How to Train Your Dog to Behave at the Dog Park

Medium
3-14 Days
General

Introduction

Dog parks are a place for your dog to have fun and play with other four-leggers. But it doesn't always work out that way. For example, bigger dogs can be too rough with smaller dogs, favorite balls get snatched, gangs of dogs pick on loners...the list goes on. Here's the rub. It doesn't have to be that way.

If every dog owner took responsibility for their own dog's actions then everyone could enjoy the park in peace. This includes the over friendly dog who jumps up to say 'Hello' but knocks a toddler or senior citizen over in the process. Remember, if your dog is out of control and injuries a third party, then you may be liable for their medical bills. And that's without the dog that starts a fight with another where both dogs need veterinary treatment, or the dog that runs off and exits the park straight into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

Enjoying the dog park only works when owners act responsibly and take charge of their dog. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean keeping the dog on the leash, because learning a few basic commands gives you the ability to recall the dog or divert their attention from trouble.

Defining Tasks

Basic park etiquette means your dog is under control even when off the leash and you can get their attention to interrupt undesirable behavior. This means practicing basic commands at home until the dog readily responds and then expanding that training in the face of distractions.

If you are uncertain about your dog's ability to respond, then invest in a longline. This gives the dog a sense of freedom but should he not obey, you still have control. A longline is much better than an extending lead because the latter teaches the dog that he only has to pull to get more leash.

Your secret weapon when in the dog park is extra tasty treats. By all means, train your dog with rewards at home, but step up the ante when in public. When the dog realizes you have specially tasty sausages it will peak his interest and make him that bit more likely to respond in the face of distractions.

A word of caution, though. If your dog does misbehave in the park, don't punish him when he eventually does return. You only want him to link good things with returning to your side, and if he believes a recall ends in a smack, it will make him less willing to obey next time.

Getting Started

Start training in a place with few distractions such as your yard. As the dog gets into the swing of things, practice training at different times and in different places. You can start training with a puppy from 8 weeks onwards, just don't expect too much and always make things fun.

Take any opportunity to train the dog. This means taking advantage of those time pup happens to amble toward you. By slapping your thigh and saying "Come" in an excited voice, it's a super-easy way to reinforce what you're trying to teach.

You will need:

  • Tasty treats

  • A belt bag for the treats, so a reward is always close to hand

  • A longline

  • A friend

  • Patience

Good behavior at the dog park is a matter of being able to control the dog by teaching simple commands such as "Come", "Look", and "Down".

The Strong Recall Method

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Effective
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Strong Recall method for Behave at the Dog Park
Step
1
Start with play
This first step is especially useful for puppies, who instinctively follow an owner 'mother hen' fashion. With the puppy a few feet away, as he turns to look at you, slap your thighs to get his attention and back away from him. The puppy should then step towards you, at which point say "Come" in an excited voice. As he runs to your side, lavish him with praise. Oh, and train him using supper as a reward by shouting "Come" when you put his dinner down.
Step
2
Play recall tag
Enlist the help of a friend and each have treats to hand. Call the puppy's name and clap your hands excitedly, as he moves towards you say "Come" and reward him with a treat. Now you fall silent, and the friend calls the puppy, claps, and says "Come." Alternate who calls the dog, rewarding him each time he obeys.
Step
3
Recall from sit
In the yard, have the dog sit. Take a step or two away from him, make sure he stays sitting. Now make your 'Come' signal, and call the dog in an excited voice. Reward him when he arrives.
Step
4
Increase the distance
Move further and further away, increasing the distance between you. If he keeps breaking the sit before you call him, then begin the exercise slightly closer.
Step
5
Recall for real
Go live with your training in the dog park. Start with a recall from sit, so he gets the idea despite distractions. And don't forget to pack those extra tasty treats. If you can't rely on him at a distance, then make use of the longline until you are confident he'll respond.
Recommend training method?

