Here in Southern California, we have many opportunities available to us to socialize our dogs with other dogs. The most obvious, of course, being dog parks. There are many dog parks in Orange County, there’s even an app for iPhone with them listed. My favorites include Central Bark in Irvine, and the Laguna Beach Dog Park. Huntington Beach even has a beach set aside specifically for dogs. Aggravated by the irresponsible owners who frequent these locations, I would like to share a few tips to readers who enjoy taking their dogs to dog-friendly park locations, or are interested in starting to.
- A tired dog is a happy dog. The dog park is a place for dogs to socialize and play. It’s the icing on the cake — or at least it’s supposed to be. This is not the place for dogs to burn off steam they’ve been accumulating all day, all week, and especially not longer than that! Using the dog park to do the work a rigorous daily walk, rollerblade session, or bike ride should be doing increases the probability of a fight. This is true, regardless of how friendly your dog is or how friendly other dogs are.
- Do not bring treats, human or canine, whether the park allows it or not. This may instantly cause any dog to become possessive of you or worse.
- Supervise your dog. I’m shocked how many owners bring their dog to the park, allow them to run free, and sit on a bench reading the newspaper or talking on their cell phone. The park is a place for your dog to socialize with other dogs, which requires constant supervision; it’s also a place for you to be active with your dog, and enhance your bond with them.
- Do not bring babies in a stroller, toddlers, very small children, or children afraid of dogs unless you are capable of being in absolute control of your space and that of your child. This is not only detrimental to the enjoyment of the dogs as many are intimidated by the presence of children, but it is also much too risky for young, inexperienced children. Dogs play, and sometimes they play hard. At a dog park, it is their space to do so, and I have seen far too many children knocked down, scraped, bruised, and heading home crying because of crazed dogs mid-play.
- When you arrive at a dog park, do not immediately let your dog off-leash. If there is an entryway area before the actual open space of the park, wait for your dog to be calm before unhooking the leash and releasing the dog. This helps avoid overexcitement and a potential fight when dogs already present take umbridge with a newcomer coming in like a wild bandit.
- Please pick up after your dog. When I lived in Michigan, the park we visited there had this rule, “If you see poop, clean it up. Even if it’s not your dog’s poop, you’ve probably missed one that your dog made. Let’s all keep the park clean.” If anyone adopts this teamwork attitude, everyone benefits.
- If you have unaltered dogs, do not bring them when they are in heat. Even fixed dogs can sense when an unaltered dog is “in the mood.” This can cause everyone go into a mating mode, instigating more territorial behavior that could lead to a fight.
- Do not bring more dogs than you can control. The Irvine park’s rule is a maximum of 3 dogs per person, which I think works fairly well. We ran into problems this spring when one older gentleman brought his 6 unaltered labrador retrievers of varying ages to the park by himself.
- If you use a choke chain or prong collar, please remove it once in the park for your dog’s health and safety.