How To Introduce Your Dog To The Dog Park

October 15, 2022 / Dog Training / By: Lilianna Parker

Training a Beagle puppy to go the dog park for the first time

We all love going to the park with our dogs. After all, it is a fun place for us to spread our legs, spend some time in nature, and enjoy the great outdoors.

When taking your dog to the dog park there are some things that you will need to keep in mind to ensure your dog’s safety. For instance, having a dog with a strong recall will give you the ability to call your dog away from potentially dangerous situations.

Here we will be preparing you for a fun trip to the dog park by explaining everything that you need to know before you go there. We will give you the rundown on everything that you should bring to the dog park and everything that you should teach your dog beforehand. Let’s jump right into it!

Are There Benefits to Taking Dogs to the Dog Park?

Dogs greeting one another in dog park by sniffing

Dogs greeting each other at the dog park

Yes, there are many benefits to taking your dog to the dog park. 

For one thing, many dog owners have reported that going to the dog park allows them to bond with their dog while also making new friends with fellow dog owners. 

Additionally, the dog park allows their dog to interact with other dogs in a safe and productive environment. This is especially true when all dogs present are well socialized and friendly. 

Can Dog Parks Make Dogs Reactive?

Two Dogs and Trainer Playing in Park

The main concern when it comes to dog parks and the development of dog reactivity is the quality of the interactions that your dog has with other dogs. 

This is especially true if your dog has been attacked by another dog or if other dogs make your dog very visibly nervous. As a result, dog parks themselves are unlikely to cause reactivity in dogs.

However, a dog that has had a bad experience with a dog aggressive or unsocialized dog could become reactive. Always staying near your dog and watching their interactions with other dogs can prevent a bad experience.

First-Time Dog Park 101

Everything you need to know before going to the dog park

Before taking your dog to the dog park, there are some things that you will want to consider and take note of. Ensuring that both you and your dog are completely ready for the dog park before going will ensure the safety of you, your dog, and others.

Here is everything that you need to consider before taking your dog to the dog park. 

Should Dogs Already be Socialized Before Taking Them To The Park?

Every dog should be well socialized with other dogs before going to the dog park. 

This is important because it will make your dog more confident and comfortable at the park. Similarly, the dog park becomes a much safer place when everyone follows this rule.

If your dog is already properly socialized with other dogs, then they are less likely to become traumatized from a bad interaction with another dog. This is simply because a well socialized dog has had hundreds of positive interactions with other dogs, while an unsocialized dog will have very few or even no other dog-to-dog interactions.

I like to explain it this way. Imagine a person getting a mean comment from a stranger. If that person has many friends and positive interactions with others on a daily basis, then they are probably just going to brush off the mean comment and think nothing of it.

However, if this person has never talked to another person before, then they are much more likely to take this interaction to heart, and they may even become afraid when approaching others.

Well, dogs are the same way! Having your dog well socialized before going to the dog park will set them up for success and ensure that you are both going to have a fun time interacting with others. 

When Can Puppies Go To The Dog Park?

Dogs should be up to date on all of their core vaccines before going to the dog park. 

This includes the vaccines for Rabies, Canine Distemper, Parvovirus, Adenovirus, and parainfluenza. The good news is that there is usually just one vaccine that includes immunity for Distemper, Parvo, Adenovirus, and parainfluenza.

It is very important that your dog is fully vaccinated against these diseases before going to the dog park because it is a place where many dogs congregate.

This means that your dog is much more likely to catch a disease from the dog park than they are from other places. As a result, it is not a good idea to take a puppy to the dog park until they are fully vaccinated, which usually occurs after 12 weeks.

What Commands Does Your Dog Need to Know Before Going to the Dog Park?

The main command that your dog will need to know before going to the dog park is the recall command. This is mainly because most dog parks involve dogs being off leash.

Teaching your dog to have reliable recall before going to the dog park will not only make leaving the park much easier, but it will also allow you to call your dog to you in the case of an emergency.

How to Train Your Dog to Come When Called

Step 1: Introduce the Word

Your dog will not know their recall word right away, so you will need to introduce it to them! You can do this by saying come as your dog runs to you for things naturally.

