Your new puppy’s first year of life is a very exciting one, as they experience all of the variety of the world around them and are exposed to wide range of different type of stimulus and activities.
This means that your puppy will have a number of first-times and milestones to pass during their first year with you, such as going outside for the first time, walking on the lead, meeting and interacting with strange dogs, and facing new environments.
One of the big “firsts” that your puppy will experience is their first time at the dog park, or other environment in which many different dogs come together to play and socialise. Providing opportunities for socialisation of this type is vital for young puppies, and something that they usually take to like a duck to water, assuming that everything goes to plan.
If you are wondering when your pup should make their first trip to the dog park and how to ensure that the visit goes smoothly, this article will share advice and pointers on how to manage your pup’s first few visits to a dog park. Read on to learn more.
Your puppy needs to have had all of their initial vaccinations and waited for the appropriate period of time before they go outside for the first time, and so their first trip to the dog park should not be until after this has happened.
Your pup should be used to going outside and walking to a basic standard on the lead, and they should also have met some other dogs in this time too (other than those that they live with or see regularly) which will give them a head start in a new situation.
If your pup is walking nicely and isn’t overly phased by the outside world, you may be able to plan your first dog park trip within a couple of weeks of your pup’s first steps outside.
For your first few visits to a dog park with a young, inexperienced puppy, it is a good idea to visit at times of the day when the park is not overly busy or full of other dogs.
This will give your pup a chance to meet other dogs in a lower-stress environment with less stimulation, and get used to the idea of visiting the park and meeting other dogs.
The dog park is a learning experience for your puppy, but they should have a good grounding in a few very basic skills before your first trip. Your pup should be happy to be on a lead and able to walk on a lead without making too much of a fuss, and they should also look to you for direction and reassurance and ideally, be able to exhibit basic recall skills too.
If your pup’s recall isn’t reliable, you will need to potentially keep them on a lead during dog park visits to play with others, particularly if the park is not fully enclosed.
When you first get to the dog park with your pup, take a few minutes to assess the lay of the land. Take your pup into the park itself and find a bench to watch things from and see how much interest your pup shows, and to assess the other dogs and owners present.
If all of the other dogs seem relaxed (if excited), happy, well socialised and able to play nicely together, your pup might be able to join in with them.
If there are too many dogs present, the games are a little rough or if you are concerned that one or more dogs is too pushy, boisterous or poorly supervised, consider keeping a distance. If there are very large dogs present that aren’t moderating their behaviour to account for smaller dogs, again, you may wish to stay back.
Bear in mind that other dogs at the dog park might approach you and your pup to say hello, so plan for this – and try to match any loose dogs present to their owners and smile and say hello to them if possible, so that you can communicate with the other owners if needed.
Walking your pup on a lead around the edges of the dog park can be a good way to get them used to things and see how it all works, and you will be able to see if your pup looks like they might want to go and join in too.
Rather than letting your dog loose in the dog park with a new pack all at once, it is a good idea to try to introduce your pup to other happy, calm dogs one to one during your first couple of trips.
Talk to other owners and ask if your pup can say hello, and you might even find that your pup finds a new canine mentor who will introduce them to the rest of the pack!
If it all goes well, you can potentially let your pup off the lead to play under supervision on your first trip.
When your pup is used to the dog park and happy with greeting other dogs (which may take several visits) you can start to think about letting them off the lead as soon as you have arrived at the dog park and assessed the other dogs present.
Keep your pup’s initial play sessions short and fun, and recall your pup with a treat and praise in order to teach them to return to you reliably in the future too.