1. Your dog is afraid of other dogs, or barks and lunges at them. (Trying to “socialize” a fearful dog in this way is “flooding” and can cause psychological trauma.)
  2. Your dog is a “Tarzan Dog” – a dog who likes to play rough with other dogs and doesn’t understand when other dogs are telling him to back off. (This is a fight waiting to happen.)
  3. Your dog guards toys, bowls or his person from other dogs.
  4. Your dog does not come when called.
  5. Your dog is out of control excited when he enters a new place with other dogs and does not listen to you.
  6. Your dog is obese, injured, older or under 6 months of age.


If your dog seems like a good fit for a dog park, then check out the park first on your own. Do the other dog owners seem to have good control of their dogs? Are there fearful, reactive or even aggressive dogs present? When are the most crowded or least crowded times?

Before you head out to visit a dog park with your dog for the first time, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. While most dog parks have plenty of room for running and romping, there is certain etiquette you should know before setting out. To keep your dog and other dogs safe and happy, pay heed to my list of dos and don’ts for the dog park. A few of my top reminders include:


  • Visit your vet prior to hitting the dog park to make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines and is neutered or spayed and physically well.
  • Be prepared to clean up after your dog.
  • Always stay alert and aware of your and your dog’s surroundings.
  • Ensure your dog is in the proper area and socializing with dogs of similar size.
  • Be ready to step in when you see conflict brewing.
  • Leave food, small children and favorite toys at home.
  • Keep your dog from rushing or hanging out at the entrance when other dogs are coming or going.
  • Keep moving. Walk the perimeter with your dogs while they sniff and explore. Dogs congregating in stationary huddles tend to break into fights, but dogs moving together are less likely to do so.
  • Pay attention. This is not the time to read messages or stand and chat with humans. Keep your eye on the dogs. It takes only an instant for a fight to erupt and you want to be nearby if needed.
  • If you are not sure if play is getting too intense, intervene. It is better to interrupt for a moment and send your dog back to play a few times versus having a fight breaking out.


So, if you’re ready for a day of fun with your four-legged pal, here are some wonderful dog parks in the Northern Virginia area. Check them out and allow your dog the glorious feeling of freedom and socialization!

Winchester Dog Park

This lovely dog park is available to members only, but visit their website to learn how to affordably join. You will need a dog license and your dog’s current vaccination records. The park features year-round, seven-day-a-week hours and separate play areas for large and small dogs. It is located in Jim Barnett Park.

Prince Williams County Dog Park

The Prince William County Dog Park is located on the grounds of the county animal shelter. It is open daily from sunrise to dusk, and is open to the public. There is no charge to bring your dogs to the park, although the Prince William Humane Society gratefully accepts donations to help cover operations and maintenance costs. Please see the website for their rules and regulations.

Leesburg Dog Park

The Leesburg Dog Park is located in Loudon County within the lovely Olde Izaak Walton Park. It only accepts dogs 25 pounds and under, so families with large dogs will have to look elsewhere for fun. Small dog families, visit the website for more information.

Are you concerned about your dog’s behavior in the park? Maybe it’s time for some dog training. Take a peek at our variety of programs, and contact us for more information.

-Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.

Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.She has four registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.

Head of the Class Dog Training LLC 

Winchester, VA

Is Your Dog Ready to Visit a Dog Park?


There’s nothing like a wide-open space to help us feel alive and free, don’t you agree? It seems logical that your dog would also. However, a dog park is not appropriate for all dogs, and can make behavior problems worse. On one hand, having enough exercise can alleviate your dog’s anxiety, help eliminate negative behaviors like chewing and keep your dog at a healthy weight so he or she can enjoy a long life. On the other, many dogs dislike being rushed by strange dogs, particularly as they mature. In fact, most dogs prefer to play with a familiar friend or two versus many strange dogs. For those dogs, a dog park full of dogs running and body slamming can spell trouble. Just like some people enjoy loud parties and crowds, many people prefer quiet dinners with a few friends. Both are normal. If you would like to visit a dog park with your dog, think about your dog’s temperament and behavior. If your dog has any of these traits, they are not a good fit for attending a dog park.

SM

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