My Dog Won’t Come at the Dog Park. What do I do?

The latest example in the ongoing saga of Pickle being a brat happened last week at the dog park. Everyday I take Pickle and a small pack of her friends to a dog park in our neighborhood to get in all the ball chasing and butt sniffing they can handle for the day. An hour passes, and I’m leashing up dogs only to discover Pickle is no where to be seen.

Let the games begin.

Pickle on the opposite end of the park, gnawing on a tennis ball. I approach her, treats in hands, and in usual Pickle fashion she bolts away from me. It’s not unusual for me to spend 10 or so minutes to get her attention and leave, we’ve been through this before. But today, Pickle is acting worse. She’s not letting me within 10 feet of her without running away. 20 minutes pass, no luck. 45 minutes pass, she’s still making me chase her.

90 minutes pass, and Pickle is still 10 feet away from me, only now she’s too tired to stand and she’s contently gnawing on her ball.

I ran through all the scenarios. I thought about leaving her (I didn’t, I was frustrated!). I almost had to cancel my afternoon walks. I thought about calling my partner to help corral her. I was visibly livid to any other dog owner watching me pace back and forth trying to get Pickle to notice the treats in my hand.

Pickle was having a grand time, but made the mistake of squatting to pee, and I was able to get hold of her harness. Ordeal over. But what now? I felt lost, like all the good progress she had made eroded before my eyes. Question now was how to fix it.

Say Please By Sitting:

Luckily for any owner going through this, there is hope! There are some simple games you can play with your dog that will help to create a better relationship with your pup and make them want to be with you and not run away when you bring out that leash.

Here is one example of a video from Dr. Sophia Yin. In the video, Dr. Yin rewards her dog for sitting and staying focused on her. Note they are training indoors. By upping the level of distraction, you are preparing to take train the pup outside with escalating distractions.

Taking it Outside:

Once your dog has mastered the leash work indoors, you can start working outdoors either on the street or in a park. Starting with a standard 6-foot leash limits your dogs ability to lose focus. Slowly working towards and longer leash gives your dog more freedom and forces them to concentrate more. Here is an article highlighting the essentials.

Now what?

Keep training! The most important part about any training regiment is that you, as the puppy-parent, stay consistent. This method is rather fun and builds a great relationship with your dog through play. They are learning despite themselves, and it pays huge dividends!

We’ve been working slowly with Pickle and trying to build her confidence before going to a heavily packed dog park again. In the first couple days it looks like she’s learning to trust us. Through patience and hard work you too can get a well trained pup and have happy experiences at the dog park!