By: Carrie Boyko, All Things Dog blog

If your Fido chomping at the bit to make friends and get in a good romp? The dog park is a perfect place to do this with boundaries to assure you won’t lose him. The other advantage is the ready supply of same-species playmates for Fido to practice his social skills with. That’s what I’m here to talk about today.

Entering a dog park on leash is necessary, and best done when your dog has had some experience with this new appendage attached to you. Leash training should begin as soon as you bring him home, be he young or old. Some of Fido’s would-be friends may not be as sociable as you would like, when walked on leash. Leash-borne excitement, or even aggression, is not uncommon. Thankfully, most dogs’ demeanors change immediately upon being removed from the leash, once inside the park.

Once inside and off his lead, encourage your dog to explore the smells and sights of the park. Don’t be concerned if he is more interested in the park than his fellow canines. Exploring his new environment may take precedence until he feels he can divert his attention to a new thrill—greeting and playing with his own kind, as well as other owners in the park.

Normal behavior among dogs in a large group can have a wide range of acceptability. Dogs need not play or mingle with the pack. It is important, however, that they allow a greeting in the form of a sniff, when approached by another dog. This ‘friendly hello’ is much like a handshake. Proper manners require it to be received nicely.

As your pup explores the park and greets visitors, watch for changes in his body language. Avoid toys, sticks, food, balls and Frisbees that may belong to others, as possessiveness can sometimes begin a scuffle. Often these problems can happen without warning, so prevention is the best approach.

As your dog greets and allows greetings with good manners, praise him for his good behavior. Help him to understand when he is doing something that pleases you, as he will often try to repeat this behavior. This pattern will put you and Fido on the right path to social success.

For more detail on this topic, see Hanging with the Ruff Crowd at All Things Dog Blog. Watch for my next article on Dog Park Safety for Children.

Carrie Boyko is the face behind All Things Dog Blog, where her pack of spirited dogs teaches her every day how to be a better leader.

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