Socializing Dogs at Off-Leash Dog Parks

Socializing a puppy can create a well-behaved dog

Dogs are pack animals by nature. Being able to freely meet other dogs; and explore, run, and play with them helps your dog behave better at home.
Dogs are pack animals by nature. Being able to freely meet other dogs; and explore, run, and play with them helps your dog behave better at home. | Source

Does your dog need to meet other dogs? An off-leash dog park is a great way to socialize your dog!

Our beagle Ruby is an exuberant little pup, to put it mildly. She seems to have a happiness about her that is apparent in every waking moment. Ruby is full of joy and has an uncanny ability to bring a ton of joy into our home.

So, it never occurred to me that others may not feel the same way about our sweet little beagle. Look at her; how could anyone resist such an adorable, innocent, floppy-eared face? As it turns out, quite a few people walking their dogs in the neighborhood can.

Sure, her howl may put a few people off, but it's always accompanied with the biggest, happiest tail-wagging. She simply is excited to see one of her own kind and would give anything to make a new canine friend. When allowed to greet, the sniffing exchange is always calm and both dogs seem to be happy. But, when not allowed to greet a would-be canine friend, Ruby seems to whimper in complete sadness as the other dog is walked away.

Finally, sick of what I think of as "dog walking snobs," I decided that I needed to find like-minded dog owners who wanted their dogs to meet other dogs and have fun being together; who didn't panic at our beagle's howls of anticipation; and who didn't flinch or walk away at the sight of an oncoming dog. The solution was obvious -- Ruby needed to be taken to an off-leash dog park.


Running freely at a dog park

One of the best benefits of dog parks, is that dogs get much-needed exercise, making them better-behaved dogs at home.
One of the best benefits of dog parks, is that dogs get much-needed exercise, making them better-behaved dogs at home. | Source

Making friends at a dog park

Ruby has never met this gray dog before. But they made great companions at the dog park
Ruby has never met this gray dog before. But they made great companions at the dog park | Source

Benefits of taking your dog to an off-leash dog park

Americans own over 73 million dogs and 60% of U.S. households have at least one dog. Dog parks are not only beneficial to the dogs, but also to the dog owners.


Dog parks benefit dog owners by:

  • Allowing dog owners to meet and socialize with other dog owners
  • Providing a place to get exercise by walking on trails with their dog(s)


Off-Leash dog parks benefit dogs by providing a place where dogs:

  • Interact and play with other dogs
  • Freely follow their pack instincts
  • Explore unfettered, sniffing their way through trails (This is really important for our dog since a beagle's sense of smell and ability to track a scent is second nature.)
  • Develop friendships and the companionship of other dogs
  • Exercise by running at top-speed in open spaces and wrestling with each other
  • Don't have territory and territorial issues, reducing any aggression
  • Have fun, tire themselves out, and are more well-behaved at home


Dogs meeting other dogs in a non-territorial location is a big benefit of dog parks

Source
Leashes and home-turf can cause dogs to be aggressive. Off-leash dog parks eliminate the need for leashes and territory is not an issue.
Leashes and home-turf can cause dogs to be aggressive. Off-leash dog parks eliminate the need for leashes and territory is not an issue. | Source

Off-leash dog park rules

There are definite rules at dog parks and they should be followed for the safety of the dogs, as well as dog owners.

  • Do not take a puppy under 4 months to a dog park. Puppies need to have all their rabies vaccines before interacting with other dogs.
  • Even though dogs are running in open areas meant for dogs, owners are still responsible for cleaning up after their dog. Many dog parks provide plastic bags to encourage clean-up.
  • If your dog is being aggressive, then remove him from the park.
  • Many dog parks have double-fenced entries. Be sure to close and lock all gates.
  • Only bring dogs that can follow verbal commands.
  • Keep a watchful eye on your dog, monitoring both his safety and behavior.


Confident dogs are often well-behaved dogs

When a dog is allowed to act like a dog, following its instincts unfettered, a confident, well-behaved dog often results.
When a dog is allowed to act like a dog, following its instincts unfettered, a confident, well-behaved dog often results. | Source

Finding a dog park

There are over 600 dog parks in the U.S. and an estimated 1100 parks in both the U.S. and Canada combined.

Doggeek.com Dog Park Directory - Seems to be a very comprehensive list of dog parks in the U.S.

The Original Dog Parks Directory - Contains lists and links to dog parks in the U.S. and Canada



Things to bring to dog parks

Leash - Dogs should be leashed in parking lot areas and may need to be leashed within the dog park if problems arise.

Treats - Dog parks are wonderful places to train a dog and of course treats aid in that process. It is also a good idea to bring treats in case an uncooperative dog needs to be enticed.

Plastic Bags - Dog parks are enjoyable places for both dogs and owners to exercise so dog poop should always be picked up.

Bowl & Water - Many dog parks have drinking fountains for the dogs but they seem rather germy. I prefer to bring my own bowl and water, also because on hot summer days sometimes a drink is needed when far away from a fountain.

Towel - Depending on the dog park and whether or not there is water or it has recently rained, having a towel is handy for cleaning up before getting in the car to go home.


