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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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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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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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?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Luna
Labradoodle
2 Years
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Question
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Luna
Labradoodle
2 Years

so every time we go to the dog park our dog Luna get super excited and starts barking and whining until we get there. When we are there she barks at other dogs on the other side and if someone with or without a dog she'll run to the end of the fence or where someone is and barks till they are gone. so what can we do to help her understand that no one is a threat.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
666 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emilia, Right now she is getting highly aroused - starting when you leave to go to the dog park and continuing while there. Her overall attitude and arousal level needs to be addressed. I suggest taking her to the area right OUTSIDE the dog park (not going in to the fenced park) and practicing the heeling exercises from the videos linked below. You want to work on her overall respect for you, impulse control, and attitude/arousal while in that environment without giving her the thing that is causing the arousal - which is the lack of structure and boundaries combined with highly exciting/arousing interactions with the other dogs. Her focus needs to become more on you and less on the other dogs while there. (Don't take her into the dog park at any point on leash because that can lead to a fight - practice outside the park where she can see the other dogs until she can focus on you and be calm in that environment - expect this to take lots of trips to the park to practice. Plan on doing this instead of visiting the dog park to play for a while - the structured, focused activity will wear her out also). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcwvUOf5oOg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo As far as the car ride, changing what happens while at the park for a while - training vs rough play, will help some with her overall attitude but also work on her being calm and respectful leading up to the park. When you leash her up, require her to obey a few commands (like Sit, Down, Stand, Sit) first to bring her focus in and energy down. When you exit through the door, practice the thresholds protocol from the video linked below. While riding in the car, have someone work on Down with her while in the car - she should not be walking around the car, sticking her face out the window, or looking around out the windows - Down is safer, calmer, and more respectful. That position and less visuals will help her stay calmer. You can practice Down stay when the car is stationary ahead of time also. Practice a Down stay in the car if you have another person who can do that while you drive (the driver shouldn't be worrying about anything but driving). If you don't have another person or even if you do, you can also purchase a dog car harness and connect it so that pup has to ride in the down or seated position calmly. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lily
Pit bull
8 Months
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Question
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Lily
Pit bull
8 Months

My dog can be sassy at times, but a very good listener. We have trained her to come and to watch us to get her attention. When we go to the dog park, she does great until we start drinking water. When another dog comes around her water, she doesn't like to share and gets aggressive. She's not aggressive until that point. Is there anything I can do about this? I would hate to not bring her there anymore or to not let her drink water. Any suggestions?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
666 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, know that a dog park is not a good place to actively train. You need a controlled environment in order for things to be safe. The dog park is where your training will be put to the test later. Either take a break from the dog park while working on this in a more controlled environment (what I recommend), or in the very least, take pup outside the dog park regularly and give her water you brought in the parking lot, then return to the park again to avoid the water bowl as much as possible right now. As far as training goes, you will need to desensitize her to other animals being around while she is drinking. What she is doing is a form of resource guarding. With her on a back tie leash so that she can't reach another dog, have another well behave dog walk past her while she is drinking - on leash. Keep the distance far enough away that she can remain relaxed while the dog passes by. Reward her every time her body language stays calm and she ignores the other dog as it passes. Practice at the further distance until she begins to enjoy the other dog passing - in anticipation of a reward, such as a treat. As the association with the other dog becomes more pleasant, very gradually have the dog pass by at a closer and closer distance, decreasing the distance between the dogs only one foot at a time. Do not decrease the distance again until she can not only remain relaxed but also looks forward to the dog passing in anticipation of receiving a reward when they do. Practice this until the other dog can pass by closely finally and she is happy about it. Always keep safety measures like a back tie leash in place to keep both dogs safe. When she can tolerate that initial dog, practice this with a number of other dogs - such as friend's well behaved dogs or through a local training group, with the trainer's dogs or other well behaved dogs there. Next, work on teaching her an Out command - which means leave the area. Practice that command until she can reliably do it around distractions. Out: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Work on desensitizing her to other dogs being around - since inevitably that will be tested around other dogs at some point. Use out to remove her from situations where other dogs are crowding around the bowl and you are just asking for trouble, AND still be intentional about taking breaks from the park to give her her own water outside of the dog park to prevent the issue from reoccurring after she is desensitized, or from getting worse in general. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rey
pitbull
2 Years
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Question
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Rey
pitbull
2 Years

Hi! when my dog was a puppy he had fun running at the dog park but now everytime we go he starts to growl at every dog that gets near him or me. he likes to run around but he doesnt like when dogs approach him. If a dog gets close to me he barks and growls at him to get away. How can I get him to be nicer to other dogs? and less protective of me?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, good for you for working on socializing Rey at the dog park. I would continue this in a controlled setting. Enroll Rey in obedience classes right away - I think this will help nip the aggression in the bud before it gets out of hand. Teaching Rey that he has to obey you above all (and he'll listen because he'll look to you for leadership) is essential. The instructor can also give you pointers on how to teach him to behave.Take a look at the Introduction Walks Method here: https://wagwalking.com/training/get-along-with-other-dogs. Meet up with friends that have dogs and take the steps shown here to help Rey feel less threatened. You can also look for a walking group in your area that works with dogs that show aggression. If Rey continues to be overly protective after a training course, you may have to call in a trainer to work with Rey at home so that you have the knowledge of why he acts this way and what to do. All the best to you and Rey!

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