Dog Park Visits: Preparing Kids for a Safe First Experience
By: Carrie Boyko, All Things Dog blog
Last month in my article, Dog Park Safety Challenges for Children, I sought to point out some of the pitfalls of taking small children to a dog park. Today I’m going to offer some tips on preparing your older kids (at least 8 or 9, I hope) for a first visit to the dog park.
First and foremost, the only children who should visit a dog park are those that are comfortable being around dogs. If this is a whole new experience for them, the dog park is no place to have it.
When considering taking your 8 to 10 year old, dog-friendly kid to the park, take these thoughts with you:
- Teach in advance: Avoid eye contact with a new dog; do not approach directly, but rather from the side; allow the dog to sniff. A friendly, interested dog may signal his desire for a greeting. A quick and gentle stroke under the chin or neck area will send an “I am friendly” message. On the contrary, a hand over a dog’s head cannot be seen by the dog and often creates concern about intent, which can lead to anxiety. This is not the way to pet a dog!
- Children should only be taken to a dog park when they can be supervised by a second adult, in addition to the one who is keeping track of the dog.
- Running in the dog park should not be permitted.
- Leave toys, balls and sticks alone, despite the instinct to use them as playthings for the dogs.
- Inside a dog park, nothing should be touched except the gate and trash receptacles. Outside of the park, hand sanitizer is a necessity for cleaning up.
- Children should be instructed to stay along a fence, on a bench, or with a parent at all times
- Joining the larger dogs in play is not a good idea. The rules are different on this playground; they have been set by the dogs.
The bottom line to all these thoughts on dog park visits is this: When you and a child visit a dog park you are entering their world. You must learn the behavior that is acceptable on their turf, in order to remain there safely.
Your child’s best bet is to be a passive observer--watching and learning. Encourage patience and enjoyment of the adventure as a spectator. The child’s time will come.
Carrie Boyko along with her dogs, both large and small, is a veteran dog park enthusiast. Join her next month for tips on preventing and handling conflict at the dog park—both among humans and the dogs.
Add a gift subscription for a friend at only .50 cents to celebrate our 50th issue! This is a limited time offer available through July 31st, 2011. Renew or subscribe at regular price, and give a gift subscription for only $0.50! This is our lowest offer ever!