Unfettered exercise tIres your dog out!

After going to the dog park, my dog sleeps for hours. Her dog needs have been met and she is simply tired out from running at full-speed off-leash.
After going to the dog park, my dog sleeps for hours. Her dog needs have been met and she is simply tired out from running at full-speed off-leash. | Source

More by this Author


Comments about dog socialization at dog parks: 28 comments

OrlandoJohn1 profile image

OrlandoJohn1 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

Great hub! I take our dogs to the dog park and they both love it. The older dog follows me around rather than playing with other dogs, but he loves being off leash and in the outdoors. The pup adores running around with other dogs his own size. It's a great way to spend a couple of hours. :)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks John. Unless someone has taken their dog to a dog park, I really don't think they can imagine how much the dog loves it! It's great that you're able to take your older dog and puppy at the same time with their different needs. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.


pedrn44 profile image

pedrn44 5 years ago from New Berlin Wisconsin

hi ktrapp. I don't even have a dog and really enjoyed this hub! Do you take Ruby to the park on Grand Ave? I often wonder if it fenced in. My daughter has a dog that just loves to run...but we can't be sure if he will return!! Thanks for sharing. Ruby must be a happy dog:)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

I do pedrn44. I think it's called Duck Farm. The dogs absolutely love it. The entire thing is fenced in but it is a few acres I think. The first part where you enter is sort of a big open area, but then you can take the dog back onto mowed trails. If you go to the Lake County Forest Preserve website they have information about the dog parks there.

I often worry about Ruby not coming back but they almost always buddy up with other dogs and follow each other. Plus, I always bring really good treats and let her know I have them ahead of time so I can use them if there was ever a problem. But she is absolutely fine and I'm sure your daughter's dog would be too. Trust me, if her dog loves to run the dog park will wear the dog out and it will probably sleep for hours when it gets home. At first when I worried about Ruby tearing off, I left her leash attached to her harness but let go of it. That way I could grab it if I couldn't get to her. But now I just take it off. Beagles are the worst about following a scent and not hearing a thing while tracking, so if she's fine, I'm sure your daughter's dog would be too. Anyway, you could just go there yourself and walk around and check it out. It's real pretty.


Faceless39 profile image

Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

I don't have a dog, but WOW!! Awesome hub! Rated up and awesome, interesting!


Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

I refuse to take my dogs to the local dog parks. My beagle is a fearless boy who gets along with dogs and people, but the Australian shepherd-Border collie mix is submissive, and the whole world is scary to him. You are lucky that you have made dog parks work for you. I take my dogs to a local park where everyone is good about taking keeping dogs on leashes and picking up after them. Sacramento has leash laws, but many people use the "Born Free" method when they think people aren't looking. I've found that dog owners are worse to deal with than people with kids. Their furry children can do no wrong. My submissive dog is good when it comes to charity walks or whenever he's on a leash. But he is also a magnet for aggressive dogs. We've been attacked four times just by walking around the neighborhood and other community parks. Sad to say, but there have been numerous complaints about aggressive dogs in parks and dog parks. The beagle is okay, but not the younger dog. I always keep him on a leash and keep an eye out. The vet told us he would be a wonderful family dog, but would not be good around other dogs.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Yikes Arlene! I have to say I think this is where Illinois may beat California. Out of curiosity I took a look at your dog parks in Sacramento and they're nothing like ours in Northern Illinois. The ones near you are a couple acres, whereas the 4 around me range in size from 30-70 acres. I think the dogs are so interested in exploring the nature around them with a buddy or two by their side that they aren't aggressive. If you look at the very first picture of Ruby with the other beagle you can get an idea of what the terrain is like which goes on for miles. They love it. It's actually more like a forest preserve than a park and of course we pay for it, like we do everything in Illinois, but it is a great service.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it isn't just an open, mowed, fenced-in area where dogs congregate. There is a small part like that, but then the part where there are trails and bridges and hills, the dogs barely quit running because there is so much to explore and room to wrestle. Your beagle would love it.


Arlene V. Poma 5 years ago

That's part of the problem with beagles. They are so terribly cute, but they can take off like rockets. They are having so much fun, they forget about everything else. My boy is old, so most of his time is spent sniffing things out. But, no telling where his chubby little legs will take him once he picks up speed. 30-70 acres sounds like heaven. Yes, the dog parks near me are quite dinky in comparison.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

These dog parks here are a bit of a dog paradise. I have to admit I was scared to death to let Ruby go at first, but when she goes with another dog she tends to stay with that dog, as well as finding others and stay in a pack. And then of course she always has to stop and sniff for awhile so she never gets out of my sight. My next hub is about the beagle's incredible sense of smell. I'm sure you'll be able to relate to it.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Great hub! I don't have a dog but this is such a useful resource for all dog owners, especially people who might be interesting in trying this but don't know much about it.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you randomcreative. I appreciate the compliment. I hope dog owners do find it useful. I never had been to a dog park before getting a dog and was pleasantly surprised when I went.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

Wow! The dog parks up in your area look fantastic! The only ones I have been to in Houston are smaller mowed areas. They do have pools of water and the park for larger dogs always has some of them in it swimming and retrieving things that their owners have tossed. Seldom do I see smaller dogs using that portion of the park which is separated from the large dog section. We have taken Skippy to the parks on numerous occasions but he does not know that he is a dog and is not interested in playing with other 4 legged creatures. He just runs and after we have done one loop around the park he is satisfied and begs go go home. He is a Pomeranian and a bit of a couch potato. Ha! Up, interesting and useful. Your beagle is a cutie!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

The dog parks, at least in my county in IL, are fantastic. I think the people enjoy them as much as the dogs. I wouldn't be surprised if I see a few cross country skiers there in the winter if it is allowed.

