My Rodrigo with is friends Koda and Bro at the Strawberry Fields Dog Park
3 Things to Help Dog Owners Let Dogs be Dogs
We love to take our dogs to the dog park and we tend to just let our dogs off their leash to go play with their friends and meet new friends. But I see many people bringing toys like Frisbees and Chuckit Ball Launchers to the park to make the experience more fun for their dogs.
What I love are the games the dogs play. It’s so much fun watching them chase each other, roll around, and then start chasing again. I think the dog park is a fantastic place where we can let dogs be dogs. Let them growl and mouth each other, let them pretend to hunt, and let them get some much needed exercise.
I’ve noticed that people who are new to a dog park or have a new puppy, they’re nervous and protective of their fur baby. This I completely understand. Here are three things to help dog owners relax and let dogs be dogs.
Know your dog
It’s important to watch and understand your dog’s body language and what s/he is telling you. Sydney is shy around new dogs and she shows this by tucking her tail between her legs and sitting on my foot or between my legs facing away from dogs. I don’t push her to play, because I know it’ll take her some time to become comfortable if there are new dogs.
When we’re around familiar dogs, the hair on Sydney’s back stands straight up. This isn’t fear or aggression, this is her excitement at seeing her friends.
Rodrigo lays on the ground when he sees a friend who is also a shepherd mix. It’s hilarious to watch them lay down, facing each other, 50 feet apart. This is part of their game.
Get to know your dogs signals so that you can relax when they’re playing a game and quickly step in if you feel that your dog is afraid or about to become aggressive.
Know the dogs at the park
I’ve made many friends at the Strawberry Fields dog park. We even have a Facebook group where we check in to see who’s going to be at the park. This has been fantastic for Sydney’s confidence and great for training our head strong Rodrigo. Having a group has also helped us socialize our new puppy, Riley.
Another benefit to knowing the dogs at the park is to pick out the aggressive ones. If the neighborhood bully is at the park today, we walk the trails around the park instead. If we’re already at the park when the bully arrives, we can either choose to leave or simply go to another portion of the park.
The neighborhood bully doesn’t hang at our park for long; no one wants to risk their dog’s safety and having the park empty out when you arrive is a great deterrent for owners of aggressive dogs.
Understand dog behavior
Dogs growl, dogs bark, and dogs mouth. This isn’t always a sign of aggression and I feel awful when I see a new dog owner leave a park, because the dogs are too rough. It’s important to let dogs be dogs, but I understand the fear. No one wants their dog to be mauled at the park. This is where understanding your dogs signals and being familiar with other dogs is so important.
I also recommend watching programs about dogs on Animal Planet and reading books about dog behavior. Become familiar with what is normal dog behavior (humping, growling, barking). Try visiting the park without your dog and ask questions. It sounds weird and slightly starkerish, but other dog owners will appreciate that you’re trying to learn and will be willing to help.
If you’re still not ready for the dog park or comfortable at the dog park, then plan play dates at homes so that you can let your dog be a dog. Our dogs are my babies and I talk to them like their kids (no commands and I always say please and thank you). As adorable as my babies are, they have fur and four legs and I know they need some dog time. I’m an over protected Fur Mom, but I now understand that it’s important to let dogs be dogs.
Kimberly Gauthier, a perpetually happy person, lives with her amazing guy, their spoiled dogs and cats, and loves dog rescue, photography, reading, and laughing. She’s the author of three blogs, sharing tips and tricks about photography, blogging, and raising happy, healthy dogs. You can also find her at Girl Power Hour as The Fur Mom.