If you live in the big city, chances are you’re living in a smaller apartment. You also probably don’t have a large back yard for your pup to play in. This doesn’t mean dogs can’t thrive in The Big Apple. There are millions of pups living their best lives in the city. You might see them brunching at Sarabeth's or strutting through Central Park.
You might be wondering where these dogs go when they get the zoomies or need to let loose with their friends. This is where dog parks come in. A trip to the dog park gives pups an opportunity to get off-leash, run and socialize too. There are many factors to consider when taking your pup to a dog park. Read on to learn about some of New York’s finest and how to find the right park for your pup.
Advantages & disadvantages of dog parks:
Not sure if the dog park is right for your pup? Here are a few things to consider…
- You can let your pup off-leash If you don’t have a big back yard like some dog owners in the suburbs, the dog park is the only place you can legally let your pup get some off-leash playtime in. Check park rules and make sure you’re only allowing your dog off-leash in designated areas at appropriate times. Your dog also may be required to wear a collar or harness.
- There are other dogs to play with If you don’t have a lot of friends with dogs, this is a great place for your pup to meet other dogs and socialize. Try to find other pups who match your dog in size, energy level, and play style. In a big enough park there is usually a group for (almost) everyone.
- Can help your pup learn social skills Being around a lot of dogs can help your pup learn social skills. Dogs learn a lot from watching other dogs. Just be careful your pup isn’t picking up bad behaviors as a result of dog park visits, which could turn this advantage into a disadvantage quickly.
- You might not know the other dogs Unless you go at the same time every day or every week, there will usually be different dogs in the park. This means the dynamic could be very different from visit to visit. Some dogs prefer to socialize with dogs they know, which could make this a stressful situation.
- Other dogs may have a different play style then your pup Some dogs are high energy and like to run while others prefer wrestling. At the dog park, you might get a mixed bag. It can be discouraging if your pup can’t find an appropriate playmate.
- A lot of different dogs are coming through the space each day This ups the potential to transmit diseases. Just like kids pass a cold or worse, the stomach bug around in daycare, dogs can also pass these types of highly contagious illnesses to each other. All it takes is one dog to bring something into the park - then they all have it. If you’re planning to be a frequent flyer at the dog park, talk to your vet about preventative measures you can take to keep your pup healthy. This will include staying up to date on all vaccines.
Potential problems dog owners might encounter in dog parks
While dog parks can be great, they aren’t perfect. A few problems you might encounter in a dog park include:
- Dog aggression Even if your pup is not usually aggressive, sometimes dog parks can bring out the worst in dogs. They can be overstimulating and too many dogs coming at your pup at once can make them nervous, or worse, aggressive. If you see this behavior in your dog, immediately removed them and find a more appropriate activity for them to enjoy.
- Resource guarding You may notice in the dog park rules that food and most toys are not allowed. This is because dogs sometimes exhibit resource guarding or will fight over toys. To keep everyone safe, don’t bring toys into the park with you. If you see resource guarding in your pet or that your pet is trying to take something from another dog, it’s best to keep the peace and recall your dog away from the issue.
- Problematic play styles Some pups like to play too rough or inappropriately to participate in a dog park setting. This can include biting or growling at other dogs or even humping them. If this is your pet, keep them out of the dog park to reduce the risk of injury to your dog or others. You can consult a trainer if the behavior needs to be modified. If not, ask around in local dog groups to see if you can find a playmate who is a good match for your pup! Just because the dog park isn’t for your dog, doesn’t mean your dog can’t socialize at all - consider other options to keep everyone safe and your pup happy and having fun.
4 best dog parks in NYC
- Madison Square Park Dog Run
- Long Meadow and Dog Beach in Prospect Park
- Tompkins Square Dog Run
- Sirius Dog Run
Named NYC’s best dog park by the Village Voice in 2015, Madison Square Park dog park is located within Madison Square Park on 24th street. You and your pup will enter on the west side of the park. When your pup is done playing, rehydrate and re-energize with a trip to Shake Shack. Waters and pooch-tini’s all around. Don’t forget to grab a bag of bones to go!
Prospect Park is a haven for dogs, offering acres of green space for special off-leash hours (5 am–9 am and 9 pm–1 am) at the Long Meadow (except ballfields), Nethermead, Peninsula Meadow and, during those hours, even a place to swim, Dog Beach. Connect with other Prospect Park dog owners through FIDO, which hosts events throughout the year.
Open since 1990, Tompkins Square dog run,a community-funded dog park is tons of fun for your pooch. Located in the Alphabet City neighborhood, this dog park is open from 6 am until midnight. Perfect for the early bird or running off those late-night zoomies.
TheSirius Dog Runin Battery Park City's Gateway Plaza area is a popular dog run with new paving and some water to splash in when the weather is warm. It is a beautiful part of the city, and many friendly dogs and their humans love this area. Did you know this park is named after one of the Rescue Labs that gave his life during the 9-11 search and rescue operations?
Behavioral tips to make every dog park trip a success
If the pros of the dog park outweigh any cons, here are a few tips to help make sure your visits are successful. Collin Vito CPDT-KA, a trainer with Philly and South Jersey Unleashed recommends:
- Make sure your dog has a solid recall command before you hit the park. This will help you call your pup away from a potentially bad situation like play getting too rough. You also will need to catch and leash up your pup when it is time to go. You don't want to be chasing your dog as they run away from you! Be cautious that you’re not teaching your pup that every time you call them to come you don’t leash them up and take them away from the fun. This might make your pup hesitate to come when called.
- Learn about dog behavior and body language. You want to make sure you know the difference between fun play and a fight. Sometimes play can escalate. Learn the difference between playful barking and growling and a dog who is upset or angry. If your pup is starting to get tired, like us their patience might grow thin. A behavior that was tolerable at the beginning of playtime may become unacceptable to your dog as play goes on longer. Collin says, “As long as your dog, and the dogs they are playing with, show playful signs such as bouncy movement, bowing, taking turns, and generally an open-mouth smiley expression, then let them romp about! If you notice that the fun has stopped for either dog, that they seem stiff or rigid, ears and tails are tucked, and they are trying to get away or snapping, it’s best to call your dog over for a break. If the negative behavior continues to happen, it may be best to call it a day and head on home rather than risk your dog having a bad time.”
- Communicate with other dog owners. “When chatting with other owners, make sure to always keep an eye on your dog to make sure they’re not making any enemies. You can also help find a good playmate for your dog by asking owners about their dogs. Things like asking about other dogs’ energy levels, whether they normally like to play chase or wrestle, whether they normally play with dogs bigger or smaller than them, will help you know which dogs to introduce your dog to.” Collin likes to remind his clients.
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