January may mean the end of the holiday season, but it always brings the joy and celebration of the New Year. Additionally, January is National Train Your Dog Month, brought to you by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and it comes at an opportune time. Now’s the chance to reteach your dog tricks that it may have forgotten over the colder months or have a go for teaching new ones. Your dog should always have a good recall when you call for it, in cases when it is helpful to when you really need it. Go ahead, stretch out your dog’s legs, and yours, and remember how important it is to spend time at the dog park—and how you can follow dog park etiquette.


Before you even step your feet and paws in a dog park, make sure that your dog is of age to go. Dogs that are under four months old should not be brought to the dog park for their safety. If your dog is older, understand his or her playing style and demeanor. Is your pup afraid of others? And how is that fear shown? For dog parks, it’s important to understand your dog and for you to have a strong recall with it. An open field, although gated, means there can be a number of dogs and your dog should obey you without difficulty. Aside from that, the typical health issues should be addressed: your dog must be fixed, vaccinated and without fleas for its safety and the safety of others.


Even though you may think that it’s common sense, you should always use the pet stations at the dog parks. If there are none in the park that you enter, it’s a good idea to have disposal bags on hand in case of emergency. Dog waste, when not properly handled, is harmful to the environment but also presents an immediate danger to dogs that toy with it. Another way you can care for your dog is to provide water and a bowl to keep it hydrated if there are no fountains in the park.


Now that you’re at the park, it’s time to enjoy it! When you’re not using pet stations, the park is your playpen. But, you must share it with whoever is there, leaving ample space and being aware of other dogs’ demeanors. This is the time to watch your dog, make sure it isn’t being bullied or bullying other dogs, and to let it play with dogs its own size. But, no matter how much you try, your dog may just not enjoy going to the dog park. Or, it may be a true test if it will obey your pre-determined commands. If you need to, walk your dog to a safe, open area of the park instead of picking it up in the company of restless dogs. Then, you’ll be able to leave happily and safely.

This month, you and your dog can shape up to learn new tricks and places to play. Going to dog parks is a fun trip when your dog enjoys it and responds to your commands. But, if all you do is use a dog station because your dog is afraid or unresponsive to your commands, it’s OK to call it a day.

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