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How to “Park” Your Pup

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As the parent of a new pup, you’re probably one of the happiest people in town, although for the next few weeks your life will be “all puppy, all the time” while you train and bond with your new family member.

Sometime after your puppy’s first checkup with the vet, you might be wondering when you can introduce him to the local bark park. Follow this guide to some safe and easy tips for preparing your little guy, and yourself, for your pup’s first social outing.

Appropriate age

Dog parks contain many dogs, who are potential disease carriers for your pup. Wait until your puppy is at least 16 weeks old and have had all his vaccines before you subject him to a pack of canines.

On the other paw, you don’t want to wait too long to socialize your little guy. The earlier you introduce your pup to other canines and encourage dog friendliness, the better behaved he’ll be. Your puppy will also have more fun, which is what bark parks are all about.

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Pup, meet park

Once fully vaccinated, your pup is ready for his big day. For your first jaunt, try to go off-peak so there won’t be as many pooches to get used to, so avoid weekend days and after-work hours. This may mean you have to get up earlier to arrive at the park when there are fewer dogs and pet parents there.

Ideally, find a dog park with a fence, not only for security, but to familiarize your little one with the park. You can do this easily by walking your pup around the periphery of the fence. He’ll be able to peek inside at the other dogs and become mentally prepared for all the excitement, which can be overwhelming.

While outside, do a quick review of the essential commands you’ve been training so your pup will be more apt to listen to you once inside. This will help burn off some energy before running full throttle once they join the pack inside.

Long leash, short visit

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Keep in mind, your pup will be distracted by all the doggy commotion inside the park so he may not pay attention to your commands as well as he does at home. That’s why it’s important to keep your little pal on a leash, especially for the first visit.

Longer leashes help puppies explore and play with the other dogs while letting you practice and reinforce “come” and “sit” commands. Be sure to have favorite treats on hand to reward positive behavior, and bring water and a container to quench your pup’s thirst.

Need some help leash training? Check this out: Leash Tips.

Try not to stay in one spot. Meandering will help your puppy become familiar with the park and help reduce anxiety for future visits.

No matter how popular your pup is during his park date, keepthe first visit short and sweet. Twenty minutes of socializing and playing is enough at the beginning.

Naturally, plan to return sooner than later. The more you and your pup park it, the more well-adjusted he’ll be, and the more likely your puppy will thrive in all sorts of situations with new friends, furry or human.

Keep practicing commands at home and at the park and before you know it, your pup will be running around like he’s the prince of the park, or at least the mayor.