I’ll totally admit that I’m the one who gets stressed out by the dog park and not Maybelle. Much like my dog, I’m a bit of control freak. She likes to herd other dogs and push them around. I expect her to listen to me, and not act like a loud, obnoxious jerk. At the dog park, though, my normally mellow, quiet dog is…nuts. After our initial visit I haven’t returned in about a month. Instead I’ve opted to let her herd my friends’ dogs, including Tulla and Charlie.
But on Monday I had errands to run, which usually means Maybelle and I take a shorter walk than usual, or I take her to a park to run around instead of on a walk. Today, I decided to check out the dog park, hoping that it would be damn near deserted on a chilly Monday afternoon. It was. There was just one other dog there. Perfect!
So here’s my tips for surviving the chaos of the dog park when you’re a control freak:
- Go during the off hours. If it’s a beautiful Saturday, take your dog for a hike instead of to the dog park. If you can go during the work day, do it. Maybe even scope it out a few times to see if you can find a slow time of day.
- Bring treats. You may get the occasional strange dog sticking his nose in your pocket, but hopefully it’ll help you to get your dog’s attention. And if you’re there when the crowd is small and less-distracting, this is a great time to practice your obedience.
- Get a whistle. We use “come” too much in our daily lives and our dogs learn to tune it out, or think it means, “Ok I’ll be there in a minute” or “I’ll come within a few feet of you but then I’m gonna run off again.” But if you get a whistle and teach your dog that it means “Very yummy treat to come” it’ll help you manage the task of getting your dog back at the dog park. Besides, it’s probably way louder than you could ever be.
- Make your own dog park. Whether its in the fields behind Charlie’s house, in a baseball diamond near Tulla’s, or a preschool playground near mine, practicing with dogs your know in a less distracting environment helps condition your dog to learn to respond to you even when there are cool furry friends to be chased. Plus, it’s probably safer than the dog park.