For example, call your dogs name and their recall word when you are about to feed them. They are sure to follow through with the action, and their reward is their food!

Practice this in a variety of scenarios where you know that your dog will come to you. Remember to make the experience rewarding!

Step 2: Practice at Home

Once your dog has learned what the word “come” means, then you can start practicing it!

It is best to start practicing recall in low distraction areas such as in your home and backyard.

Step 3: Practice Around Distractions

Once your dog is recalling reliably in low distraction areas, you can start making the task more difficult for them. Slowly add distractions when recalling your dog. This will help prepare them for real-life scenarios.

When practicing in public, it is best to use a long line just in case of an emergency. Always remember to make the experience extra rewarding when your dog comes to you when called in a high distraction area.

What Things Should You Bring to the Dog Park?

Of course, there will be some supplies that you will need to bring to the dog park.

Here are some things that you should always have in your bag when planning to go to the park.

  • Water and a water bowl
  • Poop bags
  • A leash and harness/collar
  • Proper footwear for yourself (sneakers or boots are the best)

Additionally, it can be a good idea to bring toys like frisbees and tennis balls if the park allows it.

However, it is better to bring toys when the dog park is not very busy. This is because you may have many dogs going for the toy at once otherwise. 

Similarly, it is best to save giving your dog food or treats until you are outside of the dog park. Having food in the dog park is likely to attract more than just your dog! 

Unfortunately, this kind of situation can also lead to your dog becoming defensive over their food.

Should Your Dog be on Leash or off Leash at the Dog Park?

The best thing that you can do when deciding to have your pup on or off leash is to follow the rules of the park. If you are going to an off-leash dog park then having your dog off-leash is completely fine.

However, if you are at a dog friendly park that requires dogs to be on a leash, then it is always a better idea to follow the on-leash rule.

Should Your Dog Wear a Harness at the Dog Park?

It is a good idea to have your dog wear a harness to the dog park. This is because harnesses tend to give owners more control over their pups in high distraction areas. Of course, having your dog wear a collar is fine too!

How to Introduce Your Dog to a Dog Park

A cute Miniature Australian Shepherd Poodle Mix female puppy off-leash dog park in Northern California

Once you have decided that you and your pup are ready for the dog park, then you can introduce them to it!

Here is how you can set your dog up to have fun at the dog park, along with a few other helpful tips and tricks.

Go to the Dog Park When it is not Very Busy

It is best to go to the dog park when it is not very busy if it is your dog’s first time. This is because a very busy dog park is more likely to stress a dog or make them overstimulated when they have never been there before.

Going at a less busy time such as on a weekday afternoon is more likely to make your dog feel more comfortable and allow them to have more fun. 

Plus, most dog owners will be able to relax better when there are not a ton of dogs around the first time that they visit a dog park.

Only Stay at the Park as Long as Your Dog is Having Fun

When you are at the dog park, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your dog and the body language that they are giving off. If your dog ever seems to be stressed, defensive, or fearful, then it is a good idea to head home and come back another day.

This will help keep your dog’s experience at the dog park as positive as possible.

How Often Should You Take Your Dog to the Dog Park?

You can take your canine friend to the dog park as often as you want! If you and your dog enjoy going to the dog park all of the time then you should do it!

Puppy First Time At the Dog Park? Remember This!

Going to the dog park is a favorite activity for many dogs and their owners.

Ensuring that your dog is fully vaccinated, is well socialized, and has a strong recall will help to keep the experience both safe and fun for the both of you.

Similarly, watching your dog for signs of stress and following the rules of the dog park will keep every experience at the dog park as positive as possible. 


Lilianna Parker

Lilianna Parker is a certified dog trainer through the Animal Behavior College, and has been involved in training dogs in the New York State community for several years. Lilianna has also written numerous works on dog training using positive reinforcement. She believes that every dog owner should have the tools that they need to see their dogs succeed. Her articles and blog posts about dog training are excellent ways for dog owners to get started with force-free training. She owns Simply Positive Dog Training and when she’s not writing or training, she enjoys going for hikes with her Shiba Inu called Cleo!

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