The Focus on You Method

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Effective
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Focus on You method for Behave at the Dog Park
Step
1
Get his attention
Start in a low distraction environment, such as home. Hold a small treat between your finger and thumb. With the dog sitting, touch the treat to his nose to get his attention
Step
2
Travel the treat
With the still sitting, straighten yourself up to a standing position and slowly travel the treat in a straight line from the dog's nose to the bridge of your nose.
Step
3
"Look" at the treat
The dog is now staring intently at the treat which you are holding between your eyes. Say "Look", in a firm but excited voice. At first the dog will only concentrate for a second or two. Anticipate this and say "Good dog" while his attention is on you, and quickly reward him.
Step
4
Extend the time
Slowly extend the time you expect him to look and focus, before he gets the treat. Aim for 10 seconds, then one minute, then see how far you can take things.
Step
5
Look without a treat
Practice in different places with the treat. Once he is reliably looking at you on command, try phasing out the treat. Reward him every other "Look" and then every third "Look", so that he thinks he has to work extra hard for a reward. This keeps him focused and keen.
Recommend training method?

The Stop in His Tracks Method

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Effective
0 Votes
Stop in His Tracks method for Behave at the Dog Park
Step
1
Lure the dog down
Start by teaching a basic "Down" stay. With the dog sitting, use a treat to lure his nose to the ground. Position the treat in such a way he has to drop down to get it. Say "Down".
Step
2
Extend the down time
With the dog down, slowly extend the amount of time he's expected to lie down before he gets a reward. It may help to stroke or soothe him, to keep him relaxed and stop him springing back up.
Step
3
Extend the distance
With the dog regularly staying down for a minute or more, try standing up. As he learns to stay down until released, step away from him. Gradually extend the physical distance between you with the dog still down.
Step
4
Teach "down" on the move
Now have the dog lie down from a stand, then from a slow walk, and then with you distant from the dog.
Step
5
Practice, practice, practice
Work on having the dog respond to "Down" as you are moving around the home. And take your lessons outdoors. If the dog struggles to obey amidst distractions, take things back to a stage where he does respond and go from there.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 10/06/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Obie
Mixed
11 Months
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Question
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Obie
Mixed
11 Months

Obie is a rescue that I adopted 3-4 months ago. He is great to train at home and loves to work for treats (he can pick up "tricks" within seconds), but when we get to the dog park he is gets super amped up and sometimes just stops listening. I take him to the dog park in the morning and evening for about 45 minutes a time always with treats that he loves. Most of the time he just has fun, but every now and then he insistently barks at dogs who aren't interested in playing and will sometimes hone in on dogs who are vulnerable/nervous which creates bad situations. I'm not sure of the best way to progress with him.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1005 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kiera, I would recruit some friends with friendly dogs to have your own training class in a fenced area where you can practice some obedience without the potential for a fight being as high as trying to train inside a dog park with lots of dogs around. I would teach Leave It, Out, Quiet, and Come, and using a long training leash I would practice around the doggie buddies once pup has learned what all of those commands mean. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Once pup is good at those commands around their buddies consistently, I would use those commands to help moderate pup's arousal level at the park, interrupting and giving a break (try to make that break fun and rewarding for pup so the interruptions aren't viewed as bad), whenever pup starts to get too aroused or is picking on another dog. Often young dogs need help learning self-control. The dog park is highly arousing and can be too much for some dogs. If you find pup still can't keep his arousal in check, I would pursue some other socialization options that are calmer instead. A canine sport that's more structured with obedience commands incorporated, dog walking or hiking groups with pup's on leash, club events and classes, obedience classes, and one on one play groups with friends' dogs who are more similar in play style as yours, are a few options. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Nyla
Pit bull
1 Year
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Question
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Nyla
Pit bull
1 Year

