Springtime in Colorado brings many dog-owners and their four-legged friends out to the dog park. But is your dog ready to romp around freely at the dog park? For the safety of your dog and others, we highly recommend that your dog has mastered these four basic commands first: sit, heel, come, and leave it.
Does your dog excitedly pull towards the dog park gate, eager to rush through the doors the second they open? Just like at home, practice door manners when you enter the enclosed park. As you approach the gate, ask for “sit”, open the door, walk through it, then call your dog to allow him to enter and come to you. It sets the tone that your dog must be calm before entering and is expected to listen to you in this environment full of distractions.
Certainly, let your dog romp around freely and sniff, but use “heel” to keep you off-leash canine next to you while walking through a crowded area.
You can also challenge your dog by walking in zig-zag, alternate by slow walk and a light jog. Sisters Sansa and Scout are showing off how it’s done:
This is one of the most important commands. A reliable recall will keep your dog safe in any situation. Always be observant of your dog’s behavior and that of those around him. Use “come” to call your pooch back if he gets overly excited playing with another dog or exhibits signs of fear or aggression. Depending on the situation, it may be time to leave the park on leash.
You may also encounter different wild animals at the park. A quick “come” can prevent a too-close encounter with a snake. Or use it to put an end to a sudden squirrel chase.
Does your dog like to play with balls or Frisbees? Make sure he is not resource-guarding his toys but can share nicely with other ball-loving pups that want to join in on the fun. If a toy leads to conflict, use “leave it” to safely pick it up or to move along away from the situation. Never let your dog steal other’s toys as it can lead to fights.
“Place” – for added fun…
Take the opportunity to practice “place” amongst all the distractions at the park. You can use almost anything: a bench, table, boulder, trash bin, log, or anything your dog can safely put their body weight on. The other dog-owners will be impressed by your dog’s skills.
Of course, there is also a practical use for “place”. Use it for directing your dog back into the car at the end of the outing. Here are Lucy and Bodhi showing off their “place” skills at Fox Run:
Is Your Dog Ready?
If you are uncertain about your dog’s responsiveness, practice these commands first at home. Then, go to a fenced-in area like a tennis course to practice before attempting a trip to the dog park.
If you struggle with your dog’s obedience and need additional training, consider our basic obedience course. Most of our clients complete the course in four weeks and can safely be on their way to explore their local off-leash dog park. Contact us for details!
Dog Parks in Denver and Colorado Springs
Don’t have a favorite dog park yet? Want to try out a new one? Check out the resources we have listed on our Denver and Colorado Springs pages for inspiration on where to take your dog for a playtime.