We do have to buy a permit with each dog's proof of rabies vaccination included, but the cost is minimal and the return is great. The dog parks are part of the county's forest preserve district so each year when I get my real estate tax bill I see that the dog parks along with all the other forest preserves are costing me and other homeowners quite a chunk of change.

There are days when I wish Ruby was a couch potato like your Pomeranian, Skippy, but I'm not sure if she is ever going to slow down even when she gets older.


Cloverleaf profile image

Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

Hi Ktrapp - GREAT hub! You've shared some very useful information for all dog owners. I wish we had more off leash parks in Calgary; I always enjoy watching dogs run freely and being social with other dogs. I especially appreciated your tips on things to bring to the off-leash park, what a thoughtful touch to a very well presented and informative hub. You have my vote! Thumbs up and useful / interesting.

Cloverleaf.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you Cloverleaf. Dogs are amazing creatures. I love standing back and watching the dogs interact without human involvement and leashes. Last time I was there two big dogs were playing chase and running in a giant circle. My little beagle was playing too but she couldn't keep up with them. I watched her figure out at what point to cut across the circle to catch up with them repeatedly. Her timing was dead on. It really was fun to watch.


Cloverleaf profile image

Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

Ah that's a cute story! Big hugs to Ruby, she's adorable :-)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Cloverleaf. Ruby is great inspiration for cute stories.


TheEpicJourney profile image

TheEpicJourney 5 years ago from Fairfield, Ohio

Hey Ktrapp! Jenna and I take our dog Zoe to several off leash dog parks here in Cincinnati, OH. Our favorite one often has 20+ dogs plus owners there on any given night of the week (as long as the weather is nice :)! Sometimes I think the park is as healthy for us as it is for Zoe with the amount of socializing we do while zoe runs around. The amount of exercise and socialization zoe gets is not matched anywhere compared to this park. This is great hub highlighting a very important tool for keeping your dog healthy. I enjoyed it :)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

TheEpicJourney, I totally agree; the amount of exercise the dogs can get at some dog parks is unmatched. And I too have found that the socialization among all the dog owners makes the dog park just as beneficial for the people. If you think about it, you already have a few things in common with the other dog owners that you meet, making it easy to socialize with those that want to. I really enjoy seeing Ruby run around and it makes me feel good that she is getting to do something healthy. It sounds like Zoe has just as much fun! Thanks for your thoughtful comments.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Great information! Voted up and useful!

I can't take my Amber to an off leash dog park. She won't start a fight, but if one breaks out, she jumps right in the middle of it and looks for the smallest dog to pick on!

I read recently about someone leaving contaminated bits of meat and cheese around dog parks. It's a good idea to walk the park with your dog on leash to check for hazards before releasing your dog.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thank you Suzanne. There are definite pros and cons to dog parks but I am shocked that people would purposely leave contaminated food at dog parks. That's one of those things that just make me question what is wrong with this world? Thanks for sharing and that is a great tip to check for hazards first.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Yeah, some people are just plain mean! :(


Carmen H profile image

Carmen H 5 years ago

Great hub on every aspects on socializing a dog! I personally feel that a well-socialized dog is more easy-going than one who isn't, so I wish all other dog owners would read this hub too.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois Author

Thanks Carmen. I agree; a well-socialized dog and a well-exercised dog is certainly a better-behaved dog - more "easy going" as you put it.


daisynicolas profile image

daisynicolas 4 years ago from Alaska

Absolutely informative, educational and thoughtful hub.


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

daisynicolas - I'm hoping we have a nice day soon so we can head out to the dog park. My little beagle could use a good day of exercise and socialization with other dogs. Thanks for your comment.


meryl blackman 4 years ago

I am a volunteer at Hillside Dog Park, a 2 acre park in Brooklyn, NY. Our 501c3 not for profit organization "Friends of Hillside Dog Park" is holding a Howl-o-ween Muttscarade Dog costume parade this Sunday. Could we get your permission to reprint your article on Dog Parks and socializing to distribute at our table at this event? We are raising funds for no-kill animals organizations and our park. Thank you. Meryl Blackman (merylblackman09@gmail.com)


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 4 years ago from Illinois Author

Meryl - What a wonderful cause and what a wonderful name for your event - love it! I also replied to you by email, but please feel free to provide printed copies of this article at your event. I'm glad you find the information useful to share in this way.

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