7 Tips For Your Puppy’s Visits To The Local Dog Park

A Brief History of Dog Parks

The dog park craze started in 1979 with the opening of the first off-leash dog park called Ohlone Dog Park in Berkeley, California. It is recognized as one of the top ten dog parks in the country.

Since then, according to The Trust For Public Land, dog parks are leading the growth in the city parks in the United States. In 2015, the number of off-leash dog parks grew 6% …which is a 20% increase in the last 5 years.

According to Susyn Stecchi of DogParksUSA, the number of USA communities with dog parks increased to 36% between 2005 and 2010.

As someone who has helped with creating the Frostburg Dog Park and Cascade Park Dog Park, I would like to share some tips for your puppy’s visits to the local dog park in your area.

First, watch this video of the Cascade Park Dog Park area that is a fairly new off-leash dog park managed by volunteers and the city of New Castle, Pennsylvania.


7 Tips For Your Puppy’s Visits

Tip #1: Plan Your Visit To The Dog Park

It is best to make your first visit during off-hours…when most people are at work or during the early morning hours.  Evenings are normally quite busy so wait until your dog has plenty of experience through puppy socialization classes before allowing him to interact with many dogs at the same time. Your dog may never be able to handle the stress of a pack of dogs so keep this in mind.

Tip #2: Walk Around The Outside Perimeter

Your puppy may be very excited and want to go inside the fenced area to play with other dogs but it is wiser to walk around the outside perimeter of the dog park until your puppy calms down.  If he is pulling on the leash to get you there, turn around…continually, if necessary…until your puppy can calmly approach the entrance gate to the proper section of the dog park.  By being calm, the other dogs inside the park will behave better too when they greet your puppy.

Tip #3: Schedule Play Dates

Attending puppy socialization classes allows your puppy to make friends that are also properly socialized.  Stay in touch with these puppy owners and schedule playdates at the dog park.

The Frostburg Dog Park got off to a strong start after 8 years of educating the public and their dogs through AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy and Canine Good Citizen classes sponsored by the City of Frostburg and taught by me and my dog-loving friends in the Upper Potomac Valley Kennel Club. This is also how we were able to raise funds for the creation of the dog park.

Tip #4: Select the Appropriate Section At The Dog Park

The ideal small dog park like Frostburg Dog Park and Cascade Park Dog Park are designed with your dog’s safety in mind.  There are 3 sections: Small & Senior Dogs; Large & Active Dogs and an Agility/Training Section.

If you own a small dog, keep it in the Small Dog area unless it is really, really fast like a Parson Russell Terrier and can outrun the big dogs that might otherwise see it as prey. Frail, senior dogs, regardless of their size, are safer in the Small/Senior Dog section.

Always keep safety in mind.  If you have a large timid dog, choose a section where it feels safe.  A dog park is a place for socialized dogs, not a place to initially socialize your dog.

Tip #5: Interrupt Inappropriate Behavior

The Recall is the most important command your dog must understand when visiting a dog park. By calling your dog back to you frequently, you can interrupt inappropriate behavior by him or other dogs that are are getting too excited.

Always call your dog to you and away from the entrance gate when other dogs are trying to enter. Give the other dogs a chance to run around the inside perimeter before releasing your dog to play with them in a calm and appropriate manner.

Don’t allow bullying/aggressive play, jumping on other people, or excessive barking.

If you find that your dog does not feel comfortable with another dog in your section, leave!  Don’t allow another owner to let you believe that your dogs will work it out if they are snarling at one another or their hackles are up.

Tip #6: Make Sure Your Dog Is Healthy

Being healthy goes beyond a veterinary check and vaccinations that are appropriate for your dog. Your dog should be fit enough to navigate the terrain of the dog park and mentally happy to be in that environment.

According to Jamie Damato, CPDT-KA of Animalsense Canine Training and Behavior, Inc., in the book Top Tips from Top Trainers – The Association of Pet Dog Trainers, (now the Association of Professional Dog Trainers), stressful events that happen in dog parks can create a strong chemical change in your dog’s brain. Those chemical changes can and do interfere with his ability to process and cope with novel stimuli outside of the park environment.

With this insight in mind, don’t take your dog to the dog park too frequently for the purpose of tiring him out. He may require increasing amounts of stimulation as time goes on to reach the state of “tiredness” that you want.

Tip # 7: Clean Up After Your Dog At The Dog Park

It is always best to walk totally around the area you enter with the intention of cleaning up all the “treasures” you find.

The park may be used by elderly and or disabled people too that are not always able to walk to the far end or stoop low enough to clean up their dog’s doo doo.

You will find that most dogs poop along the fence line. By cleaning up all the poop that you find, you will be adding to the safety of all dogs and the cleanliness of the park.

Waste management is a big cost for the dog park with the cost of poop bags, containers and dumpsters to haul the waste away.  If you are really ambitious, hold a fundraiser with other dog park attendees to help defer these maintenance costs.

Now do some Miracle Living With Gusto at the Dog Park!

I hope you found value with these 7 tips that I have shared with you. Leave your comment and tell me of your experience at dog parks.

Now enjoy this video of Gusto, the American Eskimo, at the age of 7 months enjoying his zoomies at the Cascade Park Dog Park.




With love, compassion and empowerment,


4 Replies to “7 Tips For Your Puppy’s Visits To The Local Dog Park”

  1. Great tips especially as I am a dog park goer on a daily basis and fortunate to have like 4 in walking distance. I also check who is in the park before I go in just in case and having been going to some for years now know everyone which makes life very easy.

  2. Great tips. It’s been a while since I have been to a dog park since I have two senior dogs who aren’t very social. But I may be getting a puppy in the near future. Dog parks have become much better in the past decade, with separations for small and large dogs and agility equipment. One of my concerns was always the entrance, where dogs congregated and swarmed around the new dog. Teaching owners and their dogs good etiquette at the park is essential. I like the idea of walking around the outside of the park first.

  3. Gusto sure had fun zooming around. I’d love to take my dogs to a place like that! At the dog park near us, people let their large rambunctious dogs go into the small dog section. Many years ago, our Bullmastiff attacked our Yorkie out of the blue. Thankfully, the Yorkie survived. She needed stitches and a hospital stay, but it was a traumatic experience for all of us. I simply don’t have the courage to take the risk with my small dogs.

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