How Do I Teach My Dog to Enter the Dog Park Calmly?

The dog park phenomenon has swept the country, offering off-leash freedom and social stimulation for pooches and their owners. But it isn’t always fun and games there, as even the most socialized canines can have dilemmas. As part of an ongoing series for Vetstreet, dog trainer Mikkel Becker teaches you how to address common behavior problems at the dog park.

Dog park gate
Kevin Law / Alamy

Q. My dog gets so excited walking (or, rather, pulling, lunging, spinning and barking) into the dog park that he nearly knocks me over. Even though he’s perfectly friendly and is just excited to go see the other dogs, I am embarrassed by his behavior every time. What can I do?

A. Don't be embarrassed; overly excited dogs are a common sight at the dog park. Most dogs are so exuberantly happy about getting to play with other canines that they completely forget about the human at the other end of the leash and only pay attention to their main goal: getting to the fence line — and the fun — as quickly as possible.

That's not to say that you have to live with a dog who goes crazy on every approach to the park. This behavior creates a hazard for your dog and for you. The solution to ending this unruly and potentially dangerous behavior actually begins at home, where your dog can be taught a few basic behaviors — wait at a door, turn and sit, and heel on leash — that will come in handy when you need him to walk calmly into the park.

Teach Your Dog to Wait at the Door

The wait at the door not only works at home, but also can be used when you're getting out of the car to keep your dog from dashing into the road. Start by teaching this behavior at home to help your dog grasp the concept. To begin this training, your dog should first know a sit or a down.


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