Not all of us live on a large property where our dogs can run around off-leash and get the exercise and playtime they need. Thankfully, many communities have been building community dog parks.
Here’s what you need to consider before taking your dog to the off-leash dog park.
Not all dogs are permitted in public dog parks. It’s highly recommended (or maybe the law depending on where you live) that your dog:
Is up-to-date on all vaccinations. This ensures they don’t get sick or potentially pass something to another dog.
Has a strong recall. Your dog must come when called. If your dog gets in a brawl with another dog (it happens sometimes) or finds something on the ground that is unsafe (like garbage or food), you need to know they’ll come to you safely when called.
Is socialized. Your dog’s first encounter with another dog shouldn’t be at a public dog park. We suggest socializing your pet with your friend's dogs or at a dog obedience or socialization class before heading to the dog park. Not every dog has the temperament to be around other pets, so always ensure you know their personality and suitability for an off-leash dog park before you go.
If it’s your pet’s first time, try visiting the dog park during non-peak times so they can check things out on their own. You can always politely leave if another dog joins you and you’re not ready for socialization with other dogs yet.
What to bring
Bring a small bag with a few dog park essentials, including:
A leash (and harness if you use one)
Your pet’s collar and ID tags
Poop bags (it’s polite to pick up their poop, even at a dog park)
Toys (your dog may enjoy a ball, frisbee, or rope to play with)
Fresh water and a bowl (your dog park may have a fountain, but unless you know it’s good quality water, bring your own)
Treats and kibble (get some GO! SOLUTIONS dry food kibble pieces to use as rewards and energy snacks)
Your first dog park adventure
The first time visiting the dog park can be exhilarating for your pet. To prevent overexcitement (which leads to unsafe behaviour), try exercising your dog before you get to the park. You can do this by walking there or going for a short jog first.
When you arrive, always inspect the park. As much as we’d like to trust that the dog park is clean and safe, we can never be sure. So before going inside, check the perimeter to ensure the fencing is not opened, and look for any food, dead wildlife (like rats, racoons, and squirrels), or other dangers in the park.
If you bring any of your dog’s toys, be sure they’re ok to share, as other dogs will likely try to play with them too. If your pet is possessive over their toys, consider leaving them at home or only playing when the park is empty.
When possible, take your dog off-leash as soon as they’re inside. Some pets feel threatened when approached by off-leash dogs while still leashed.
A few final reminders
Finally, the dog park is not a “babysitter.” We recommend always keeping an eye on your dog at the park so you can react quickly if a dangerous situation arises. Pay attention to your dog’s body language to know when they may be ready to go home or are getting irritated by another dog.
When you and your dog plan ahead and know dog park etiquette, your first and next trip to the dog park can be enjoyable for everyone. Before adventuring to the dog park, be sure to stock up on dry kibble from any store that carries GO! SOLUTIONS dog food recipes.