Ten Things to Leave Behind When Going to the Dog Park
PetSmart Catherine Mabe/myPetSmart.com
If you have a social dog who loves to run and play, there are few places that top the dog park in terms of fun. If you do decide to head out for some romp and roll, here are a few tips on what to leave behind to ensure that you — and your pet — maximize the pleasures of the dog park.
10. Your baby/toddler stroller: dogs have little else on their minds than jumping, wrestling, playing and fetching when they’re at the dog park. And you can’t rely on them to be on the lookout for people large or small. Adults can be knocked over by speeding dog trains — so think about what that kind of force can do to an unsuspecting toddler or infant standing up or strapped into a stroller. No matter how diligent and watchful you are, there’s just no way to predict the movements of excited dogs at the dog park, so it’s best to leave strollers at home. Some dog parks even have rules against children under a certain age playing inside, so be sure to know the dog park rules in your area.
9. Your high heeled or brand new leather shoes: the dog park can be a messy place. When you’re going — take a cue from your pup — stay casual. This includes wearing shoes that are comfortable and that you won’t mind getting scuffed up, drooled on, or covered in dirt and mud. Wearing appropriate footwear will also ensure that you can react quickly when you need to if your dog encounters an unfriendly playmate.
8. Dog treats: remember the rule you learned in grade school about not eating treats if you don’t have enough to share with everyone? It also applies at the dog park! And even if you do have enough for every dog at the park, you still shouldn’t bring them. No matter how well concealed, they’ll simply act as a distraction for pups who are at the park to romp, roll and get some exercise in. Wait to reward your pup until you get home — when he can really enjoy a rest and a treat.
7. Your aggressive or un-spayed/un-neutered dog or a dog in heat: not all dogs are cut out for the dog park. If your dog has behavioral issues, hire a trainer or behaviorist who can help him acclimate to other dogs in a safe, controlled environment and can help you determine when, if ever, your pet is ready for the dog park. It’s also best to spay and neuter your pets before hitting the dog park. Canines can revert to pack behavior at the park and a dog whose body is giving off certain hormones can become a distraction or target for packs of dogs.
6. Expensive or beloved toys from home: unless it’s a toy you’re willing to part with or don’t mind having destroyed, don’t bring it to the dog park. Remember, dogs don’t know the difference between tennis balls lying around the park and your dog’s beloved squeaky toy. Chances are other dogs will be attracted to your dog's toys and will eventually get their paws on them (and may not be too quick to return them). Besides that, your own dog may become territorial about or protective of her own toys.
5. Your iPod, cell phone, book or newspaper: it’s okay to think of the dog park as a place to decompress but also remember that you need to be alert and able to react quickly to your dog. Whether it’s cleaning up after he relieves himself at the far end of the park or breaking up some interaction with an unfriendly dog, be prepared to have both eyes on your pup at all times. Don’t tempt distraction by listening to music, talking on the phone or reading.
4. Your desire to power walk, sunbathe or run errands: it’s not okay to “drop your dog off” at the dog park, literally or figuratively. Your dog’s playtime simply isn’t a time to check out and work on things you’ve been meaning to get to. It’s a time for you and your dog to play together and bond. Save the extracurricular activities for another time.
3. Your food and drink: this one should go without saying, but be sure to get in any snacks before or after you hit the dog park. Dogs can’t help themselves — they’ll want your food or drink and they won’t be shy about showing it. And that sort of behavior just detracts from what they’re at the dog park for — to have fun!
2. Your purse: consider investing in some dog-park-only gear, such as the excursion-friendly pieces from Outward Hound. This way you can keep your purse safe and sound at home and still keep your necessities with you at the park. It’s convenient, too — you can keep your Tote and Treat Bag stocked with poop pickup bags, a tennis ball and anything else you need to grab and run out to the dog park.
And the number one thing to leave behind when you hit the dog park is:
1. Your bad day: dog parks are all about fun and good energy. Most cities that host them have rules against foul language or abusive behavior because they have to. Leave any negative feelings about a bad day at work or a fight with your significant other behind and make a conscious effort to stay positive, cooperative, responsible and accountable when you walk through the gates of the dog park.