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.
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.
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:
A belt bag for the treats, so a reward is always close to hand
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".