Nyla is very good a training in controlled environments, and mostly well behaved at the dog park. However, when another dog wants to be done playing, Nyla doesn't know how to read that signal and lay off while they rest. The result is that sometimes she continues to antagonize them until they snap and they need to be separated. How can we "break" her drive to play, and get her obedience to work when in a highly stimulated environment like a dog park OR to teach her to read signals from other dogs that they need a break from playing.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1005 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sam, In this situation you will need to intervene and call pup off the other dog using obedience you have taught. I recommend teaching an Out command and Come command. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Come: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-to-come-when-called/ Once pup has learned those commands, practice them often using a long training leash, 15'-30' long and a padded back clip harness. Gradually work up to more and more distracting locations. You can even practice pup's recall at places where the are other dogs that can't get to your dog, like regular parks or outside a dog park (don't go inside the dog park area though since having pup on leash in there isn't safe and could lead to fights). Once pup is really good at Come and Out on the long leash, recruit a friend and their friendly dog. Have the dogs play in a controlled, fenced area without other dogs around, while they are wearing a back lcip harness and drag leash. Periodically call the dogs away from each other when they are entangled wrestling. Have each other call their dog from different areas of the yard so the dogs go in different directions when they disengage. Use the drag leash to carefully and quickly reel pups in to each of you if they don't obey when you call. Once your dog gest to you (because they obeyed or because you reeled them in with the leash), have pup obey a couple commands like Sit or Down, and gives high value treats - this is why the dogs are being called to separate locations. You don't want competing for the same food while aroused from playing). After both dogs are focused on their people and calm from the obedience practice, allow the more timid of the two dogs to go first, tell them "Go Play" and releasing them. If they still want to play, let the second dog go also, telling the to "Go Play" as well. Practice this for 10-30 minutes a training session, often, until your dog will obey Out and Come consistently while in the middle of playing without having to be reeled in. While doing all of this, I would avoid going to the dog park where pup could ignore your command and that would undermined your training efforts. Once pup is very good at obeying while aroused, then you can use the new commands in real life to help pup manage their behavior at the park. Learn how to read the body language of other dogs if you do not already, so you can easily spot when the dogs are getting too aroused or one dog wants to stop and isn't being allowed to, and you can intervene before things get tense, moving your dog to another part of the park and letting them calm back down again, before playing with a new dog while that one rests. Be aware that some dogs need the play to end for the day when they get to that point because their ability to control themselves will decrease the more tired they get, even though they seem to be getting wound up instead of tires. For those dogs, it's best to end the play for that part of the day, and if you find they still need exercise, use some structured obedience practice to wear them out mentally too, which can also get their minds back into a calm state before going home. Do obedience practice outside of the dog park fence though, for safety reasons. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lemon
Mix
1 Year
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Lemon
Mix
1 Year

Hi,
I take Lemon to the dog park almost everyday. She loves going, and its now her favorite part of the day. She's overall good at the park, but there are a few things we need to work on. If someone pick up their dog to carry them, Lemon will jump on the person and the dog. She will do this continually until the other dog leaves or is let down. She also nips? at the dog while being carried. I try to stop her from doing this, but she will just run around.
Another thing is, if she sense a dog is maybe more submissive than her or shy, she will at first playfully pick on it. The she gets an ear fetish, and will try to bite/pull the dog's ear and chase it. I also try to stop her, but she continues to round around away from me.
She also finds a random ball at the park and starts to tear it up. She doesn't tear anything up at home. And then that ball becomes her possession, and will get defensive if another dog comes up to her.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1005 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jackie, I recommend recruiting some friends to practice training with you in a private fenced area where you all can control the setting and have pup's leashed part of the time to be able to enforce commands. Don't do this at the dog park since leashing a dog when others aren't can be dangerous. I recommend working on the following commands. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Leash method for jumping: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump I would use the Leave It and Out commands when pup is pestering another dog, bothering their ear, or fixating on a ball. Practice these scenarios with friends and their dogs. Also, practice the Leash method with a friend picking up their dog while yours is on leash so you can enforce pup stopping the behavior. These things need to be practiced often, and once pup understands what the commands mean well with just you guys, then they need to also be practiced a lot around other dogs like your friends' dogs in a private setting. While teaching these things pup needs to not be doing the unwanted behaviors elsewhere, which means taking a break from the dog park for a while while having your own training sessions instead. If you don't have others you can practice with, then I recommend hiring a training group that has access to other well mannered dogs, like the trainer's dogs and working with them on the behaviors around their dogs. If you don't have a private fenced area to practice in, and even if you do, you can purchase a 20-30 foot training leash (not a retractable leash, but long training leash) and keep part of it coiled up, giving pup just the length you need to practice various things. When pup is going to be further away from you on the long leash, have pup on a padded back clip harness instead of collar for neck safety. I would also put away balls you see lying around at the park if the owner of the ball isn't using it. Most dog parks ban toys in the park because they tend to lead to fights for many dogs who have ball obsessions. If your park has that rule, you can put the balls in a location where your dog won't bother them. I know that won't stop the issue entirely because many people do bring them in despite the rule, but between Leave It work and removing those you can, it should make monitoring that a bit easier. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Mambo
mixed boston terrier with schnoodle
5 Years
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Question
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Mambo
mixed boston terrier with schnoodle
5 Years

