is your dog ready for the dog park off leash dog guide

Is your dog ready to play at the dog park? Off-Leash Dog Guide

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Off-Leash Dog Guide

As the popularity of dog parks and dog daycare’s continues to rise, more and more dog owners take advantage of off-leash playtime’s for their dogs. But how can you tell if your dog really enjoys this type of activity and how do you know when it’s time to take your dog home? Before going to the dog park you must ask yourself a few questions. 

1. How old is your dog?

Young puppies and older dogs should be given special consideration in this area. It’s extremely important for a puppy under 5 months of age to have only positive interactions with other dogs. If you aren’t sure that the dogs in the off-leash environment are patient and gently with puppies, then it may be best to arrange smaller, private groups for your dog.

Generally speaking, dogs over 5-6 years of age will have a shorter tolerance level for off-leash play with other dogs. This is true even if your dog (of any age) attends a daycare. Make sure he gets some down time where other dogs allow him to rest or is separated and able to sleep. 

2. would your dog rather be with people?

Sometimes the fun of the off-leash dog park is that your dog can play with you or other human visitors. If your dog tends to follow you around, bring you the ball, or stay close to your side the whole time, he may be saying he prefers you to other dogs.

If that’s the case, then take your dog to the park when there aren’t many other dogs around or spend time playing with your dog one-on-one rather than taking him to the dog park. Do what is more fun for your dog. 

3. Is your dog's body or loose?

As your dog plays with other dogs, his body should remain loose, curvy and relaxed. If you see frequent stiffening, straightened legs, frozen postures, tail tucking, or lowering the body to the ground, this means your dog is nervous or overwhelmed. 

4. Does your dog try to hide?

If your dog seems to cower, tries to hide behind you, or attempts to crawl under a chair, bench, or table, then he is probably not enjoying the interactions. This might mean he doesn’t like off-leash play. Perhaps it just means there is a bully in the group that he wants to avoid. Either way, your dog isn’t having fun and would probably like to leave. 

5. Does your dog jump on you or the gate?

When dogs are asking for help, they will often panic and leap at their owners to get attention. This is not the case for dogs who have poor greeting behaviors and jump when meeting someone new. This behavior in an off-leash setting often presents itself outside a greeting ritual.

If you are watching your dog and he repeatedly jumps up at you, it might be his way of asking for help. If you ignore his pleas he may run to the exit and jump at the door to get out. If you see these signs, listen to your dog and take him home. 

6. Does your dog take turns during play?

Good play behavior consists of give and take. Sometimes your dog will chase and sometimes he will be chase. Other times your dog will roll on the ground under another dog and other times your dog will be on the top. If your dog isn’t taking turns, particularly if he is consistently pinned on the ground by another dog, he probably isn’t having fun.

Watch for breaks in the action from time to time. It is time to leave if a dog is constantly chased, rolled over, or pinned to the ground with no breaks in the action. 

6. Is your dog pacing or spinning?

When your dog plays, does he interact with other dogs and enjoy romping aroun with them? Or does he choose to walk in the same patteron over and over? Give your dog a break is he is engaging in any repetitive sequence of behavior (such as pacing or spinning).

Exposure alone isn't enough

Remember: If your dog isn’t having a great time, you could do more harm than goo. Dogs don’t just “get over” issues by themselves. So if your dog is shy, worries, or overly excited, leave the situation. Find a professional that can help both of you. If your dog is having a blast and happy and comfortable, you’re doing a great job of socializing him!


Our off-leash dog guide conclusion is simple. Don’t be fooled into thinking your dog loves every other dog he meets. Some dogs love off-leash play, but other prefer a more quiet outdoor adventure. Take a close look at your dog and honestly answer some of these questions to determine if off-leash play the best activity for your pet.