Dog Park Do’s and Don’ts

Dog parks can be a fabulous place for you to exercise your dog and for your dog to socialize, but they can also be a scary place for a fearful dog, or an unsafe place if there are owners who bring dogs who really should not be there. One negative experience with a dog can forever scar your dog and create both fear and aggression (the best defense is a good offense). Dog’s may also learn bullying play styles that can lead to other problems.

I have put together a bit of information for you so that you and your dog can have plenty of pleasant dog park experiences and avoid any potentially negative experiences.

Do: Learn how to read dog body language and learn what is appropriate vs. inappropriate play. Learning to read your dogs social signals is very important for so many reasons, but really is invaluable when it comes to interactions with other dogs at the dog park. The more educated you are, the better you can keep your dog safe. See additional videos & other resources at the end of this post.

Don’t: Try to bring your dog to the dog park to work on socialization issues. Work with a trainer or behaviorist in a controlled environment with well known dogs in order to address any fearful, reactive or aggressive behavior.

Do: Determine whether or not your dog is a good fit for a dog park. Not every dog is a good fit for a dog park, and that’s ok. Fearful or shy dogs may not be a good fit for a dog park during peak hours when there are a lot of dogs there. Young puppies are also not a good fit for dog parks. Not only should your puppy be fully vaccinated before going to a dog park, but they should also be confident enough to stick up for themselves (typically 5-6 mo. or older). If you puppy rolls over and squeals easily during interactions with other dogs, they may not be ready for the dog park.

Don’t: Listen to other attendees in the park who may not understand their or your dog’s needs or understand canine play and body language. Instead, educate yourself from dog professionals and be sure to stand up for your dogs emotional and physical well being. He shouldn’t have to put up with a rude dog just because “He’s just playing.”

Do: Teach your dog to come when called reliably. It is vital that you can call your dog out of play that may be inappropriate. Also, if a fight breaks out, you want to be able to call your dog away so they don’t become involved.

Don’t: Believe that dogs can “work it out” if you just let them do so. If your dog is growling, snarling or air snapping at another dog and that other dog is not listening, protect your pooch and get them out of there before they feel the need to take things further. Young puppies often do not listen to reprimands well. If the other dog respects the warning, that is great, but don’t allow it to go any further.

Do: Check out the entrance before entering to make sure there aren’t dogs congregating there. It can be very stressful for a single dog to come into a pack of dogs right as they enter. Some dogs may also become territorial of the park which can cause fights at the gate.

Don’t: Congregate with other dog owners and chat. Many fights happen when there are large groups of dogs and humans just standing around due to the fact that they don’t have enough personal space and owners are often not paying enough attention to their dogs.

Do: Keep moving. Even if you go to a small park (bigger is better), continue walking the perimeter and encourage your dog to follow you. You may stop for short play sessions with other dogs, but your best bet is to keep moving to avoid altercations.

Do: Remove your dog if it is bullying others or if it appears afraid.

Don’t: Force your pup to play with a dog he doesn’t naturally want to play with. Size is less important than play style, but it’s not safe to bring a very small dog (under 10lbs) into a park with unknown large dogs. Here is a good example of dogs of different sizes playing appropriately.

Do: Leave special toys at home to avoid resource guarding. Even if your dog doesn’t guard the toy, another dog might guard your dogs toy from him/her.

Don’t: Let all the dogs in the park know that you have treats. If you are working on training, only feed treats when no other dogs are near you, bring non smelly treats and keep them in a high pocket. Also, keep your distance from large groups of dogs.

Do: Encourage your dog to walk away from a dog who may be growling, snarling or snapping at him. These are communication signals that your dog should learn to prevent by not bothering dogs who give more subtle cues such as freezing & staring.

Don’t: Assume that a dog is aggressive when he is only trying to communicate it’s discomfort. Growling, snarling and snapping are a dogs way of saying “Please go away!.” That dog has a right to have space and not have to put up with puppy antics or rowdy play.

Overall, the most important aspect is to educate yourself so that you know what to look for when you are trying to spot problems in play. This is the best way to keep your dog safe! For more information, refer to the posts below and check out some of the Youtube videos below.

Additional Resources:

  • Language of Dogs (DVD) – Sarah Kalnajs
  • Body Language of Canine Play (DVD) – Terry Ryan
  • Dog Play (Book) – Patricia McConnell
  • Canine Body Language (Book) – Brenda Aloff

These books and DVD’s can be found on either or

Some good examples of good dog play:


Need help reforming your dogs dog park behavior? Click here to tell us about how we can help you.


Our Board & Train Facility (aka our home)

Here is a look behind the scenes at our home & facility for our Board & Train program. All dogs in our program get to train, sleep, eat and play in our home as if they were one of our own dogs. You won’t find dogs in kennel runs all alone here. Instead our program dogs become a part of our family for their stay here and receive access to play with our dogs, lots of love from us and are subject to our house rules too (additional learning for many)! We have a formal training space in our pole barn, but spend much of our time working in our home and outside on our property for realistic training environments (not to mention going on field trips).

