Dog Park Watchouts: When To Walk Away

People ask us all the time what we think about dog parks.  The response is tricky, because we love that these parks offer great areas for dogs to run and get exercise, but there are risks to be aware of if you choose to bring your dog(s) to a dog park.

Here are 4 things to walk away from if you see them happening at a dog park:

  • While it sounds scary to some people, growling while playing can be perfectly normal for dogs. It’s their way of talking and getting the other dog to engage with them. However, when play turns to aggression the hair will stand up on a dog’s neck and the dog will start to lift it’s lip to show it’s teeth.  If a dog starts to show these signs towards your dog, it’s time to leave.
  • Watching your dog run and play with another dog can fill your heart with joy, but when a dog continues to chase after your dog once your dog stops running and won’t leave them alone, it’s a sign that the other dog is not reading your dog’s body language and cues. It’s better to move on from a situation where one dog is saying “I’m done” and the other just isn’t getting it. Things can escalate quickly in a situation like that, and you want playtime to be fun; not push your dog’s patience to the limit.
  • If you see someone training their dog, it’s best to keep your distance. They may be looking for distractions while their dog is training and invite you to walk closer, but don’t. You don’t know what training skill they are working on, and it could be something like dog aggression that puts you and your dog in an unsafe situation.
  • It’s at the discretion of each family whether they have kids at the dog park, but in general, it’s best to keep your dog away from other people’s kids in this situation. Your dog may be generally very friendly with kids, but when dogs are at a dog park they are stimulated by everything going on and may forget their manners. Plus, not everyone has taught their kids the proper way to interact with new dogs and they could be knocked over or injured. It’s just best to steer clear of areas with kids when your dog is running freely.

So, while we don’t generally recommend dog parks as the best way to socialize or exercise your dog, if you do choose to go to a dog park please keep these tips in mind and try to go at off-peak hours.  Always stay close and pay attention to what your dog is doing. After all, you are there to have fun together anyway, right?!

For other options, check out your county and Wisconsin state parks (scroll down for a list of pet-friendly parks) and take your dog for a hike!  While leashes are required, you and your dog will have fun exploring together.  If you find yourself short on time to socialize and exercise your dog, check out our dog day care options.

Do you take your dog to county or state parks? Let us know which hiking trails you love to take your dog to and we’ll share a list of local favorites!

4 Classic Kids Games To Play With Your Dog

Don’t have time to practice training your dog? We know what a significant difference consistent practice makes in dog training, so here are a few quick, fun games to play with your dog to help playtime double as “work” time!

These simple games reinforce basic dog training and obedience skills. When you make training fun, your dog will be eager to work with you and awaiting your next direction. Even if your dog isn’t a pro the first time, remember this is all about the practice. Dogs need both mental and physical exercise to stay happy.

Pet U Mastiff with basketball1. Doggy basketball (what you need: mini basketball or tennis ball, a box)
If your dog loves tennis balls, this one is for you! Get a tennis ball and an empty box. Hold the tennis ball over the box and say “drop”, then drop the ball in the box. Repeat this a few times while your dog is watching, then pass the ball to your dog. Call your dog over to the box with the ball in its mouth and say “drop!”. This can take a few repetitions. If your dog drops on command but not in the box, reward him or her with excited praise. You can use a treat to attract your dog to hold the ball right over the box, and then say “drop” again. When your dog drops the ball in the box successfully, you can reward with a treat. Repeat a few more times to reinforce that dropping the ball in the box is the goal.

2. Simon Says (what you need: just you and your dog)
Put a twist on a classic game, and play Simon Says with your dog! As long as your dog knows at least a few basic commands like sit, stay, shake and down it should work. First, warm up by having your dog do each of the commands he or she knows one time and treat for completing the set. Then start the game, mixing up the order of commands and treating after a few correct answers in a row. This fun game keeps your dog on its toes and wondering what you will do next – and when he or she will get another treat!

3. Hide and seek (what you need: a favorite toy or a few treats)
Some dogs love to use their noses to search out objects, so this is a great game to engage this instinct. Find a toy or treat your dog loves, and show it to your dog. Have your dog sit and stay. Then, go hide the object (or yourself!) in another room. When your dog finds the object/you, celebrate by happily celebrating the success with praise, petting and/or treats. You can play this game inside or outside. You should start with an easier hiding spot just to show your dog what the game is all about, but then you can make it increasingly harder to find.

4. Red Light, Green Light (what you need: an open space, treats)
Another backyard favorite, and a great way to reinforce your dog’s “stay” and “come” commands. Everyone who is playing should spread out. You stand at the end of the area and when everyone is paying attention you say “come” and “stay” instead of “red light” and “green light”. Treat your dog after every command he or she gets right. If your dog doesn’t get it right, just stay positive and shorten the distance you ask them to go to come to you or the time you ask them to stay until they catch on that good things happen when they follow your directions. It should take about 3-5 rounds of come/stay to get to you. Be sure to reward your dog with treats and praise at the end!

We’d love to hear which games to play with your dog worked for you, or if any totally flopped. Contact us with your story and pictures and your pup could be featured in a future blog!

Training Tip: Too many treats can make your dog sick, so it’s a good idea to spread out a few short training sessions throughout the day.