Dog Park Tips – Pack a Sense of Humor

Dog Park Tips

Dog Park Adventure

Historically, I’ve never been a fan of dog parks.  Perhaps it’s because so many of my Camp-Run-A-Pup families call me with tales of their pup being bitten or biting a park playmate. As pups are dropped off at camp, their owners tell me stories about the other dog owners that frequent dog parks: dog parents who don’t care, are irresponsible, talk on cell phones while ignoring their pups’ unruly behavior, and bring badly behaved human children to the dog park.

Fortunately, Camp-Run-A-Pup provides ample opportunity for my campers to play so we seldom have to venture out of my backyard for my campers to enjoy games of chase, fetch, and playing in kiddie pools, fall leaves and snow as the weather allows. Mostly we all get along, and when we don’t I’m not afraid to come out swinging with my plastic fly swatter that reminds everyone who the leader of the pack is: me.

However, having offered my opinion of dog parks in general, there is a Lake County, Illinois dog park that I’ve wanted to visit, and this week we had the chance to go three times. My teen has added “day camp” to our Camp-Run-A-Pup menu, and so we wanted to check out the possibilities of a field trip location for day camp pups. So we headed out to Prairie Wolf Dog Park, a designated off-leash dog area within the Lake County Forest Preserve system. It offers 44 acres of large fields for pups to run in and two inviting ponds for pups to swim in. There is an area to hose off pups before you leave, plenty of drinking fountains and even a human outhouse that isn’t too awful. Since visiting Prairie Wolf Dog Park, I’ve learned their are four dog parks located in Lake County’s forest preserve system, including a sledding area that is designed as a training facility for mushing, competitive dog sledding and skijoring (where a cross-country skier is pulled over snow by dogs).

The best feature these dog parks offer, in my opinion, is lots of space and areas that naturally separated the smaller dogs from the bigger dogs at the owners’ discretion. I would imagine the forest preserve dog parks are busier on the weekend, but on our weekday visits there was plenty of opportunity to socialize (or not) depending on the pup’s temperament. I also noticed that human companions were friendly, attentive to their pups, and very conscientious about doing their part to keep the park clean.

The dog parks in Lake County, Illinois charge a daily fee of $10.00 for non-residents or $5.00 for residents, and a yearly permit is available. For the time being, we will pay as we go.

Below are some tips to consider before you open the gates of the local dog park and unsnap your leash. I wrote these based solely on my own opinion and experience. And, of course, I think I make a lot of sense.

Babies, toddlers, unruly older children? Leave them at home. Just do. If you bring them, don’t even think about snarling at the owners of the dogs that run over or jump on your little human kid. The odds of a bite are high. Read the sign on the gate: DOG park.

Before you enter the gates, dump all the treats out of your pocket. No treats. When you swim in the ocean, do you bring shark bait with you?

Toys. Leave them in the car. Dogs don’t share, and they can’t be taught to share. Really. If a dog gives up a toy or allows another dog to take his toy, it is not “sharing”; the dog is showing social awareness in that if the dog resists, he knows the other dog will probably bite him. If your dog steals toys or refuses to share, he is not being “selfish”; he is showing dominance. Leave the toys in the car. Okay, I see that purple eggplant throw toy in your pocket. Hear me sigh, but at least you know the dynamics. (Balls and Frisbees are the exception—IF you have plenty of space to throw them and you and your pup won’t have a meltdown if someone else’s pup decides to take off with the toy.)

Be attentive as you enter the dog park gates. Imagine if you entered a party and 20 people descended on you, wanting to sniff your butt, jump on you and snuggle up to your partner. Imagine knowing that at least a couple of “guests” had guns or knives. My guess is that you would hightail it out the door pretty quickly, or else head to the bar for a double. Walk through the gate briskly and calmly—if you can move away from inquiring sniffers—before telling your pup to sit and removing the leash.

As for the leash, please keep it in your hand. If you are sipping a latte and need your other hand for your cell phone, put the leash around your neck.

