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Hot Topic Dog Park Readiness for Fido’s First Visit

By Carrie Boyko All Things Dog Blog

Welcome to the second installment in my five-part series on dog park visits. If you missed Part I on safety guidelines, you may want to go back and read it. Today I’ll be addressing those things you need to consider before your dog’s first visit to the park. Whether he’s a senior citizen or a puppy, dog parks are a wonderful way to socialize your dog, helping to assure his friendliness with other dogs as you take walks, go on outings and visit friends.

Knowing that your dog will always be willing to meet and greet other dogs with ease will make your life with him more enjoyable, while helping to fulfill his need to experience canine socialization. That will be the focus of our next dog park post, so stay tuned.

First let’s do a little evaluation of your pup’s readiness for group play. Can you answer YES to the following questions?

    Have you verified with Fido’s vet that he has had all necessary vaccinations for a safe dog park visit, and there are no health issues that would make this an unhealthy choice?

    Have you begun training with your pup? Most importantly for the dog park, he will need a solid recall. “Come Fido” should quickly and easily be responded to with joy. This will help you to get Fido out of harm’s way if trouble breaks out near him. Start practicing now, and remember the #1 rule: Never scold Fido for not coming. Always praise and offer plenty of affection when he does.

    Would you consider your pup to be a happy and confident dog? Or might you be more apt to describe him as nervous, anxious or fearful? If one of the latter, seek help from an experienced trainer before taking Fido to a dog park.

    Will you be able to visit the dog park without other encumbrances, such as young children or other dogs? This first visit is important, as it will set the stage for future experiences. You’ll want it to come off seamlessly, and your attention to Fido will help to assure this.

    Has your dog been introduced to proper greetings with other dogs? If your Fido accepts a friendly sniff from another dog without issue, he is off to a good start in Socialization 101. We’ll cover more on this topic next time.

When you can freely answer YES to these questions, your dog is probably ready for a first dog park experience. Watch for my next post, when I will give you more tips on how to help Fido build his social skills. For now, give him ample opportunities to meet other dogs, have playtime before or after obedience classes, or meet a neighborhood pup for backyard playtime. Just like young children, they build their social skills best by starting in small groups.

If you simply cannot wait, choose a slow time, such as weekdays or early mornings, take a deep breath and enter with your Pack Leader hat on—calm and in charge. As long as you remain confident and calm, Fido will follow your lead. Happy tails!

Carrie Boyko writes All Things Dog Blog, where her pack teaches her every day how to be a better pack leader.

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