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A. Dog parks can be a great way to socialize your dog, but not all dogs do well at them. Here are some things to think about before you bring your dog to a dog park: Dog Park.jpg

  • Know your dog. If your dog is naturally cautious, shy, or doesn't get along well with other dogs, a dog park is not the place to help him overcome his issues. Meeting too many dogs at once is the equivalent of putting someone with claustrophobia in a closet. Too much too soon. Try introducing your dog to a friend's dog that you know interacts well with other dogs. A one-on-one play date might be just the ticket for a fun playtime for your best friend.
  • Vaccinate your dog. For his safety as well as the other dogs at the park, keep him up-to-date on his inoculations and worming medications.
  • Check the park out first. Visit the park without your dog and watch the dogs there interact. If the dogs seem too rough for your dog, come back at another time or try a different dog park.
  • Make the initial visit a short one. 15 minutes or so is enough. Slowly increase the length of your stays as your dog becomes more comfortable there.
  • Pick the best time to go. Weekday evenings, weekends and holidays are the busiest times at dog parks. Try to avoid going when your dog could be easily overwhelmed.
  • Supervise your dog. It's easy to get distracted talking to other owners. Keep an eye on your dog at all times to make sure his interactions with other dogs are safe. Watch his body language and be ready to remove him if he seems stressed or if another dog won't leave him alone.
  • Let your dog off leash as soon as you enter unleashed areas. Mixing leashed and unleashed dogs can create a hostile situation. A leashed dog can't make the choice his natural instinct tells him of "fight or flight"--if he cannot take flight, he may have to fight.
  • Leave children at home. You can't watch your kids and your dog at the same time. Rowdy dogs can scare - and possibly hurt - children.
  • Don't bring a puppy. Puppies less than four months old aren't fully immunized yet and are at higher risk for contracting diseases. They are also very vulnerable to being traumatized by another dog's aggressive behavior.
  • Don't bring toys or food. Most parks already have plenty of balls and toys that other people have brought. Rewarding your dog with treats or giving him toys in front of other dogs can create jealousy and aggression.
  • Know when to leave. Remove your dog from the park if he is being threatened or bullied and seems fearful. If your own dog begins to display aggressive behavior by becoming overexcited or threatening toward other dogs, take him out. A tired dog that is panting heavily also should go home.
  • Watch for potential dogfights. Don't allow your dog's over excitement turn into a fight.
Its not a failing of your dog if he doesn't like going to the dog park. A hike with you or a game of fetch in the backyard can be just as fun and rewarding for him. Don't force your dog to be a party animal if it is just not his temperament.

Rachel Baum,CPDT-KA

RACHEL BAUM, CPDT-KA is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator and Red Cross Certified in Pet First Aid. She is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the International Association of Canine Professionals, and is recommended by local veterinarians and rescue groups, including Forever Home Greyhounds and the Capital District Humane Association. Rachel does Pre-Pet Counseling (assistance with choosing the right dog for your family), Welcome Puppy (in-home instruction on housebreaking, obedience, problem prevention, crate training) and Behavior Consultation (any dog, any age, any problem). Using dog-friendly techniques, Rachel can help owners establish a relationship with their dog based on love, trust and guidance. She can find solutions to potentially embarrassing problems like jumping up on people, nuisance barking, and pulling on the leash, as well as aggression, separation anxiety, housebreaking, and destructive behavior. Clients (or dogs) with special needs are welcome! Rachel is also available to speak to organizations, schools, or businesses about dog safety and dog behavior. She can be reached at 518-248-1781 or

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