direction and reward your puppy heavily when they give in to leash pressure and follow you.
It is best to always keep your dog on a leash while at the park, until you are confident it won’t get into a dog fight or run away. (For this reason, you might want to also teach it the recall command).
5. Understand Your Puppy’s Preferences
It is important that you know in advance how your puppy reacts to certain dogs or people. For example, some young dogs may get anxious around small children or male dogs. Likewise, some un-spayed female dogs could get hostile toward other females in the area.
Knowing how your dog behaves in advance can help you take steps to calm it down or to avoid such confrontations in the future.
Remember: it may be best to avoid certain situations especially if you aren’t sure how your pup would react instead of placing it in a position where it could fail.
If your puppy is a small dog breed, be mindful that they can easily be trampled or suffer a life threatening injury from a large, rambunctious dog. Many small dogs have been mauled to death in Australian dog parks, always be vigilant and protect your vulnerable pup.
Before Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park be aware that some small dog breeds are particularly vulnerable to injury and death in dog parks, including –
- Toy Cavoodle
- Toy Poodle
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Mini Fox Terrier
- Maltese Terrier
6. Exercise Your Puppy
It is a good idea to tire your puppy out before taking it to the dog park for the first time. A tired dog is less likely to get in trouble. Similarly, ensure your puppy isn’t overtired when going to the dog park. Tired puppies are like tired toddlers, incapable of good decision making and grumpy.
You can also bring your dog’s toys and some treats to calm or distract your puppy if needed.
7. Pick the Right Dog Park and Right Time
When Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park choose a park that is suitable for your dog’s personality and size. For example, some parks have separate enclosures for small dogs.
You may also want to choose a park that has enough shade, especially in the warmer months. This is particularly important for owners of brachycephalic dog breeds such as French Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and British Bulldogs. Bring enough drinking water for your dog although some parks have water spigots and bowls.
If you plan your visit in the late evening, ensure that the park is well-lit.
If your puppy tends to get overwhelmed by other dogs, it may be a good idea to visit when there are fewer crowds.
8. Observe the Dogs Present
If the dogs at the park appear too aggressive or energetic, it may be best to come back another time or go to another part of the park where the dogs are quieter.
If you let your dog off-leash, other dogs may rush up to meet your puppy. This is to be expected. Worry not and stay calm.
Keep an eye on your pet. If it appears frightened or excited, it may be better to leave and come back later. Similarly, if your pet seems to show aggression or harasses other dogs, it may be best to leave.
9. Follow The Park’s Rules
Some dog parks require dog owners to have a permit for walking their pets. The permit is an indication that they are a responsible dog owner and that their pets are vaccinated.
Some dog parks also have rules like ‘stay off the grass’ or ‘clean up after your pet’ or ‘always keep your dog on a leash’, etc. Follow these rules strictly and take dog poo bags with you to clean up after your pup.
10. Keep the First Visits Short
When Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park it is a good idea to keep the first few visits brief. You can simply walk your puppy around the park’s perimeter and let it sniff around. This will allow it to ‘smell’ the other dogs without coming too close to them.
Conclusion – Tips for Taking Your Puppy To Dog Park
Not all puppies are comfortable going to the dog park and not all dog parks are safe places for puppies. If yours is okay with the level of socialisation it receives from other avenues like puppy preschool, obedience classes etc you may skip going to the dog park.
Positive experiences during early socialisation are critical to ensure your puppy doesn’t develop fears and phobias. Inexperienced or new puppy owners who don’t feel confident ensuring that their puppy is safe and assessing whether or not the dogs at the dog park are suitable to mingle with, should avoid dog parks. One bad social experience when your dog is a puppy, will stay with them for their life.
If you’re wondering ‘how do you introduce a puppy to a dog park?’ – the answer is once they are sufficiently vaccinated, parasite treated, recall trained and when the dogs in the park are physically and mentally suitable for a small puppy to interact with.
We hope the above tips help you make the process of taking your puppy to the dog park easier.