Make sure your dog is old enough to be at a dog park. Meaning they are all up to date on their vaccinations. Bring your dog outside of the dog park and see if he wants to engage with the other dogs. Look for fluid movement, play bows (leaning front end down to the ground) and no tenseness in the dog’s body.
Aim to bring your dog at least crowded times. The more dogs there are, the more chances for overwhelming your dog.
Bring your dog in on a leash and then let them off the leash. Some dogs can have more aggressive behavior when they are on a leash around other dogs. A slip lead is a great tool to quickly get your dog back on leash. You don’t have to clip it onto the harness or collar. You just need to loop it around the neck and it now acts as a collar and a leash.
Don’t Bring Food
Your dog may listen better with food around but the presence of food may lead to dogs trying to resource guard the food or even you.
It is a great idea to know what over-excites your dog and what makes them fearful. However, if it’s something new your dog’s body language can tell you. While playing with other dogs it is good play if the dogs are taking turns, fluid body movements, take small breaks, wide circular tail movements. Bad play may be multiple dogs ganging up on one dog, one dog always on top or chasing, freezes, hair stands up, eyes tensely staring, low or tucked tails. If you see any of these signs, get distance between your dog and other dogs. See if there is mutual agreement to re engage or if it is time to stop playing.
Always Keep Watch on Your Dog
An important key for knowing the body language of your dog is being able to watch it and interpret it. Your dog may show signs of discomfort or distress and if you aren’t watching to see they may try different ways to get their message across. If you are watching your dog and the other dogs, you can step in before anything escalates into a fight.
Hopefully you never have to break up a dog fight, especially involving your own dog, but if you do you should know the proper way to end a fight. Grab your dog by his hips and lift them into the air until he is basically doing a handstand. Advise the other dog’s owner to do the same to their dog. Once they are apart, leash your dog and walk out of the dog park to inspect for any injuries.
You don’t want to end the dog park visit with you running after your dog to get them leashed up. An extra tip is to have your dog have a good recall (read the post Importance on Recall). When they are running with other dogs (in the middle of your visit) and you give the cue they stop and run towards you. Then release them back to play. This reinforces that not every time they recall the play at dog parks ends.