- Never go to dog parks.
If you have some common sense, intuition and are a responsible owner you can have a great time at the dog park. If you possess none of the aforementioned, please skip it. Here are some tips to help you put the odds in your favor for an incident-free visit.
- Make sure your dog is vaccinated. Explain to your vet that your dog’s lifestyle includes going to the dog park. They will help you ensure your dog has the necessary vaccinations. If you board your dogs they may already have the necessary vaccinations to protect them at the dog park.
- One of our responsibilities as dog park visitors is to help reduce the potential of an incident caused by aggression.If your dog is over 6 months of age but not yet spayed or neutered find another activity. I’m sorry guys but if you’re in the camp of “never alter” or “wait to alter” that’s totally fine but you need to forego the dog park. In my experience intact dogs are bullied by sterilized and non-sterilized males alike at the dog park more often than they are not. Stop trying to fly under the radar. We can all see that your dog is intact.
- Train your dog for heaven’s sake! I could go on and on and on and on about the usefulness of bringing a trained dog into the public realm but I’ll simply take this moment to point out the most important reason you want to bring a trained dog to the dog park. If your dog will listen to you, they’ll come away from or avoid moving toward a scuffle. If you’re in the process of training, that’s fine. You can still visit the park. Just be sure and finish the job.
- Stop and observe before entering the park. If you don’t like what you see, ABORT!. Powerful dogs looking like they’re out of control? Skip it. Dookie everywhere? Go with plan B. I’ve left the park earlier than intended when the environment started out right but took a wrong turn. I’ve also pivoted to another activity when I felt like it wasn’t a good idea to go in at all upon our arrival. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t enter the park. Just take your dog to the pet supply store instead and buy them something. They’ll forget all about the disappointment.
- Never let your dog go through a doorway before you.
I think this one annoys me the most. You should be capable of telling your dog to stay while you cross the threshold but in no way is this gospel to raising a good dog. You don’t have to do this every time you and your dog move through a doorway. Just follow my rule. Do as your told! If I tell you to go through the doorway, go through. If I tell you to stay inside the house while I step outside, stay. I usually prefer my dogs move through the door before me upon our return. I want them safe inside as I bring the door closed behind us. Hasn’t damaged our working relationship one iota.
- Never let your dog sleep in your bed.
Why not? Is your dog displaying aggression toward you or someone else while in the bed? Ok, then maybe privileges should be revoked until further notice while you work on that but allowing your dog to sleep in your bed does not inherently undermine your training goals. Again, just tell your dog where you want him to sleep and make him do it. On the floor on their dog bed, in a crate next to your bed or in your bed. It’s all fine.
- Never let your dog get on the furniture.
See #3. Additionally, lying on the sofa with a dog-in-training is one of my favorite tricks. I’m definitely going to be hanging out on the sofa as that’s what I do best and I need to know where the untrained dog is at all times. For that reason he’s going to be hanging with me, on the sofa, where I can see his mouth. If he’s on the floor I may have only 75% of a rug left when I get up for my next scheduled bathroom break. It’s the perfect training scenario to teach your dog to be chill on the sofa, assuming that’s what you want. And if you don’t care if your dog is playful on the sofa, that’s cool too. Not going to derail training.
- Never feed your dog “people” food.
Never understood this one. You can feed them, not feed them. It’s not going to be a detriment to your working relationship. Is the dog bullying you to give him your food? If that’s the case, peace at meal time is probably not your only problem with the dog. If you’ve trained him, why not ask him to down/stay through the meal for a reward at the end? If you’re in the process of training your dog you can work toward that goal. I will typically put a newbie on the City Leash and use the snap-release handle to tether them to the leg of the table to assist me in keeping them under control. Increase the amount of time between rewards incrementally to get there. I usually start out with 3 seconds, then 5, 7, 10, 30 and then 30 second increments and then every 5 minutes and so on. You get the picture.
- Never let your dog put his teeth on you.
I’ll never forget the sadness I felt when I saw a breeder smack one of her bitch’s pups when it play-bit her. Dogs play with their teeth. You’re not going to show them you’re “the man” by never letting them play-bite you. If you don’t want a playful relationship with your pet dog then I’m sad for them. Humans play fight don’t they? Dogs can and will learn to bite softly when playing. I recently adopted a 4 year old dog with a background mostly likely void of training and interaction and I’ve gotten such a kick out of watching him learn to inhibit his bite pressure with me and his canine housemate. Even his angry bites (yeah, he’s got issues) with his canine housemate have become more of a demonstration in displeasure than the real deal. He play bit me once in the chin recently harder than I would have preferred. Acting hurt and disengaging was so effective in communicating my desire for him to turn it down a notch. A harsh scolding or hit would have been detrimental to our relationship considering his background. (Puppies that are testing you often require a different approach. Don’t feel bad if you’re currently being mauled by a puppy under 6 months.) It will pass. Most likely.
7. Never let your dog eat before you eat.
Smh. I’m going to eat when I want to eat. This one is so silly I almost forget some people think it’s important. If you’ve been making a point to feed yourself before your dog in an effort to affect their behavior, you can stop. Eat when you want to eat. Feed the dogs when you want to feed them.
8. Never play tug with your dog. “If you play tug with your dog you’ll make them aggressive!” This one is so old I can’t believe I’m still having to address it. You can see how at first thought you might think “yeah, I could see that”. But at second thought you should be able to realize it’s ridiculous. Playing tug with your dog won’t make them not-aggressive, aggressive or more aggressive. If your dog is being aggressive while you try to remove something from their possession or vice versa, they aren’t playing. The dog knows the difference. Go ahead and play tug. It’s a great game for play-training. If your dog is being nasty with you over an object you need to work on training with “leave it”. It’s a different matter altogether.
In summary, live the way you want to live but with a trained dog. A trained dog is a dog that does as he’s told. You can lick my plate when I’m done if I tell you it’s ok. Sleep on my bed, go out the door before me if I tell you to go. Play tug. Go see his homies at the park. If you make all of these rules but never train them you set yourself and your dog up for failure in addition to gifting them with a boring life at home on the floor forever wondering what a potato chip tastes like. No thanks.