Issues at the Dog Park

If your dog loves playing Fetch at the dog park, but is reluctant to return the ball to you, try these training tips.

Do you love taking your pooch to the dog park to burn off energy? It’s a great way for active dogs to get exercise and socialize with other dogs, however it can also be a trouble zone for behavior issues. “Remember that dog parks are public,” says New York City-based certified professional dog trainer Sarah Westcott of Doggie Academy. “We can not know or control who uses the park, so be prepared to leave if any dog or person’s behavior makes you or your dog uncomfortable. ” That said, you don’t want your dog to be the one in question, so follow these tips to make sure your pooch isn’t committing one of these top dog park pet peeves.

Dog Park TrainingDog Park Pet Peeve #1: Doesn’t Come When Called

If your dog doesn’t come when he’s called in the park, it may be because he associates “Come” with leaving the park altogether. “When your dog is having an awesome time with his buddies he makes the choice to avoid you so that he doesn’t have to go home,” says Westcott.

How to Solve It: First, your dog needs to be responsive to the command “Come” when at home and in environments that are not as stimulating as a distracting dog park. Once you’ve mastered it at home, practice calling your dog periodically during your park visit before it’s time to leave, advises Westcott. When he comes, tell him what a good dog he is and give him a good scratch or a treat before saying “Go play!” to send him on his way again. “By calling him and then sending him back to play he will realize that coming to you does not necessarily mean it’s time to leave, but rather he gets great attention and then returns to play,” she says.

Dog Park Pet Peeve #2: Your Dog Is In Control of the Play

Some dogs are toy and ball obsessed. At the dog park this can cause issues ranging from your pooch stealing another dog’s toy and being reluctant to give it back, not bringing the ball back to you and not dropping the ball when asked.

How to Solve It: Start at home suggests Georgina Bradley, owner and head trainer of Dog Stars in Vancouver, Canada. First ask your dog to “Sit”, and once he does, give him the ball as a reward. Next, ask your dog to bring the ball to you and drop it, to be rewarded with a treat. Not willing to trade for a treat? “Gently hold his collar and pet him very slowly down his back from the shoulders down and wait,” says Bradley. “Eventually your dog will be so relaxed from the lovely rubs he is getting and drop the ball right there.” Once he does, give him a treat. Won’t bring you the ball? Work in a 5 to 10 foot hallway where you dog has no other option but to come to you and trade the ball for a treat, suggests Bradley. Keep practicing this drill in different areas.

Once you’ve mastered it at home, try it in the park with a long leash. “Attach a long drag line to your dog’s collar to prevent your dog from running away and not relinquishing the ball,” says Bradley. Throw the ball a short distance and once your dog retrieves it, step on the line and ask him to “Bring It.” If he doesn’t come, walk to your dog, holding the line and trade him for a treat or pet him until he drops the ball and then give him a treat. Practice this for 5 to 10 minutes each day until the long line is no longer required and your pup happily returns to you with the ball.

Dog Park Pet Peeve #3: You’re Not Paying Attention or Following the Rules

Your dog needs your guidance at the park to stay out of trouble and to help him avoid causing trouble. Some dog park issues are the fault of the humans, not the canines! The dog park is not a good time to read emails, talk on the phone, eat a sandwich or otherwise not watch what your dog is doing.

How to Solve It: Keep a close eye on your dog. Spend part of your time at the dog park working on training together. Always pick up after your dog. And leave food at home.