Getting a Rescue Dog Ready for the Dog Park

Behaviour and Training

The short version:

Is Your Rescue Dog Ready for the Dog Park ? 

  • Are they wearing a collar?
  • Are they up to date on registration, vaccinations, and parasite control?
  • Will they arrive on-leash?
  • Will you remember to take off their leash to play?
  • Will they stick to designated size areas?
  • Will you ask before sharing treats?
  • Can you keep your eyes on your pet?
  • Can you leave favourite toys at home?
  • Are they free from behavioural/social/aggression issues?
  • Are they healthy and well?

Dog parks can be a lot of fun for pets and owners. But they can also get very tense, very fast. So before you head down, consider these five things to do to get your rescue dog ready for the dog park.

Record Check

Dogs under the age of 16 weeks aren’t ready for the dog park because they may not be finished with their early inoculations and can be vulnerable to disease. But older dogs need to keep their health in mind too. Check that your rescue dog’s vaccination, flea and heart treatment records are up to date. They’ll also need to be dedesexed: dogs that aren’t spayed or neutered can cause issues among the group (not to mention risk unplanned mattings).

Test Run

Dog parks can be overwhelming for anyone. But if you have recently adopted a rescue dog it pays to go slow. Try taking them on a walk with another dog you know first. That way you can get a sense of their reaction to other animals in a more controlled environment. If they seem tense, aggressive, or overly anxious give the dog park a miss for now. Focus on behavioural training and helping them feel secure with you first. 

Manners Matter

Once you’re sure you’ve got you rescue dog ready for the dog park, read up about the space online or swing by alone first. This will inform you of specific rules ahead of time. For example, are there areas for different sized dogs? Is it an on or off leash space?

In general, pets that don’t have strong recall skills aren’t ready for the dog park. This means they (always) come when you call, no matter what else is going on.

To decrease the chance of them getting overly excited, don’t take them straight to the park. Go on a walk first where they can burn off extra energy so they arrive in a more relaxed state.

Dress Code

All dogs need to wear a collar and tag with their name and your phone number on it. Make sure their registration information is up to date too. Whether it’s an on or off leash park, they should stay leashed as you enter.

Pack a Bag

Remember your poop bags. Many parks provide them, but there’s no guarantee they will be stocked up. Leaving mess behind in a communal dog park is a bad move.

Take toys, but not their favourites. Remember, anything you bring could be damaged or snatched by another dog. You don’t want them to become overly possessive or risk losing a special item.

Treats are a great way to reward your dog for good behaviour, but ask before giving them to other pets. You never know who has allergies or special diets.

Have a “Is This Rescue Dog Ready for the Dog Park?” Heart to Heart

Ultimately, you’re the one who has the best sense of whether or not you’ve got your rescue dog ready for the dog park. Even the sweetest animals in the world can get anxious, overwhelmed, or struggle to properly engage with other pets. Be objective: is your pet going to be a positive presence in this space? Will they make it a good experience for others? If not, that’s ok. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad dog. Just not a dog park dog.

For more help with your pup, check out Scratch’s ultimate new dog guide.

Getting ready for life with a rescue dog? Get more great advice here.

Photos via FreePik

Written by on for Off The Leash

Article last updated on April 2, 2021

Wendy's never met a dog she didn't like. Although she has a special place in her heart for muts: three legs, one eye, missing fur, bit of a weird walk? The scruffier the better. Her favourite dog in the whole world though is her terrier-mix Stevie.

Frequently Asked Questions

It’s impossible to make a general call about dog safety. But if you adopt a rescue dog from a reputable shelter, they should have been screened for aggressive behaviour. Dogs that post a risk of hurting someone will not be allowed to be rehomed. Saying that, a rescue shelter may specify that the dog has particular needs that must be respected. For example: they may need to stay away from other animals or young children. These aren’t suggestions, they’re hard rules. Respect them and you reduce the risk of issues arising. 

Additionally, all dogs benefit from training to help improve their behaviour.

It’s impossible to make a general call about dog safety. But if you adopt a rescue dog from a reputable shelter, they should have been screened for aggressive behaviour. Dogs that post a risk of hurting someone will not be allowed to be rehomed. Saying that, a rescue shelter may specify that the dog has particular needs that must be respected. For example: they may need to stay away from other animals or young children. These aren’t suggestions, they’re hard rules. Respect them and you reduce the risk of issues arising. 

Additionally, all dogs benefit from training to help improve their behaviour.

It depends on the dog and the child. If you adopt a rescue dog from a reputable shelter, they should have been screened for aggressive behaviour. Dogs that post a risk of hurting someone will not be allowed to be rehomed. Saying that, a rescue may specify that the dog has particular needs that must be respected. That could include being kept away from young children. If they advise this, it’s not just as a suggestion. It’s a hard rule. Respect it and you reduce the risk of issues arising. 

Whether a dog is a rescue or not, it’s important that you speak to kids about how to behave around them. If a child is aggressive to an animal, or overwhelmed them, it could create a situation where the dog feels threatened and acts unpredictably.

Next in Behaviour and Training
how to leave a puppy alone

How to Leave a Puppy Alone for the First Time

Giving your puppy undivided attention isn’t always the right thing to do.

Share the post: