Dog Park Experience
In our puppy preschool, we remind our puppy guardians that it is too young for puppies to be exercising in a dog park. Often, humans get really fixated on the notion that dogs need exercise no matter what, which is too much of a generalisation. A puppy needs to play and needs a small area to play in and should not be let off loose in a dog park. They will run too much, risk mixing with dogs who are potentially not vaccinated at an age when they do not have the immunity to cope, and also by overexercising, damage tendons and joints permanently, impacting on physical health as a grown up.
On the positive side, there is still plenty that can be done around a dog park for your puppy’s socialisation rather than thinking about exercise. The truth is that everything in a puppy’s life should be catering to socialisation – building lots of short and safe and managed experiences of the real world that will build a foundation for later life.
When it comes to a dog park, we take our puppy to the entrance, and let them watch, from a safe distance, the other dogs playing, dogs and guardians walking them in and out through the entrance gate. We do not let them sniff or lick the ground, but we do sit calmly with them, treating them regularly to build a positive association with being on the lead and harness outside of the dog park. The important thing we are doing is building a foundation for going into the dog park later.
By the time they are old enough to go off lead in a dog park they will already know how the entrance works, what the normal smells are, how valuable the gate is for going in and out, and where our vehicle is parked. Just like with humans, having key points of reference allow dogs to navigate through each part of their world with confidence – so we support our puppies in building these into another aspect of their future life.