We have so many great dog parks in San Diego - Balboa Park, Ocean Beach, Del Mar etc. Your neighborhood dog park is a great place for your dog to run free and socialize with other dogs. It can also be a stressful and dangerous place sometimes, since there are so many different dogs and temperaments gathered in one location. Dog fights happen. Here are a few tips we picked up from Dogtownsandiego.com to help minimize risk and maximize the enjoyment for you and your dog when at your local dog park:

  1. Make sure your dog actually enjoys the dog park. Not all dogs appreciate the crowd of strange dogs and their owners. For some dogs it may be a stressful and unpleasant experience.
  2. Only go to the dog park if you have a basic voice control of your dog. You have to be able to stop your dog from doing something unwanted and come to you when called. Otherwise, it will be very difficult to help your dog if s/he gets into a hairy situation.
  3. Before you go into the park, observe the dogs and owners for a bit. If you see aggressive behavior from either dogs or humans and feel uncomfortable - just leave and find another more compatible park or go for a walk instead.
  4. When you enter the park, quickly move away from the main gate. Dogs that are already there may try to prevent newly arriving dogs from entering the park. This is where a lot of fights start.
  5. If possible, just before you enter, take your dog off the leash - if that's not safe, then immediately after you enter. S/he will feel more comfortable and will be able to get way from a dangerous situation more freely. Dogs on leash also tend to be more on the defensive.
  6. Try not to hang around large groups of dog owners. Dogs tend to cluster around their owners and there is a greater chance of a fight in a big group of dogs. If you are chatting with a fellow dog lover, constantly keep an eye on your dog, so you don't miss the early warning signs of trouble.
  7. To be able to exit the park quickly and at your first command, praise your dog every time s/he looks at you or comes up to you. This way you won't have to chase your dog around the park when it's time to go home.
  8. Verbally reward your dog for proper social interactions. Did she just allow a dog to sniff her? Good job! Did she move away from rough play? Good girl! Most dogs will look to their owner for guidance, so be sure to encourage the kind of behavior you want.
  9. Lastly, if you see any of these signs, quickly but calmly get control of your dog to avoid a dangerous situation. Being calm is very important - if your dog is already nervous and then sees you're nervous too, it will just make the situation worse:
  • sudden change in flow of play
  • change in vocalization
  • hard eye contact or rigid body posture
  • unevenly matched “play mates”
  • excessive greeting postures or submission
  • bully behavior
  • pack/prey “play”

We hope these tips will help you keep your dog and yourself safe and enjoying your dog park outings.

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