Hi! First off, thank you for existing :)
My dog is not castrated. I should begin with that. We used to go to the dog park every day. Sometimes he would play with other dogs, sometimes with the ball. He's good at sharing too. Sometimes, depending on the dog, he's more confrontative. He would growl and get stiff. I am sometimes able to call him to me and break the tension, but if the other dog keeps on following him, he could snap and try to dominate. I don't see this as dangerous from his side, I think it's dominance and not aggression (like if he wants to rip a piece of the dog off), it's like he wants them to back off, but then they don't so he snaps to tell them to leave him alone. The problem is that it's of course, not a happy moment, for me or the other human. Some people are ok with that, and it may happen that the dogs keep on playing after or not, they continue to hang on their side, but other people have been aggressive towards me or are really protective with their dogs when to me, I only see it as a rumble. It happens also that other dogs get confrontative with him when he enters the park and in that case, I step in and break the tension. If a dog comes at him, I don't get aggressive with their humans, I think these type of things are normal with dogs, but people got used to the fully castrated and forgot some normal dog interaction. (it's my opinion, of course, I can be wrong. Also, I am starting to think that if I live surrounded by these types of people I should compel...). Do you think I could control this behavior without castration?

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
251 Dog owners recommended

Hi! He looks like he is full of character! I love it. Yes, at this age, you can most definitely fix this without castration. He is old enough that this is more of a habitual behavior. In all of my time as a trainer I honestly haven't seen a whole lot of hard science based facts supporting the correlation of medical castration and correcting behavior issues. MANY castrated male dogs still have aggression issues. We are not removing their endocrine system that still supplies hormones. We are just removing the puppy making pieces! Many male dogs start to go through what I call the grumpy old man syndrome between 4 and 6 years of age. They are mid life and become like middle aged men! What you can do with him for the next month is to re-create positive associations ONLY. So with this, you can go to a park with treats. Sit within view of other dogs, but not have him directly interacting with other dogs, and give him treats and praise for calm, seated behavior. I know this may seem remedial, but it does wonders. Dogs typically see other dogs and just want to GO! They get amped up and go full speed ahead in their minds. So doing this will teach him indirectly to be a little more calm. Often we correct while they are in the midst of undesirable behavior and that can be chaotic (especially when other owners overreact) so it really just adds fuel to the fire. So if weather allows, try to do this about 2 days a week for the next month. After about 10 minutes of calm, you can let him into play. But only stay for a short time. You will want to leave on a good note every time you do this.

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Question
Bella
Mini aussie/Sheltie mix
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bella
Mini aussie/Sheltie mix
2 Years

My pup has gone completely backwards in her walking training so I have decided to start from the beginning by working in the house and slowly letting her outside for walk again. However, she is a very high energy dog and she gets a lot of her energy out at the dog park. Recently she has begun pulling very hard and barking from the moment we get to the dog park and i feel like this will delay my attempts in loose leash training. Any tips on how to get her the exercise she needs while making sure she remains calm on a leash would be helpful. I would also like to add that she frequently gets to go outside in my big backyard with my other dog and they play for awhile back there but she is only tired if we take her to the dog park ti run around.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1005 Dog owners recommended

Hello Faith, As an intelligent breed bred to work, I recommend incorporating mentally stimulating activities into her regular physical exercise. For example, check out the Turns method from the article linked below - practicing a lot of turns and speed changes into the heeling practice, which can also help with the heeling training. As well as incorporating a lot of Sit and Down- Stay's or Watch Me's into your heeling practice. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel If she doesn't know how to fetch, I recommend teaching that, but also incorporating training into it. Like having pup wait to be released before going after the ball, bringing it back to you, practicing Sit and Down, ect... https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-to-fetch/ Having regular training sessions where you also teach commands that challenge pup a bit mentally can be rewarding and tiring for smart dogs too. Teach commands pup already knows but work up to the next skill level, or teach new commands and tricks for thirty minutes each day, and have pup perform a command to earn things they want throughout the day also, like Shake before you pet them, Down before you toss a ball, Wait before you feed, ect... https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZzFRKsgVMhGTxffpzgTJlQ https://www.petful.com/behaviors/what-tricks-can-i-train-my-dog/ Other ideas are hiding treats for pup to find - like in your fenced yard as long as it's not been treated with pesticides, or training games like hide and seek, round robin, or giving pup jobs like picking up their toys and putting into a basket or bringing you objects. Come games: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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