Isabelle has a little sister! Of sorts. My good friend Scott added Carla to his household last week. Carla and Isabelle have the same parents but are a year apart. The girls have yet to meet. Carla needs a few more shots before she can mingle safely with other canines. It will be a few months before she’s ready for the dog park. That said, I have noticed an influx of puppies – those in the 4-6 month range – at the park lately. They are all adorably spastic. There is no way you can’t not smile when they bubble up to you wriggling with excitement looking for pets. Their owners trail behind them alternating between relief at letting them off the leash and concern they’ll get squished by the bigger dogs. I recognize myself in these new “parents”; that was me last March. I don’t consider myself a dog expert by any means, but I have learned a few things in the ensuing seven months. Here are some pointers for making your first visits successful.
Puppies take their cues from you. If you are nervous, anxious, intimidated, worried, stressed, fearful, mad, upset, angry…. you get the idea… your puppy is going to sense it and respond to it. Their reaction can result in cowering at your feet, barking incessantly or charging off. This will increase your tension, which increases their distress and around and around you go. You are their alpha dog. Be calm, be cool, be relaxed. Your puppy will follow suit.
Let the sniffing happen. So often I see puppy owners pick their dogs up when other dogs rush to the gate and start sniffing. Please don’t do that. It tells your dog there is danger. There isn’t. Dogs sniff. It’s how they learn each other. Yes, the dogs may be bigger but if you leave your puppy on the ground, let it be sniffed and let it sniff back, the dogs will establish their own equilibrium. Eventually the other dogs will go back to what they were doing and your puppy will be left to discover the park.
Puppies play rough. It took me a while to learn that Isabelle’s play involves body slamming, showing her teeth and making growl-y sounds. Even at four months old, Wrestling was what she and her puppy friends did every time they saw each other. They still do. It’s okay for your puppy to play rough. Yes, you need to monitor to make sure it doesn’t get too rough, but usually the dogs figure it out and your puppy learns to hang with the big dogs.
Going to the dog park is good. It’s fun. It’s exercise. Just what every puppy needs. Relax. Enjoy it. Let them enjoy it. Before you know it, your visits will be a snap and something you both look forward to.
PS. Please make sure your puppy has all its vaccinations before visiting the park! With so many dogs, it’s easy for an unvaccinated puppy to get sick.