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Dog Parks: What To Do After Finding a Good Dog Park

Updated: Aug 18

Okay, someone told you about how much fun Off Leash Dog Parks are. So you went to Google and typed in “Dog Parks Nearest Me.”

Maybe you even thought it would be good to find a free one and entered “Free Dog Parks Nearest Me.”


The results show a great dog park that is not only free but is also close by. This is great! But you’ve never been to a dog park and you have no idea what you are supposed to do next. This article may help make your first trip there a lot smoother.


Most breeds are welcome in any of today's dog parks, so despite this blog being geared towards Irish Wolfhounds, this post will be be applicable to all breeds.


What Are Dog Parks For ?

Walks are great exercise for any dog but most dogs love to run. If your yard limits your dog’s ability to have a good run, a dog park is a perfect place where they can stretch their muscles and have a lot of fun. Most of the parks are at least a half acre and many are much larger than that, so there is plenty of room for them to run.


Dog parks are not like Dog Day Care Centers where you drop your beloved pet off with attendants or other staff members for the day, week, or even longer.


Instead, dog parks are set up for you to interact with your dog. Your dog will get to interact and play with other dogs that are there as well so they get the benefit of both kinds of interactions.


Most Off Leash Dog Parks are free and do not have staff available to supervise. Supervision is basically up to the people that go there. Dogs are accompanied by their owners or other responsible party and it is assumed that whoever brings the dog will stay there while the dog is within the fenced in area of the dog park.


Some parks have a separation by size into an area for smaller dogs and another one for bigger dogs, but not all of them do this.


Is Your Dog Ready To Go To A Dog Park?

Since you could be held responsible for whatever your dog does on-leash or off-leash, before you go to a dog park you want make absolutely certain that you have done a lot of socialization work, where your pet is comfortable with a variety of other dogs and other people. There are good training videos on Youtube that teach how to do this. If your dog seems to be well socialized, you might still begin your first time on-leash. This is also a good time to scope out anything you might feel uncomfortable with at the park.


Some dogs get defensive while on a leash, so knowing your particular animal is important.


Very Hot Tip!

A very hot tip for determining when to go for your first time is to swing by and get a feel for when it’s the least busy. Your pet will feel less overwhelmed by this first encounter and will likely enjoy the other dogs more on future trips because he or she will have had pleasant associations with the park and not associations of being afraid.


Do this for awhile and slowly increase how busy it is and see how they like it. If they seem to get overwhelmed go at a less busy time the next few times. Some dogs seem to love it the more busy it is. In their minds they seem to view it as a lot more friends to play with!


There is no appointment or registration to use a public dog park. You basically show up with your beloved pet.


Before You Enter The Area

Though it’s tempting to give in to your dog‘s excitement over arriving and just open the gate and let them run, it’s probably smart to take a few minutes and scope out if there are any dogs that you get a bad feeling about. Most people that go to a dog park are responsible pet owners, especially the regulars that attend. We have seen animals though, that did need more socialization work and were aggressive. So taking a moment or two to get a feel for the dogs that are there is smart.


While you’re scoping out the park, if it is in an area that gets rattlesnakes, it’s a good idea to take your dog on a lap around the park while on-leash. My wife and I live in chaparral country and ran our dog through a rattlesnake avoidance class. Before it was our turn I watched as dog after dog all did the same exact thing to a live hooded rattler. Every dog went up to the snake to smell it. It didn’t matter the size or breed, every dog bent its head down to sniff the snake. A bite on the nose from such a snake can cause extreme pain, it can permanently disfigure your beloved pet, and at worst can be fatal.


If your park is in snake country, take a few minutes and make sure the area is clear. If there’s already a bunch of dogs running around it probably is okay. One of the dogs would have found a loose snake and most snakes wouldn’t want to crawl out into an area with groups of dogs running around. But to be sure, if you live in an area that gets snakes, take a good look to keep your pet safe.


If your park is in snake country, take a few minutes and make sure the area is clear. If there’s already a bunch of dogs running around it probably is okay. One of the dogs would have found a loose snake and most snakes wouldn’t want to crawl out into an area with groups of dogs running around. But to be sure, if you live in an area that gets snakes, take a good look to keep your pet safe.