Update on Guy The Leader Dog

Back in May I wrote a post about a black lab puppy named Guy that I was doing one on one training with. He was preparing to be a Leader Dog for the Blind. Guy recently went back to Michigan to be evaluated and I have been told that he did extremely well on his intake scoring and has been in training for the last three weeks. I look forward to following his progress and hopefully he will be assigned to a blind companion this summer.

What’s even more exciting is that Guy’s raisers now have another puppy named Phoebe (pictured)! I happened to see Pheobe playing at daycare while I was doing training with Sweet Lucy, a hound mix puppy with the sweetest demeanor you can find. Phoebe is next in line for training and I am looking forward to working with her! PS. She is even more adorable than the picture! 🙂

It’s a New Year!

It’s a New Year and probably time for some new years training resolutions for your dog! This January I will be holding workshops for specific problem behaviors like jumping up on people, pulling on leash, and probably coming when called too at Pampered Pooch Playground. The first Jumping Workshop is already full so be sure to book your spot.

Jumping Workshop – Tuesday, January 25th from 7:00 – 8:30pm – Register Online

Leash Walking Workshop – Tuesday, January 18th from 7:00-8:00pm – Register Online

Photo Link

Support Your Local Rescues This Holiday Season

Tis the season of giving. This holiday season, don’t forget about your local animal rescue groups that need your help. Even if you are unable to support them financially they are always looking for volunteers. Below are just a few of the local rescues that you can support! Happy Holidays!

Pet Haven Inc. of Minnesota – Pampered Pooch Playground Fosters Pet Haven Dogs

Homeward Bound Rescue – I fostered Betty through Homeward Bound

Pleading Paws Pet Rescue – Where I got my dog Sage

Whisker Rescue – Where I got my cat Sugar Pie

Border Collie Rescue of MN

Aussie Rescue of MN

MN Boxer Rescue

The Animal Humane Society – My dad’s dog Buck came from Buffalo AHS

Prepare your Dog for the Holidays!

The holidays are a stressful time, for humans and their pets. There are potentially hazardous food and plants and new things that aren’t always around at other times of year, including family and friends visiting for the holidays. To prepare your dog for a successful holiday there are a few great commands you can practice now in order to keep fido out of trouble when people arrive.

Note: Be sure to work hard on these commands prior to the big day. Once learned, the behaviors need to be practiced around distractions similar to those they will be experiencing during your holiday party (excited people). It can be a challenge, but it is possible! 🙂

Go to your bed – This is one of my favorite commands. It sends your dog to a place (typically a bed or blanket) where he or she should stay until released. Its usually a good idea to give your dog something to do while staying there (stuffed kong or bone – granted they do not guard their resources) so that moving from that spot is a little less tempting. You will have to practice this often and with company around prior to the big day, but with some consistency you will get there.

Leave it – This is a command every dog should know and will help your dog practice impulse control and stay out of trouble! The key to teaching this command is to reward your dog for leaving things alone.

Out – The out command can be taught to keep your dog out of specific rooms, typically the kitchen or dining area during the holidays. It is important that you always reinforce the out command once you have given the command. Be sure that you give your dog a release, so they know when they can once again enter that particular area.

Polite Greetings – Some dogs find practicing polite greetings very difficult. These are usually the most friendly and happy of dogs that just don’t know how to control their enthusiasm. Polite greetings must be practiced on a regular basis. Typically teaching a dog to sit for all attention is a good start as well as being sure to not allow them to practice jumping up (leash your dog for greetings).

It’s Turkey Time!

Everyone looks forward to a big meal on Thanksgiving day, but there are some things you need to be cautious of with your pooch! Who can resist those declicous aromas of turkey, gravy and pumpkin pie wafting through the house all day long? It’s OK to indulge your pooch with a few turkey day treats, but read this list first to make sure you don’t feed him something that could land you at the emergency vet clinic this holiday.
Here’s a list of some of the biggest hazards to pets on Thanksgiving:
  • Rich, fatty foods (turkey skins, gravy, etc,) can contribute to pancreatitis. This inflammation of the digestive gland is painful and can be serious–requiring emergency veterinary assistance.
  • Cooked bones can splinter and cause tears or obstruction in a pet’s digestive tract.
  • Don’t feed your dog raw or undercooked meat, poultry or eggs. Just like humans, they are susceptible to bacteria-causing food poisoning.
  • Baking strings, if ingested, can create trouble if ingested by your pet.
  • Onions in holiday stuffing can lead to canine anemia if consumed by your dog.
  • Grapes and raisin toxins can cause kidney failure in pets.
  • Ingesting chocolate can kill your pet.
  • Caffeine and alcohol are also toxic for pets.
  • Keep all goodies out of reach!


To keep your pets busy and entertained during dinner time, treat them to a frozen kong filled with some of their favorite treats, peanut butter, yogurt or pumpkin. A frozen kong will keep them busy while you and your guests enjoy your feast!

Happy Thanksgiving from Lucky Paws!