Taking your Dog to the Dog Park

by Simon Goodall
Dog Behaviourist and Trainer
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Dog parks can give your pooch the freedom to race about, sniff beautiful smells, socialise with other dogs and generally tire himself out. Simon Goodall, Dog Behariourist and Trainer, has a few suggestions to make your trip to the park a pleasurable experience.

Indeed, many dogs love a regular visit to the dog park, and are likely to feel a mix of excitement and a little bit of nervousness as soon as their owners unclip the leash. For the owner of that freewheeling dog, however, an outing to the dog park can have a stressful side – other dogs may be aggressive or your dog may decide to play up or not come back to you.

Exercise and play are essential for dogs, but they need to be good experiences for the dog, for you and for other dogs visiting the park. So what can be done to ensure a greater chance of success?

Understanding the dog park

From the number of dogs roaring around to the weather, there are many variables to take into account when you visit a dog park. Have a look around before you let your dog off so that if your dog has any problems with coming back or with other dogs, you are prepared. For example, if you know your dog likes brown dogs and will not come back when they are around, scan the horizon for brown dogs before you decide whether to let him off the leash.

Be vigilant

Dog parks have a higher rate of dogs biting other dogs than anywhere else. Many of these could be avoided by keeping an eye on your own and other dogs.
If your dog is off its leash and you see a person with a dog on the leash, call your dog back to you and approach slowly. That dog may be a rescue dog on their first outing or may be slightly nervous, or the owner may just want to have a quiet walk that day. Whatever the reason, they don’t need your dog jumping all over their dog.

Calling your dog

Work hard on the recall in a quiet park before heading to a busy park. This way your dog knows the rules and hopefully won’t develop bad habits, which will stand you in good stead when you go to a busier park.


It is well worth putting a lot of effort into socialising our dogs early on. Then, usually at about 12 months of age, we can stop worrying about socialising every day, and maybe give our dogs a treat (and ourselves a rest) by heading to the dog park once a week, where they can race around happily and exhaust themselves.


Often, when we go to the dog park we leave the dog to go for it, with no rules, and just let them have fun. However, dogs still need rules when you’re at the park – make them sit before you enter the park, do some sit and stays before you let them off the leash, and get them to come back a few times before they rush off and play.

But most importantly

Make sure you enjoy your walk. A dog park is the perfect environment to have fun with other dogs and pet parents.