You have a month, before you should bring your new puppy to the dog park. Most puppies are not fully immunized until they are 4 months old.
Getting a puppy into a positive reinforcement, punishment-free Puppy Kindergarten is a responsible first step and a wonderful way for a puppy to learn socialization skills. Another way is to make “play-dates” for him or her, with puppies or dogs your puppy makes friends with in their Puppy Kindergarten class.
Play dates can be anywhere as long as the animals are having fun and enjoying each other’s company. Your dog’s backyard, the other dog’s backyard, the beach, a hike, swimming, or even a local doggie park is terrific places for dogs to cut loose and have fun.
Most well run, well-maintained dog parks are fantastic places for dogs to meet, burn up excess energy and make new friends. On the other hand, unfortunately, some dog parks are dangerous, due mostly to irresponsible dog owners. There are a few self-centered individuals, who pride themselves on their dog’s inappropriate behaviors. As a rule, they are the same people who do not clean up after their animals…and find it humorous!
Before you decide on which park; public or private you plan to patronize, do your homework. Make sure your dog has all their inoculations, especially rabies, distemper, Bordetella, and Canine Influenza Vaccine (CIV) for the H3N8 virus. The last two are highly contagious viruses. If you board your dog in a kennel, take your dog to a doggie day care, or groomer or dog park, make sure they are protected.
Visit the different parks. The one nearest you may not be the best one for your or your dog.
There are good and bad times to visit most dog parks. The majority of them are busiest during the cooler hours of the day. That means early in the day, and after most people get out of work in the evening.
Talk to the dog owners there. Ask why they have chosen that particular park. Watch how their dogs interact.
What you should look for in a good dog park are:
First and foremost, do responsible dog owners patronize that particular park?
Is there owner supervision? Watch for inappropriate behavior… canine and human.
What is the dog-human ratio? One person for every 2-3 dogs is a workable ratio.
Is the park clean?
Is food being brought into the park? That could lead to trouble!
Are owners cleaning up after their dogs?
Is there water?
How are the dogs interacting? Don’t fret if you see a dog or two off by themselves. Some dogs benefit physically and emotionally from going to the park; but don’t necessarily like to mingle with the “pack.”
If there are dog confrontations are the owners acting responsibly?
Are gates and fences well maintained?
Is there a double gate entrance; so the dogs cannot “escape?”
Are poop bags provided…and used?
Are there trash barrels? Are they overflowing?
Are shady areas provided for the dogs and owners?
Is there water?
Before actually taking your puppy or dog into a “new” park, walk the parameter. Let them sniff the other dogs through the fence. Watch how your dog and the other dogs react.
When you go into the park, immediately remove your dog’s leash. Dogs have two primal survival instincts…fight or flight. If they cannot flee, several will fight! It is amazing! There are dogs that are uncontrollably leash aggressive; yet, when off their leash, they are the sweethearts of the park!
Follow the park rules…if they say “NO CHILDREN!” keep your kids out! Dog parks are not playgrounds! There are very good reasons for that rule. Dogs are predators…to some, especially those with high prey drive; running children are nothing more than prey!
If your dog is not neutered or spayed, do it! Or be extra vigilant! There are too many irresponsible dog owners, who bring their intact pets to the park! Watching a pair before or in the middle of their heat of passion urge to pass on those genes can be unnerving for some!
If you are uncomfortable, leave! Follow your protective instincts.
Once you get the hang of dog park life, you and your dog will become addicted! You will meet other interesting dog owners, your dog will make lots of new friends, they will burn off mind-boggling amounts energy and the best part is; they will go home happy and tired!
Bottom line: A tired dog is a GOOD DOG!