First visit to the dog park

[Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of this excursion, because I wasn’t actually planning on taking her to the dog park. Hence, I did not bring my camera. You’ll just have to use your imagination!]

After a long walk
Post-dog park exhaustion.

I haven’t been all that eager to take Pyrrha to a dog park.

I am well aware that dog parks can be stressful places, especially for shy dogs. You can’t control the other dogs in the park. You really don’t have any idea what the other dogs will be like or how they will behave. As the guardian of a shy dog, I view dog parks as a risky place. But I’ve still always wanted to visit one, mainly for curiosity’s sake. And there is something so alluring to dog people about a wide, fenced-in area where your dog can run free…

So, this past Saturday afternoon, a breezy and warm day, I decided to take Pyrrha to the local park, just to romp around the fields on her long lead. She was happily sniffing and darting around for a good half hour or so. Now, this particular place does have a fenced-in “dog park” area. I decided that maybe we’d just mosey over there and I’d let Pyrrha sit on the hill and watch the dogs from a safe distance. If she looked exceedingly anxious, we’d turn around and go home.

As we approached the dog park, I saw that it contained only two pups: Two almost identical-looking beagle/hound mixes. One was a few inches taller than the other, but they were almost like mirrors of each other—the same markings, the same faces and ears. Pyrrha saw them and was instantly alert. I started talking with the two men in the park. To my surprise, the dogs—Khaleesi and Malcolm—were not related and the men didn’t even know each other. They both adopted their dogs from the local SPCA, though, and it made me think that there must be some canine lothario roaming around these parts…

Pyrrha gradually gained confidence to sniff Malcolm and Khaleesi through the fence. All three tails started to wag and I thought, “Well, I guess you can’t get a better introduction to a dog park than this.” (And I already knew that Pyrrha felt comfortable around beagle-shaped dogs, for whatever reason.)

I snapped off her leash before we walked through the gate, and the afternoon in the dog park proceeded without a hitch. I was so relieved–and proud of how smoothly and calmly she acted. Pyrrha, Khaleesi, and Malcolm romped around in circles, each one demonstrating how poor their retrieving skills are, and alternately relaxed with each other under the shade of the sole tree. We had only one other visitor: An older woman and a mannerly 8-year-old black lab named Chesty, who only stayed for about 10 minutes. Chesty’s introduction to the group was also very smooth and Pyrrha didn’t seem nervous at all—no hackles, nothing. Being off leash really does wonders for her.

I couldn’t have asked for a better or more relaxed introduction to the dog park for Pyrrha. I think we’ll still be cautious with dog parks, but this was a successful first time and I am grateful that she had this very positive encounter.


7 thoughts on “First visit to the dog park

  1. I confess, I read “first visit to the dog park” and thought “hoo boy!” because really, it could have gone either way. It sounds like it was FANTASTIC! I’m so glad ^^

  2. I’m glad it went so well! I started bringing my Luna to the dog parks once she was spayed and had all of her vaccinations,, as you never know what dogs have what at some if they are free dog parks!
    I was scared to bring Luna at first because she was sill small compare to many dogs there and she looks very wolfy, and you never know how owners will react. It can be so much fun seeing them jot around with other pooches! I can see that you will have more fun times at the park to come!

  3. Our Aussie was a different dog off leash. On leash, he was reactive, constantly lunging and pulling and behaving in a general anti-social manner. But once the leash was off, the reactivity went away. He did well with other dogs, though mostly, he just wanted to run, and often would heard our other dog away from other dogs.
    It was such a night and day difference that we talked to our trainer about it. The explanation we got made sense- All animals have a flight or fight response to dealing with danger. On leash, the dog feels they no lonfer have the flight option, so they must fight. And as we all know, the best defense if a good offense.
    So on leash, I had a reactive and agressive dog. Off leash, he was sweet, well behaved and never had a single bad interaction with another dog or person.

  4. Dogs will tend to be more frightened when they are on a leash and other dogs are not because they feel restricted and vulnerable. Dog parks are a great place to socialize a dog and most dog owners who use dog parks are responsible. it pays to be cautious at first. Good luck.

  5. Glad your first experience was a positive one. It’s also good that you were prepared not to enter if it didn’t look like a good idea.

    My first experience with our local dog park was awful. I took my reactive dog Agatha and found a spot 200 yards (!) away from the gate so we could do some under-threshold training. A woman didn’t leash her dogs before walking to the car and they came running toward my on leash dogs with their person running after them and calling. She had the nerve to tell me the reason my dog was reacting was because I didn’t take her off the leash. Nevermind the fact that we weren’t in an off-leash area and she didn’t not have any influence over her dogs. Grrrr!

    Since then, I’ve enjoyed the dog park with Honey. But I only go early on weekend mornings. Once the park is crowded, you get some very careless people and the atmosphere just doesn’t feel comfortable to me.

    And yes, my first experience was in an afternoon.

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