Dogs play at the dog park

Benefits of Dog Parks

Dog parks are great, because dog owners can take their dogs and let them run around off leash in the company of other dogs. These parks can be beneficial to both pets and their owners. Dogs need exercise to stay healthy, happy, and also out of trouble! If your dog likes other dogs, is social and has good manners then the dog park is a great place to get some much-needed activity.

It will get your dog’s energy out, and save yours. They’ll play with other dog friends, investigate new scents and play fetch. With all this physical and mental exercise, your dog will be exhausted when you get home. And they’ll sleep well. Bringing your dog to the park allows you to let them off leash to run around. So you can stand there and watch while your dog runs around and socializes.

It will improve your dog’s social skills. Dogs are highly social animals. While mingling, your pet can read other dogs’ body language. If they meet other dogs on a regular basis, they brush up on communication skills. This can help prevent aggression and fear issues developing around other dogs. Additionally, a young dog can learn social experience when mixed with older dogs. Plus, younger dogs will enjoy playing with multiple dogs rather than just one.

You’ll meet new friends, too. Another point in favor of dog parks is that they’re great social situations for you as an owner. You can meet other dog owners with like interests, and chat while you’re watching your dogs play. Make sure your attention is always on your dog, however!

What Good Play Among Dogs Looks Like

When you and your pet are at the dog park, you need to monitor closely any interaction. But how do you know what to look for? What is nice play? What should you do if your dog and another aren’t getting along?

When your dog is playing well with another dog, you’ll notice bouncing around and pawing at each other. Their body language will be relaxed — they’ll look like they’re smiling. The dogs might also playfully growl at each other, pretend to be ferocious and open their mouths wide. Dogs might chase each other, wrestle and roll around on the ground. All this is an good, healthy play, enjoyed by both dogs. They’ll take breaks to sniff around, get a drink, or pause before jumping around again. This is how they ensure their games don’t get too rough or out of hand.

Signs of trouble is when there aren’t any of the polite play signs above. You might notice instead that dogs’ bodies get stiffer instead of relaxing. The movements between the dogs would be faster, less bouncy. The play builds up in intensity, becomes louder, and there aren’t any breaks. If you start to notice any of this, it’s time to separate the dogs.

dogs play at the dog park

Signs to Steer Clear of the Dog Park

Dog parks are great for dogs that are well socialized and love interaction with other dogs. If your dog only gets along with individual dogs, or fights with other dogs, a dog park isn’t a great idea. Here are a few more signals that your dog might not be a good fit for the park:

They’re fearful, anxious, under socialized or aggressive. If your dog is nervous or anxious, exposing them to the chaos of a dog park will only increase their fearfulness. If your dog is aggressive, being around other dogs running around may only increase the aggression or put other dogs at risk. Or, if your dog lacks social skills, this can be a problem because your dog won’t know how to play politely. Other dogs may send signals to stop, but your dog won’t understand.

They’re not vaccinated. If you have a puppy who hasn’t been fully vaccinated, they shouldn’t go. Puppies under 12 weeks old shouldn’t be at the dog park anyway, because they’re vulnerable to contagious diseases that can be deadly. Because of all the dogs at the park, pathogen risk is higher. If you have friends with healthy puppies and dogs, you can arrange play dates to start your puppy’s social interaction.

They’re unwell or unhealthy. There’s lots of physical activity involved at a dog park, so be sure your pet doesn’t have chronic pain or injuries. Check with your veterinarian to make sure your pet has the health readiness needed for a dog park.

Here’s a list of common mistakes people make when bringing dogs to the park — it’s a good idea to educate yourself so visiting the park is a good experience for all involved!

Do you bring your dog to the park? Share in the comments!

And if you need advice about socializing your dog, visit Veterinarians.com to find a vet near you.