A final thought for your dog's first trip: Even if there are only 8-10 other dogs in the park, they will often all storm the gate at once to see who the newcomer is (i.e. you and your dog). Most dog parks have a double gate entry. This prevents any of the dogs from squirreling past someone opening the gate and going out onto the highway or even just running away. So you open the one gate and walk into a vestibule. That gate closes behind you and you have to walk through a second gate to actually access the park. One of our dogs gets fearful when all of the other dogs rush up to the second gate. So my wife just hangs out there for a few minutes. Eventually all of the dogs become bored and want to get back to running and playing. When they all leave she walks in with our dog and all of the other dogs feel like they've already greeted her and usually carry on with what they are doing. That little vestibule keeps all of the dogs from getting out, but also can provide a temporary safe space from over zealous "greeters!"


Lastly, please make sure your dog is current on all of their recommended shots. You want to do that for the protection of your dog. Since there is no registration process, one never knows who the responsible pet owners are and so you want to offer that layer of protection for your animal.

What to Bring


Water - Having a daypack with all of your dog gear and snacks for yourself is probably a good idea. Though most parks have some kind of watering station, its not a bad idea to bring a collapsible water bowl and a bottle or two of water. If there is no watering station at the park, you'll then still have a source of hydration for your animal. Obviously, during the hotter months use discretion in how long you are there.


Poop Bags - A few plastic bags to handle poop events is more than a good idea. You will definitely incur the wrath of other pet owners if you just walk away from your own pet‘s mess. It's expected that everyone clean up after their own dog. For the sake of keeping the area nice for everyone, many will pick up what they see even if they know it’s not from their own dog.


Toys - A few toys or tennis balls to throw makes for some fun and there are some very cool tennis ball launchers. One looks like a jai-alai paddle. Those things can launch a tennis ball a long way with little effort. Some dog parks ask that you not bring toys to avoid aggression (some dogs don’t like to share - even if the toy they have in their mouth was shared with them!). Some dogs love to chase frisbee's which can also be fun - check your local dog park rules to see what their policy is on toys.


Treats - Treats are important to bring. If it’s a large park you don’t want to have to chase down your dog. If they know they are due for a treat whenever you call them it will be so much easier and happier at the end of your time there, than if you have to chase them down and scold them for not coming.


Treats are also good for reinforcing good walking behavior in what can be a very stimulating and distracting environment.


Strong Well Fitting Leash/Collar

Having a strong and properly fitting collar and leash is important because dogs can get really excited when they arrive and hear all of the other dogs out there having fun. Our wolfhound puppy can just about rip your shoulder out of joint when she gets near a place where there’s a lot of other dogs. Many of the larger breeds can break an old or insufficient size collar or leash. Smaller breeds can get so impatient that they will pull or wiggle right out of a loose fitting collar.


First Aid Kit

We’ve never had a need for a first aid kit but if something ever did happen it would sure be nice to have something to clean up a wound, apply a compress or tourniquet or other things that could help a pet in distress. This is something we should probably have in our homes too but most pet owners probably do not.


Taste of Freedom

As much as you can you want to enter the area in a calm manner with a calm voice as you take a minute to survey the area. Your first time you may want to walk around on leash to see your dogs reaction as well as the other dogs. If it’s nothing but wagging tails on your dog as well as the others, and you have ascertained that there are no physical dangers (broken fencing, a gate left open, snakes or other obvious predators), you might take your pet off it’s leash and see how it goes.


How Long Can I Stay?

Though most dog parks do not have a time limit on how many hours you can stay, the AKC has some thoughts on their website about this.


They brought up the point that exhaustion can lead to aggression in the same way that children can start getting ornery when they get overly tired. They suggested limiting outings to an hour or so.


It may be a good point. Know your animal and adjust accordingly.


Off leash, our girl loved the dog park almost as much as the beach. My wife always experienced such joy seeing how happy our little Schoene was at the park. Most dog parks are free so it was an economical form of entertainment for both.



