How to Socialise Your Dog Before Heading to the Dog Park
Pet Care

How to Socialise Your Dog Before Heading to the Dog Park

By vetsadmin | November 11, 2021

A visit to the dog park can be an incredible and exhilarating way for an excitable dog to blow off some steam, get some exercise and socialise with other dogs. But while playing with other dogs can be both mentally and physically stimulating, it isn’t without its dangers. All too often, a large dog may accidentally injure or even kill a smaller dog, or a dog that hasn’t been trained properly may start exhibiting aggressive behaviours. A more sensitive dog may get overwhelmed at the sight of other dogs or an owner may get distracted and fail to discipline their dog before a fight breaks out.

While you may not be able to control the behaviour of other dogs, socialising and training your own dog before you head to the dog park for the very first time can make it a much safer experience for everyone involved. 

Make sure your puppy is fully vaccinated

Before you head to the park, make sure your dog has had all their vaccinations. You don’t know what disease other dogs may be carrying or if they are vaccinated. Ideally, a puppy should not be brought to a dog park until they have received all their vaccination shots and boosters, which typically takes 16 weeks. However, you may start socialising your dog in smaller settings well before this age, such as in a puppy class, to help your dog learn proper socialisation in a more controlled environment. Puppy school is actually highly recommended for puppies between 3 to 17 weeks of age.

Change your walk routes

A part of socialisation is helping your new puppy adjust to different situations. Taking your pup out for a daily walk may be essential to help them get an appropriate amount of exercise, but when they meet and see different people, dogs and even vehicles on their daily walks, they are less likely to react unfavourably to new dogs at the dog park. You may also take your dog for walks to train stations and busy streets so your dog is exposed to different sounds and sights. 

Start slow

When you first bring your pup to a dog park, choose a time when there are fewer people and dogs around. This allows the puppy to explore its surroundings at its own pace in a low-risk environment. You may also want to keep the first few visits short so as not to overwhelm your dog—no more than half an hour when you first start, and then gradually increase this as your puppy starts adjusting. Keep your dog on a leash and take them for a walk along the perimeter of the park and check their reaction. If your puppy seems to shy away from the other dogs, starts shivering or trembling or starts barking, they might not be ready for the park just yet. Your puppy may get overwhelmed when large breed dogs approach them. It is helpful to expose them to smaller breed dogs first.

Training your dog

It is important for your dog to respond to your voice and commands such as “No”, “Stop” or “Come”. Because your puppy will be interacting with dogs of all breeds and sizes and may become excitable when playing. There are going to be more distractions at the park than in your backyard, so the dog park is a great way of reinforcing that your dog needs to come when called. It can also help you get your dog out of potentially dangerous situations. Using positive training reinforcement, give your dog treats every time they come back to you when called, creating a positive association with the command and action.

Stay focused on your dog

When in the dog park, it is imperative for dog owners to pay attention to their pets. One second of distraction is all it takes for a dog to get seriously injured. If other dogs are exhibiting aggressive behaviours, such as charging at other dogs or ganging up on a smaller animal, it might be a good idea for you to remove your dog from the situation. 

Before choosing a dog park, also check the behaviour of the other pet parents there. Are they chatting with each other or on their phones? Or are they supervising their pets and interacting with them? Ideally, all pet owners should be supervising their dogs at all times.

Your dog won’t like playing with every dog he meets—and he doesn’t have to!

Just like we don’t like every person we meet or want to hang out with them, our dogs are the same. Pay attention to the dogs he enjoys playing with and the ones he avoids or runs away from. Talk to the owners of the dogs he likes playing with and find out what times they usually visit the park. This is a great way of making the dog park a positive experience for your dog and to help keep him safe with an extra pair of eyes on him.

Remember, not every dog will enjoy going to the dog park. Some dogs are naturally sensitive to sounds and smell, and may not react favourably even if you practice all the above behaviours. That’s okay! Like humans, all dogs are different, and while some may enjoy socialising, others may prefer spending time with their humans more than other dogs. Some may even have a blast playing with just a ball!

In the event of a dog fight or an injury, immediately take your pet to an emergency vet in Fitzroy, Brunswick or Richmond if you’re in the area. But if your dog seems to be limping after a trip to the dog park or exhibiting signs of Kennel cough or dog flu or any other non-life-threatening issue, book a mobile vet with Vets on Call and we’ll send someone right over to take a look at your puppy!

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