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By C. L. Mann

Avoid the dog park nightmare with 2 simple steps

You decide to take your precious puppy to the dog park. There are lots of other dogs there, and you see your handsome little pooch bouncing and enthusiastically wagging his tail.

He looks super excited to see all the other dogs, and you are confident things are going to be great. You believe your furbaby is going to be the perfect playmate for these other dogs, so you open the gate and take off the leash.

You regret the decision immediately. Your normally well-behaved, well-mannered little boy is barking, growling and pouncing on the other dogs, and people are screaming and yelling at you and your dog. Talk about a nightmare.

You have no idea why your perfect little puppy suddenly became this pushy, mean little beast who is unaware he is doing anything wrong. All of the commands that he follows at home have gone out of the window. Your shame and embarrassment are palpable, so you scoop him up and run back to the car, jump in and scold him for his behavior all the way home. He pouts because you are mad at him and he has no idea why.

This does not have to happen. A little bit of preparation and training will go a long way in making your day at the dog park more like the fun outing you planned.

Learn dog park rules

There are posted rules, like clean up after your pet, but there are also dog rules. Knowing what they are and whether or not your furry friend will follow them is of the utmost importance. He needs to know how to interact in a manner that will be acceptable and enjoyable for everyone.

Go to the park without your dog and watch the way the dogs that are there interact with each other. Learn the dog rules by noting what behavior is acceptable and what behavior is not. It will help you teach your furry child the dog park rules.

Socialize, socialize, socialize

You know that your little angel is perfectly well-behaved, executes commands immediately and loves the other animals you have at home. Assuming that this will be the same when he is free to make his own decisions away from home is a mistake.

The rules have been established at home. When you introduce something new, be it animal or environment, the same rules may or may not apply. Unless they are taught that the rules are the same no matter where they are or who is around, they will storm in, confident that they are "top dog" and they make the rules.

Introduce them to other dogs in a controlled environment to teach them that the same rules apply, no matter where they are. Do it more than once.

By learning the rules for dogs and controlled socializing, you can correct inappropriate behaviors ahead of time. You can curb bullying behavior and avoid a nightmare where you run screaming from the dog park. Enjoy the park and have fun!

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