SIDEBAR:

Speaking of our little Schnauzer, I need to mention something slightly off topic but really important, and you’ll see from our short story why it is so important.


As our beloved Schnauzer got older, she began to get cataracts on her eyes.


We had a quote of $2,500 dollars to have the cataracts removed. We couldn't afford that and had to watch as her vision got more and more blurry. In the beginning she would run down the beach and get further away from us than she could see. She would get disoriented because she couldn't see which way to run back to us and would sometimes run in the opposite direction because she thought that's which way we were.


All we could do is run after her because we had no idea how far down the beach she would go.


When we finally got close to her, we could tell she was disoriented by the way she would stop running and then would look up and down the beach, one way, then the other. It was heartbreaking because we could see the panic in her demeanor. As soon as we got closer, and she could make us out, she would run full blast back to us obviously relieved and very happy to see us.


I became quite concerned that if she went into the water (which she loved) she might swim off to sea because she couldn't see which way the shore was. Fortunately she seemed to realize her limitations and ventured into the water less and less as time went on.


As she got older and the cataracts grew more and more opaque, it was like there was a fog any further out than about a foot. Our hand suddenly coming out of this fog just to pet her would really scare her and all we could do was try to sooth her with more petting once she knew it was us. The worse her eyes got the worse we felt.


She had been so good to our family. She was a companion, defender of our home when we were gone, protector of our young son and protector of my wife when I worked nights. She always felt safe with her there. Everyone in the canyon where we lived knew her and loved her. We could take her to any of our neighbors homes or to any family member‘s home and she would be gladly welcomed there. It broke our hearts the worse she got because we knew she deserved better than that.


Things happen to both old and young dogs that medical treatment can help with; if you have the funds, If a $5,000 to $8,000 estimate on a vet bill would would cause little change in your financial situation then you probably don’t need to read any further. For many of us, such news from our vet whether it was from sickness or an accident, could result in a decision none of us wants to ever make with beloved companions.


Pet Insurance seems like it would address this but the premiums or high deductibles kind of put you back in the same position of non-affordability.


I found out about one organization that takes a different approach to this problem. Many of you are familiar with sports Co-ops. They offer excellent prices on products and rentals because they don't have to factor in much of a profit margin because it all goes back to the participants anyways.


I found an organization that uses a similar business model, except it is solely for veterinarian expenses. They have thousands of members and an extremely high satisfaction level among its members. They provide funds for your animal’s exams, shots, surgeries, dental care, and many other pet needs up to $8,000! For us, that would have enabled us to give our beloved Schnauzer the gift of sight and a lot better quality of life than we were able to. I also found out that the yearly premium isn't much more than what we would spend just on yearly checkups, shots, and worming, which they pay for, but, they also pay for major treatments and surgeries if your vet recommends those. They have an excellent reputation among thousands of members for promptly reimbursing your pets covered expenses.


When I see how many things are covered that we would have to pay for every year anyways, it really made economical sense. I saw that the customer satisfaction ratings are exceptionally high with well over 2,000 people reporting.


We liked this program so much, we checked them out further and decided to form an affiliate relationship with them. We wanted to see what they would be willing to do for the benefit of our readers, and they offered all of us a $20.00 discount on the monthly fee for two months just to try it out.


Because they are not able to provide funds for preexisting situations you don't want to wait until you have a problem to take advantage of their program. If this is something that you think might be a benefit to your family as well as your beloved pets, and you want to at least find out more, click the link below. You can find out more information with absolutely no obligation whatsoever. They are very nice folks to interact with and are transparent about costs without you having to fill out anything or provide a credit card, which I really like.


If you decide this is for you, the promotion code that you'll type in to get the discount is IRISH. That will give you the 2 months discount if you choose to sign up for the program. I will leave a link for more information here. Don't forget the discount code though. It will save you at least $40.00.


https://eusoh.com/?amb=Irish


In the meanwhile, give your dogs and you a treat and find the nearest dog park!

Two Irish Wolfhounds - Dog Park Fun!



 

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