Should You Bring Your Nervous or Reactive Dog to the Dog Park?

Kate Barrington
by Kate Barrington
When you have a reactive or nervous dog, playing in the dog park isn’t all fun and games. Is there a way for your dog to enjoy the benefits of a dog park?

The dog park is a wonderful place to take your pooch. Not only is it an opportunity for him to get some off-leash exercise, but it’s also a chance for socialization as he interacts with new people and other dogs. But not all dogs are good candidates for the dog park, so you need to assess your situation before you take your dog.

Questions to Ask Before Taking Your Dog to the Dog Park

Most dog parks have a posted list of rules that dog owners are expected to follow. While there are some rules which may be specific to that particular park, most of the rules are common sense.

Related: 7 Reasons Why It’s Important to Properly Socialize Your Dog

You shouldn’t take your dog to the dog park until he is caught up on vaccinations, for example, because he could contract or spread a contagious disease. To determine whether it is a good idea to take your dog to the dog park, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is my dog at least 16 weeks of age and caught up on vaccinations?
  • Does my dog respond to commands and have basic obedience training?
  • Has my dog reacted well when introduced to new people or other dogs?
  • Does my dog remain calm in unfamiliar or stressful situations?
  • Will my dog reliably come to me when he is called?
  • Does my dog have aggressive or territorial tendencies that might be problematic?

In addition to asking yourself these questions, think about the dog park itself. Is it overcrowded with too many dogs? Is there an abundance of male dogs, particularly intact male dogs? Are the other dog owners paying attention to their dogs or are they distracted? Do any of the dogs seem to be bullying the other dogs? Your answers to these questions will determine whether it is a good idea to take your dog into the dog park.

Tips for Nervous and Reactive Dogs

Socialization is extremely important for puppies and younger dogs and the dog park can be a great place to do it. If your dog tends to be a little nervous or reactive, however, taking him right into the dog park might not be the best idea – he could become scared or overwhelmed and might react in an aggressive way.

Related: What You Need To Know About Indoor Dog Parks

If this sounds like your dog, you may need to work with him individually at home or in a neutral location to condition him to having a positive response when meeting new people and other dogs. Positive reinforcement will be important and you can gradually work your way up to taking your dog to the dog park during odd hours when it is not likely to be crowded. Once your dog is able to remain calm with one or two dogs around you can then start working with him during the hours when the park might be a little more crowded.

Kate Barrington
Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.

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