Know Before You Go to the Bark Park

Everyday someone asks me, “Patsy, what dog park do you take your dogs to?”  The truth is – I find it difficult to relax with my dogs unleashed around unknown dogs.  I have years of experience concerning dog behaviors and I prefer to keep my dogs on a leash or playing with dogs I know.

Alex and I do, however enjoy walking at dog parks without our dogs.  We enjoy getting exercise while watching all the dogs play. We just can’t get enough of dogs!  It is always a thrill when a customer (the dog) runs up to us because they recognize us from the store.

Many customers share wonderful stories about specific breed meet ups at dog parks.   If you search on Facebook or Meetup you may find certain pooch playgroups that agree to meet at a particular day or time.  I’ve even had a customer meet a great guy doing this. Dog people are cool people!

Keep in mind that dog parks are meant for pets that are well socialized, are spayed or neutered, and have not had any aggression issues. The dog park surely is not the place to teach your dog to make friends or to share toys. If you find that your dog plays appropriately with another dog ask the owner when they typically come to the dog park.  This ensures your dog has a safe playmate. If your dog is aggressive or ever becomes hostile toward another dog playing with a ball or Frisbee, the dog park is not a good fit. Also a shy or nervous dog will not come out of this by going to a dog park. In this case, I encourage you to consider walking you dog with a leash!

To keep your play and exercise time at the dog park safe and fun consider these few tips:

  • Dog aggression is fairly common at dog parks. Practice the “come” command at home before you get your dog around all types of dogs. I had a great trainer tell me that the ‘come’ command is perfect after at least 200 times. So practice this command – a lot! This ensures your dog will return to you once you see another dog or an owner being irresponsible or inattentive. Call your dog over to you often so they get a break and do not become overly excited.
  • It is probably best to adhere to separate play areas for bigger and smaller dogs. Let’s face it some dogs have a strong prey drive and the desire to chase small dogs often kicks into gear when they are allowed to run off leash.  Its just nature. And that is never fun if you are the smaller dog.
  • It is also best not to hype up or stimulate your dog before they go into the dog park. An overly excited dog may not show their best manners. Calmly walk your dog into the play area and keep them close to you until you determine the other dogs are suitable for playtime. Keep your leash with you at all times.
  • If you are not comfortable with the other dogs at the bark park, you can always walk them on a leash around the perimeter of the dog park fence. My favorite idea!
  • If your dog gets into the water, use those free showers and wash the blue-green water off of them immediately. Or come in to Patsy’s and use our self-serve dog wash spa.
  • It is not appropriate for dogs to surround any new dogs upon entering the park. Do not allow your dog to do this – it’s kinda rude. This is where my 3-legged dog panics – me, too!
  • Be a responsible pet owner and observe your dog at all times. If your dog plays too rough and nobody wants their dog to play with your dog, consider taking a training class to learn more about how to manage this behavior.  Try a leashed walk instead.  Your dog will love it! Check out our FREE walking clinics the last Sunday of each month to gain a better understanding of good walking techniques.

Below are a few appropriate behaviors to look for when your dog finds a buddy:

  • Play bows (front legs outstretched, hind quarter up).
  • Balance between being on top and being on bottom.
  • Mouth open when play biting – no actual biting, please!
  • Hackles aren’t up (for most breeds).
  • Dog play will stop and start again.
  • More side to side than forward movement.
  • Relaxed, loose bodies.

To make your time with your dog even more enjoyable here are a few other things to consider for your trip to the dog park:

  • Make a cooling bandana for your pup.  Take a water-dipped bandana, slip it into a Ziploc plastic bag, and then pop into the freezer overnight. Grab the Ziploc before you head out the door. Wrap around their neck for a nice cooling effect.
  • Bring water for you and your pal.  Consider buying a hydra bowl for easy mobility – YES, we have them. And yes, they are super cool!
  • It is always a good idea that your dog has a visible ID tag on a properly fitting collar. If you let your dog off the leash, keep the leash on you and when transporting your dog to and from the park keep your dogs leash attached to their collar while inside the car.  It is easier to grab a leash should your dog bolt from the car.
  • Treats are not necessary at the dog park and may case a problem if there is 1 cookie and 2 or 3 dogs going after it.
  • If your dog is very active at the park consider a mid day snack such a few treats or a spoonful of wet food. If you get hungry after exercise then your dog probably does too.
  • Lastly, there is no such thing as orphan poop – be a responsible per owner and pick up your dogs poop. While most dog parks and walking areas offer poop bags, bring a few just in case you discover they’re out.

Remember that dog parks are filled with lots of items your dog might ingest including that nasty blue-green lake water so consider including in your dogs everyday diet a good probiotic to combat all the bad bacteria.  Primal Raw Goat Milk is the best; it also has electrolytes, which is great after any type of exercise.

We’re fortunate to live in a city that has many dog parks and community dog walking areas. Below is a brief list of dog parks that we attend that are open to the public and complete with many excellent dog park features.

Katy Dog Park – http://cityofkaty.com/departments/parks/parks-and-facilities-2/

Millie Bush Dog Park – http://www.pct3.com/dog-parks/#Millie%20Bush%20Dog%20Park

Deputy Darren Goforth Dog Park – http://www.pct3.com/dog-parks/#deputy-darren-goforth-dog-park

Another enjoyable place to walk your dog is the Rick Rice Park, you may see Alex and I there, as this is our favorite place to take our amazing dogs –  http://www.interstatemud.com/rick-rice-park/

Now, please go outside and enjoy this beautiful weather while you can.  See ya’ around the parks!