Wait one minute. If you are sipping a latte and talking on the phone, who is watching your pup? Hang up. (I don’t have the heart to tell you to pitch the latte.) Be attentive to your dog. Call your dog to you frequently and have him sit. Your pup will feel more secure each time you reestablish that no matter what happens at the dog park, you are still his leader.

Along with your dog, leash, latte and purple eggplant, I hope you brought your sense of humor and goodwill with you to the dog park. Dogs will bite one another, get personal with one another, and sometimes accidents happen. Try to work it out. Be nice. Skip the blame game. If you can’t be nice, stay out of the dog park. Lead by example, not by judgment. And for heaven’s sake, stay away from controversial subjects like which dog food is the best.

Don’t stay too long—and doggone it, shut the gate when you leave! You weren’t born in a kennel.

The forest preserve’s dog parks are an adventure I can happily enjoy with our campers that enjoy a little more action than my backyard or when we need a change of scenery. If you would like to see a few more pictures of our field trips to Prairie Wolf Dog Park, check out our Camp Run-A-Pup Facebook page.

Odd Loves Company,

15 thoughts on “Dog Park Tips – Pack a Sense of Humor

  1. I’ve heard about Prairie Wolf dog park but I haven’t visited yet. Your description is so helpful and now I know what to expect and I’m sure my dog would love it.
    Great tips and reminders.them.
    Thank you.

    • Your welcome. It really is a lot of fun and for a dog park pretty laid back! Hope you have a chance to check it out.

  2. Dog parks = idiot people & idiot dogs. Not everyone, but enough to just say no to the risk. The 1st dog park the city built happened to be on my side of town & very close. We used to arrive at daybreak & be able to enjoy the park with a few like-minded people & their dogs for an hour or so. Then word got out as time went on which brought *others*. Good bye. Prairie Wolf Dog Park sounds like a fun place on weekdays. Good luck!

    • During the week works for me. Speaking dog fluently keeps me humble since I am well aware how quick things can and do go south. I’ve been very impressed with the people I’ve met at Prairie Wolf, they seem very committed to a well park with limited drama.

  3. Great tips, though I can’t see myself ever taking Dallas to a dog park. Guess I’ve heard too many negative stories. I don’t worry Dallas would bite somebody (or their dog); I worry he’s too gentle and others would take advantage of him. Oh, and going out without a leash?? Nope, not gonna happen!!

    • There is a far amount of negative mostly due to crowding and inattentiveness. The shelties seem to enjoy barking and herding others….
      Believe it or not, this past week was the first time Rascal was ever off lead outside of the yard, and she has a killer recall—she comes in a flash when she wants too. :-D. She did great tho, and like I mentioned it was completely fenced and very quiet during the week. We will see how it goes.

    • Thanks. I’m sure the city dog parks will ever be my thing but Prairie Wolf is more like Disneyland for Pups. And of-course if everyone would only listen to me the dog parks and probably the rest of the world would be a better happier place!

  4. Sounds like quite a park. Glad you had fun and there were so few people and dogs around.
    Utah was pretty funny!

    • I thought you would like it. This dog park might be fun for you with Trinket on lead. It’s very pretty. Tons of wildflowers. And while other dogs are off lead people were very proactive at interacting with them. Now about the long coated dogs and the little dogs…Mmmm, a walk around the neighborhood is nice too.

  5. We used to take Joey, George, and Max to Prairie Wolf all the time, even weekends. Max loved the big meadow where he would chase tennis balls. And there were always plenty around. Max and George loved the big pond. One time Joey (and you know he’s a beagle) spotted me with Max and George on the other side of the pond and swam clear across. We thought he was going to drown. It was a cold fall day too.

    The reason we stopped going was because Joey kept getting through the fence and chasing wildlife. It was too hard keeping him on leash and letting George and Max run free.

    I would imagine Joey would be much better now that he’s older though. Maybe it’s time for a little field trip!

    PS – the park is nice all year round, but it’s truly fun on a snowy wintry day!

    • Funny, Cole reminded me on our second trip to the park that years and years and years ago we went to the Prairie wolf with your boys. I had completely forgotten. And as I recall we had the same issue with Joey’s beagling. And now I remember your story about George swimming all the way across.
      I’d can’t wait to head out in the winter. Even fewer people!

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