For many dogs and dog owners, their first visit to the dog park can be overwhelming. The following is a list of suggestions and hints to make their experience a positive one. Used correctly, a dog park is a valuable part of a dog’s socialization. While a few of these hints are specific to WolfBrook, most will help with your success at any dog park.
Our primary goal is for the enjoyment and education of our members. We want to foster a community that allows our dogs to become well adjusted and sought after members of our community as well as the community at large. To that end, the positive reinforcement of wanted behavior benefits all. Everyone at the park wants the same thing – socialized dogs that can have fun together.
First time attendees should come at an off-peak time for their initial visit. This will give you and your dog an opportunity to get acquainted with the facility. Saturdays and Sundays, morning through early afternoon are usually the busiest.
When entering the off-leash areas, you should use the gate in the courtyard area off the clubhouse. This allows you and your dog to transition into the off-leash area. Upon entering the main field, move away from the entrance area and away from the fence. This will help disperse any dogs that will want to welcome your dog to the park.
If you are already in the park and see new members arriving, you should discourage your dog from “rushing” the new dog at the gate. Call your dog to you, give him a pet or a scratch before sending him off to greet the newcomers.
Be Vigilant! Once you and your dog are in the off-leash area, you need to supervise your dog’s play. This is not the time to conduct a business meeting on your cell phone or read a novel. You are here to enjoy the fellowship and unwind with your dog. Be in the moment!
Where there are designated areas for small dogs and big dogs, use them accordingly. These areas are for the safety and comfort of both large and small dogs. Just because your big dog “loves little dogs” doesn’t mean the little dogs want to play with him. And large dog owners shouldn’t have to make their dogs curtail their play because a small dog has entered the area. At WolfBrook, the creekside gathering area is for all dogs regardless of size, this area is “use at your own risk”.
If a dog (yours or someone else’s) becomes disruptive or aggressive, the owner should remove the dog from the main area to cool off. Remember that dogs can have “off” days, and if a cool off doesn’t improve the dog’s demeanor then it is best to go home and come back another day. If the problem continues, a WolfBrook staff member can step in to assist and rectify.
Make sure the dog park isn’t your dog’s only form of entertainment. If the dog park is the only outlet for fun, then your dog may become overly excited at arrival.
There is no such thing as escape-proof. The fencing at the park is a boundary, not a force-field. If so inclined,a terrier can dig a dog sized hole in minutes and an average sized dog can scale an 8 foot fence in seconds. If you have a dog who thinks escaping and leading you on a merry chase is his idea of fun, then you aren’t ready for a dog park. You need to work on getting a reliable recall and/or down command prior to turning your dog off-leash in a dog park.
Assume every other dog is less friendly than yours. Teach your dog to greet the other dogs politely. Allowing your dog to rush into a group and create chaos is not a good way to make friends, young dogs especially need to learn proper greeting behavior. We like to teach our dogs to down and settle prior to approaching a group. As they mature, most dogs will tone down their entrance into the park, but teaching young dogs to approach calmly is a very valuable skill.
If you have a male dog, please prevent him from marking the seating or the water stations. This is absolutely something male dogs can learn if you supervise them closely while they are becoming accustomed to the park. No one likes to sit on a bench and then discover it has just been “claimed”.
Waste bags and receptacles are provided, please make sure you clean up after your dog. Occassionally a poop will be “orhpaned”. If you spot one, please pick it up. Paying it forward is good for the entire dog park community.
Cleaning up after yourself is also a must. If you use one of the picnic areas or bring a water bottle, please dispose of garbage before you leave. If you see something left on the ground ask yourself, “Would I want my dog to pick this up?”
No bare feet, and flip flops are discouraged.
If you bring children with you, please supervise them at all times. Children should not run around, scream, wave sticks and toys or approach dogs that they don’t know.
Leave the treats and toys at home. Regardless of your dog’s reaction to toys and treats, other dogs may have issues with jealousy and guarding behavior. The potential for problems is just too high.
“Fetch” and “Chase” are NOT the best games for the dog park. If you would like to work on retrieval skills or play with a toy, move to one of the smaller training enclosures off the main field or use the retrieval enclosure. Many people feel that the main activity at the dog park is playing chase. While it may be fine for one or two dogs who know each other, when you introduce more dogs into the game it can rapidly become predatory. Also the likelihood of a person getting body slammed by a dog who is trying to escape the pack is not worth the risk. If a game of chase gets going and all the dogs involved seem to be willing participants then let them have a good run. We recommend interrupting the chase after a circle or two, since the extended chases have the better chance of escalating into a predatory chase. If the dog being chased indicates by a tucked tail or a wide eyed look of panic that he is NOT having fun, put a stop to the chase immediately. Another way to get your dog the exercise it needs would be to use the agility equipment, play in the digging mountain or swim in the creek. Click here to see one of many examples of an innocent game of chase with a sad ending.
Barking should be kept to a minimum. While it is understandable that dogs will bark when excited, if your dog is a habitual “recreational” barker then you should spend some time learning to re-direct your dog when he starts barking from excitement or frustration. A dog that continually barks while at the park will eventually start to aggravate the other dogs which can lead to the barking dog getting corrected by another dog. Additionally, we do need to remember that we have neighbors and while occasional barking is expected, nuisance barking needs to be curtailed as soon as possible.
Introduce yourself and your dog to other members. Once you are comfortable that your dog is settled, it’s time to make friends. The WolfBrook membership is a friendly and helpful group. You and your dog will make friends and will soon be setting up get togethers on the facebook page.
Ask for help if you need it. If you need to help getting your dog to adjust or would just like to understand canine behavior a bit better, ask the WolfBrook staff or any of the members will help you out.