How to Introduce a Dog to a Dog Park

Three Parts:Preparing in AdvanceChecking Out the ParkEntering the Park

Just like a child at daycare, dogs can sometimes be hesitant to enter a dog park. Let your dog take all the time necessary, and do some advance preparation yourself. With the right approach, your dog will be making new friends in no time.

Part 1
Preparing in Advance

  1. 1
    Complete all vaccinations. Puppies and rescue dogs should finish their full course of vaccinations before they visit a park where other dogs have been. An unvaccinated dog could catch parvo or another potentially fatal disease. Keep all vaccinations up to date as recommended by a veterinarian.
    • If the dog is very young or was recently ill or malnourished, check with a veterinarian first, even after vaccination. The dog may need some time to build up his immune system.
  2. 2
    Train your dog. At minimum, your dog should respond to the "come" command while off the leash. An untrained dog can be a safety risk to himself and others at the dog park. If you're not sure whether your dog is ready, try practicing commands off-leash in a fenced-in backyard, or in your apartment hallway.
    • If you know your dog has behavioral problems, especially aggression, consider attending puppy classes or hiring a professional trainer. Don't visit the park until you are confident you can prevent the bad behavior and stop it promptly if it happens.
    • A trainer can also help teach a puppy appropriate play/bow behavior. These are the body language cues used by dogs when playing with each other.
  3. 3
    Learn to identify your dog's preferences. While walking your dog, pay attention to how she reacts to other dogs and to people. Some dogs are anxious or hostile around men, overly friendly people, or large dogs. If you know how your dog tends to react, you can respond quickly to calm her down at the park.
    • Your dog can start to learn socialization skills outside of the park. Try taking her to areas with lots of foot traffic, or better yet arrange play dates with another dog.
    • Don’t put your dog in a position where they have a chance to fail until you are confident of their behavior. Work on socialization skills in controlled environments until both you and your dog are confident of good behavior, remember you can’t take back an aggressive outbreak that may injury you, your dog or other dogs.
  4. 4
    Give your dog enough exercise. Make sure you meet your dog's exercise needs, based on his age and breed. If your dog is cooped up longer than he should be, he might get over excited when let off the leash at the dog park.
    • Dogs are like people in that they get out of shape and can suffer needless injury by being a “weekend warrior” and overdoing it when they are not in shape. Know your dog, especially as you approach summer and the warmer weather which can cause heat stroke quickly.
  5. 5
    Check for parasites. Look for fleas and ticks regularly to avoid spreading them to other dogs at the park. Consider using preventative medicine for these parasites, since your dog will probably be exposed to them at the park.
    • If your dog has lost energy or appetite, visit a vet to check for heartworm as well. Your vet can also recommend medication to help prevent heartworm.

Part 2
Checking Out the Park

  1. 1
    Pick the park. If you have the option, choose a park that separates dog by size. If you're not 100% confident in your dog's training, choose a park with containment fencing or plan to keep the dog on a leash at all times. Try to avoid parks next to busy roads unless your dog knows to stay away, even if the gate is normally closed.
    • If visiting a park in the evening, make sure it is well lit.
    • Large parks with underbrush may contain wild animals. Be aware of the risk of skunks, raccoons, or whichever animals are native to your area.
  2. 2
    Pick a time when the park is mostly empty. Dog parks are often packed on evenings and weekends. If you can visit during a weekday afternoon, your dog will get the chance to explore in a calmer environment.
  3. 3
    Pack the right treats and toys. It's a good idea to bring something to calm your dog down if he gets nervous, or to attract his attention. That said, you don't want to be responsible for the Great Bacon Stampede when three dozen dogs notice what you're holding. Pick a basic treat that your dog enjoys, but nothing with too strong a smell. And of course, a toy to play with is always welcome.
  4. 4
    Bring water on hot days. Some of the nicer dog parks have a special water spigot and bowls for public use. Otherwise, you'll need to bring bottled water and a bowl yourself.
  5. 5
    Bring along some wipes. A box of wet wipes or a plastic bag full of damp paper towels might come in handy. You never know when your dog will roll in something and need to be cleaned off.
  6. 6
    Walk around the perimeter. Let your dog become familiar with the area by walking him on the sidewalk just outside the park. Let him stop and sniff the edges of the park as you walk. The dog is ready to go in when he looks relaxed. A stiff neck, bulging eyes, or freezing in place are all signs of anxiety.
  7. 7
    Be cautious with your puppy. If you have a puppy or tiny dog, look for other dogs the same age and size. If large or aggressive dogs are dominating the park, this may not be a comfortable place to visit.

Part 3
Entering the Park

  1. 1
    Know the leash rules. Check for signs or watch what other dog owners are doing. Many large dog parks have a double-gate system, where you remove your dog's leash when you're between the gates. Don't enter the park with a leashed dog, as the leash can cause your dog to act defensive or aggressive toward the unleashed dogs. You'll have to take off the leash and go with the flow if you want your dog to meet potential playmates.
    • In less dog-friendly cities, "dog parks" are more like ordinary parks where dogs are allowed. Some of these parks require you to keep your dog on leash.
    • If your dog is not well-trained, it's best to avoid off-leash parks completely.
  2. 2
    Expect a rush of dogs. A crowd of dogs often rushes up to meet the newcomer. Don't be startled or anxious. Keep an eye on the dogs, but let them do their thing while you meet their owners.
  3. 3
    Watch your surroundings. Stay alert and know where your dog is at all times. You will both be making new friends, but don't get too distracted chatting. There's always the chance of an aggressive dog, or a dog that doesn't get along with yours. The dog park is a fun place for both of you, but you're still on the clock when it comes to watching your dog.
  4. 4
    Pick up after your dog. This should go without saying, but pick up after your dog promptly. Many dog parks have a box stocked with plastic bags, but always bring your own baggie or scooper just in case.
  5. 5
    Be friendly with other dog owners. Let them know your dog is new to the dog park and ask them to respect your dog's boundaries. The other owners can be very helpful when it comes to socializing your dog.
  6. 6
    Leave the park at signs of conflict. If your dog starts harassing other dogs, or if the other dogs harass your dog, leave the park right away. This prevents the conflict from escalating and, if your dog was the culprit, sends a message that the behavior is not allowed.


  • Not all dogs will want to go to the dog park and play with other dogs. Don't force it if your dog is happy with her current level of socialization.
  • Dog parks are usually maintained by the city government. If the gate is locked even during the day, you may need to visit city hall and register as a resident pet owner to get a key.
  • Go to a park that's enclosed and let the dog off the lead for a while then put it back on after, repeat this increasing the time left off every so often. Also bring a sharp pitched whistle with you and when you whistle call their name and tell them to sit and give them a treat them let them run off and do it again.


  • Dogs tend to behave differently when in a "pack." Be extra cautious when bringing multiple dogs to the park, or when your dog has made close friends with the regulars.
  • Do not visit the dog park if your dog is over five months old and not neutered, especially if the dog is in heat. The scent can trigger bad behavior in other dogs, even if yours is well trained.
  • If your dog tends to eat feces, this habit needs to be corrected before he visits the park. Even when vaccinated, this exposes the dog to disease and parasites.

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