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Due to frustrating circumstances spelled out in another thread, I haven't been able to take Gabe on walks/runs around my neighborhood for several days, and playing in the yard, while good, isn't really enough.

So I'm thinking it might be time to make our maiden voyage to the local dog park. Now, I've never actually BEEN to a dog park before (My last dog was always too sick for such things), and I'm not exactly sure about etiquette and such of the dog park. I've read the rules online, but they're pretty skeletal.

I would love some advice on how to make the most of the dog park for me and my puppy, and how to be a considerate, courteous park-goer.

Thanks.
 

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I dont advise dog parks, but if I were to go, it would be when there is the least amount of people and dogs, early morning, take a drive over there, without your dog and check it out, walk around, see whos there and what the dogs are like, talk to some people, my 2 cents
 

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I LOVE dog parks! I'm the forum dog-park advocate. :p

Everyone does dog parks differently, there's no "one way" to do it. When I'm introducing a dog I don't know to a dog park situation I first do meet-and-greets with dogs whose temperaments I'm sure of in another location, just to see if there's even a hint of dog aggression, resource guarding, or other issues that may make a dog park difficult for everybody. If they pass that test, then we go to the dog park and walk outside the fence on day one. All good? Next day I go into the park on leash, just inside the gate to be sure. From there on they earn their freedom. Maybe the next day is a walk around the 'resources' (our dog parks have water spigots and doggy pools) on leash. If they have good enough recall and they've behaved themselves they get off-leash freedom.

Of course, if nobody is at the dog park and you're comfortable with your recall then just let 'em loose! :p

ETA the only hard-and-fast rule for any and every dog park is that you pick up poop! Always! Nobody likes to ask their dog to fetch a ball that's rolled through poop, and nobody wants to get doodoo on their car mats. :)
 

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Dog parks are "iffy". Many people don't pay attention to little things when they go to dog parks. They think they can just throw their dog in the fence and they don't have to worry about them. I agree with Ken, I wouldn't go, but if you want to go in the morning. Normally the dog park has a small area before entering the play pens, when in the small area, take your pup off the leash and let them sniff around. Wait till they are "calm and collective" before entering the pen.

Also check out Cesar Millan, he had an episode on how to enter your dog in the dog park. I don't remember what episode, maybe google Cesar Millan - Dog Parks ??

Hope this helps.
 

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Wolfie has been a dog park regular since 4 months old. She's now nearly 2 and pretty much has the park under control, as there are the occasional owners who shouldn't have dogs and definitely shouldn't bring them to a park.

It's great exercise, our park is 6 acres, she loves to play ball, chase and wrestle with others. She has numerous friends there, yes, dogs actually have friends.

I've noticed since about 18 months of age, she doesn't play with others as much and is far more picky about which dogs she plays with.

You just need to be kind of watchful and know which dogs are more trouble prone than others, then stay away from them, or Wolfie is really good about 'advising' some dogs she's not interested.

I think you have to judge for yourself, but we love going and there's even a local GSD Lovers group on Meetup.com we formed, so every other Saturday we 'take over' the park for a few hours, it's hilarious to see 20-30 GSDs all together.
 

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I generally don't go. If I do go, I go to the one on the edge of our city because there are rarely ever any dogs there so usually my dog is the only one. There are just too many ill-behaved dogs at the busier dog park and I just don't need to subject my pup to that.

The rules at our city dog park are pretty straight forward. Pick up after your dog, keep your in-heat females at home, and at the first sign of aggression you must immediately remove your dog. Unfortunately, that rarely happens in our area which is why I just don't go. I'd rather find a public trail in the area for a nice secluded walk or just take him down to one of the local lakes (one of the nice things about living on the MN border is there are SO many of them).
 

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Due to frustrating circumstances spelled out in another thread, I haven't been able to take Gabe on walks/runs around my neighborhood for several days, and playing in the yard, while good, isn't really enough.

So I'm thinking it might be time to make our maiden voyage to the local dog park. Now, I've never actually BEEN to a dog park before (My last dog was always too sick for such things), and I'm not exactly sure about etiquette and such of the dog park. I've read the rules online, but they're pretty skeletal.

I would love some advice on how to make the most of the dog park for me and my puppy, and how to be a considerate, courteous park-goer.

Thanks.

Its pretty much a free-for-all at the dog park. Not very many people can control their dogs at the dog park. Theres not really any etiquette beyond what you would consider common sense. Prepare yourself to be offended at some point since theres some screwballs that go. Its a good idea to read the rules and the liability waivers. I would go without your dog first, and check it all out. My experience with big open parks where there is alot of space to spread out away from each other, has been pretty relaxed and fun. The small parks where you cant really get any space apart from other dogs or people, get pretty crazy somtimes. Frequently the smaller parks are stressful, and less fun, at least for the humans.
Thats my 2 cents.
 

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I am a dog park proponent. I realize the dangers, but there is danger in everything, and the reward in dog socialization and exercise is worth the relatively low risk in my view.

I agree that you should go by yourself first and walk around in the park when it is crowded with dogs to get a feel for the dynamic. You will need to be at ease when your dog is there, so you need to experience it first. Our dp is in Houston, and in the 10 or so visits we have made we have yet to see even ONE repeat dog there, so based on my experience you will not be able to get a feel for certain dogs that you can rely on seeing over and over again.

Everyone (98%) is in the same boat as you: they love their dogs, they are nervous about having a bad experience, and want to observe the unwritten etiquette. This means they will be conscientious and considerate in handling their dogs. Also, the dogs have usually been socialized and get along well. Invariably, the indicator of a "problem" dog is one where the owner says "this is our first trip here" or "he's never been around dogs before". By breed, there is no correlation with which dogs are "nice"--so leave your preconceptions behind.

Don't bring treats. Don't expect other dogs to leave your dog's ball, toy, etc. alone--it is a free for all on the balls. Amazingly, I have seen that most dogs are very respectful of other dogs chasing a ball or toy--the only problems are when there is a dog that brings and is obsessed with its own toy (owner error).

I have seen no serious fights, just a few growly moments. The quickest problems seem to develop when a dog chases another, and the prey drives kick in and several others join the chase. These usually end in a abrupt stop by the chasee, lots of butt sniffing, and then everyone trots away. However, sometimes there is a tackle and roll, a snap and snarl, and it gets a little testy. Relax, they usually work it out themselves and stop, and then sometimes the owners standing nearby break it up.

You want to watch out for your dog's safety of course, but you don't want to be a "helicopter mom" (it helps to have raised kids to get a feel for this). Don't try to follow your dog around and intervene in every encounter. You can't micromanage the dog park or your dog, and all you will do is communicate uneasiness to the dogs and irritate the other owners by doing this.

Good luck and have fun with it!
 

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I don't go to dog parks usually,but I do suggest that you keep an eye on your dog and use proper etiqutte at the gate when people are bringing their dogs in. I hate it when people let their dogs crowd the entrance gate,and don't call them or go and get them if they won't come. Even if your dog or the other dog coming into the park is friendly, it can still be a little overwhelming for the new comer.
 
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