Downeast Dog News

Going to the Dog Park – Is It a Good Idea for You and Your Dog?

By Don Hanson, ACCBC, BFRAP, CDBC, CPDT-KA | Apr 01, 2019

A trip to the dog park can be a joyous excursion for many dogs, but that is not always the case. A successful visit to a dog park depends on four things: you, your dog, the dog park, and the culture of the dog park.

Things You Need Before You Visit the Dog Park – A relationship with your dog built upon trust and acceptance. A dog that has been adequately and appropriately socialized and habituated to the world in which they live. Thorough knowledge of your dog’s likes and dislikes. A commitment that you will immediately leave the dog park if your dog exhibits fearful or aggressive behavior towards any dog or person. A basic understanding of canine behavior, body language, and emotions which you have used to successfully train your dog using pain-free, force-free, and fear-free methods. An ability to quickly and successfully call your dog away from another dog during play if it becomes necessary. An understanding that your role at the dog park is to monitor your dog for appropriate interactions and to intervene as necessary. Acceptance of full responsibility for you and your dog’s actions at the dog park.

Things Your Dog Needs Before You Visit the Dog Park – A relationship with you built upon trust and acceptance. A non-reactive and non-fearful temperament. A genuine pleasure in interacting with almost all dogs. An ability to play appropriately with other dogs so that all participants are having fun. A thorough examination by your veterinarian including all recommended vaccinations and neutering. Regular checks by you to verify they are free of parasites such as fleas, ticks, and worms. Training to a level where they respond reliably to your cues for behaviors such as sit, come, and leave it.

Things to Verify About A Dog Park Before You Visit – There are posted rules and a mechanism for reporting violators. Minimally, rules should ban shock, choke, and prong collars, food, treats, toys, smoking and vaping, alcoholic beverages, and distractions such as mobile phones. A double-gated entrance. Fencing of an adequate height in good repair. Sufficient acreage for the number of dogs and people present. A separate area for smaller dogs. All necessary supplies to safely dispose of dog feces. Regular maintenance of vegetation within the park and on both sides of the fencing to deter ticks and other parasites.

Dog Park Culture- Things to Verify About Other Visitors to the Dog Park – Everyone is following the posted rules. All present are actively supervising their dogs and monitoring all dog to dog interactions. That means socialization between people is a secondary priority, and no one is enraptured or distracted by a mobile phone. Ideally, there is one adult person for every dog. No dog is bullying, intimidating, or reactive towards any dog or person at the dog park. No person is intimidating people or dogs.

If you follow the four guidelines I have listed above, you and your dog have a high probability of having a great time at the dog park. However, if anything about a visit to the dog park becomes stressful, leave immediately. Sadly, while most dogs have a great time at dog parks, every year some dogs have a traumatizing experience during a visit. Dogs have even been killed at the dog park.

What if you want to take your dog to the dog park and either you, the dog, or perhaps neither of you is ready? That depends on what you need to do to get ready. If you have a dog that you do not know well yet, take the time to get to know him. If your dog is not well trained or you do not know much about canine behavior, training, or body language, seek out the services of a professional, accredited dog trainer that is committed to pain-free, force-free, and fear-free training. [ FMI - How to Choose a Dog Trainer – ]

If you have a dog that is a bully or fearful or reactive and aggressive in any way, seek help from a credentialed Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. [ FMI - Help! My Dog is Aggressive, Reactive, Fearful, Anxious, etc. – What do I do? – ]

If you would like to learn more about how to prepare yourself and your dog for the dog park and what to look for at the dog park, I invite you to my presentation: Dog Parks – Dog Behavior & Body Language. This seminar is being offered twice in May: at the P.A.W.S. Animal Adoption Center in Camden, ME on Saturday, May 11th at 10 AM and at Green Acres Kennel Shop in Bangor, ME on Sunday, May 19th at 3 PM.

You can get more details on the seminar, including how to register, at – ]


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, ME where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC) and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). Don is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG) and is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and at Don’s blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.