Traveling with Pets – Dog Parks 101

125 - Acre Open Dog Park at the Dog Chapel in Vermont

by Shae Pepper. Photos ©Shae Pepper Photography

125 – Acre Open Dog Park at the Dog Chapel in Vermont

One of the biggest challenges when you travel with your dog is how to exercise them when the activities aren’t very dog-friendly and they have to spend more time in the hotel than you’d like. Dog parks can be a contentious issue in the pet parent community. Usually you love them or you hate them. 

Enclosed Small Dog Area with Astro Turf in Short Pump outside Richmond, Virginia

When we first got Truffles, we tried one and didn’t have a great experience. As a result she didn’t head back to a dog park for over four years. That proved to be a mistake when we started the 5 year, 50 state road trip that we’re on now because she didn’t have the social skills that dog parks can support. 

Enclosed Small Dog Area at Dog Park in Milton, Connecticut

The biggest concern regarding dog parks is dog safety—dogs of different training levels, sizes and temperaments all mixing together with varying degrees of owner interaction and control. These are valid concerns and we are very vigilant with Truffles at any dog park, whether we visit once or each day, when we are in an area. 

Enclosed Dog Park with Forest in the Center near Milwaukee, WI

The benefits of dog parks, especially for exercising Truffles, outweigh our concerns. After 21 months on the road, she is getting better with each and every dog park experience and we are getting more and more knowledgeable about what to look for when we approach a new dog park. We love having space for Truffles to run off leash, for her to socialize with many different dogs and owners, and to try new experiences like agility courses. 

Enclosed Dog Park in Altus, Oklahoma

Tips for Dog Parks

  1. Check for separate areas. We almost exclusively exercise Truffles in designated small dog areas. If we don’t have an option but to mix with other dogs, especially larger ones, we observe the dog and talk with the owner before deciding if we’re going to have Truffles in the dog park.
  2. Be proactive. You know your dog. Ask owners about their dogs reactivity to new dogs. Tell them about any challenges your dog might have or if they are new to dog parks.
  3. Follow the rules. Don’t bring food or toys into the enclosure if the instructions say not to. We almost always bring Truffles ball in with us (most dog parks that have communal toys are too big for her) but we know her, and we know she is not at all toy aggressive. So if someone steals her ball and keeps it, that’s not a problem and we go in knowing we could lose our ball at any time (that’s why we keep four in the glove box and three in her suitcase).
  4. Keep your dog healthy. Keep their vaccines up to date, even on the road, and bring your own water. Truffles isn’t one for communal water bowls but if she wants to have some we rinse out the bowl and place fresh water in it for her to avoid water-borne illnesses. 
Enclosed 50 – Acre Dog Park in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

We’ve found amazing dog parks around the country and have mostly had great experiences. My advice? Don’t fear them. Start slow and work your way up to longer times with other dogs. If your dog has a lot of energy like Truffles, it might just save your sanity on your travels.

What are your favorite dog park features? Please share in the comments below.

Full-time dog mom and traveler, Shae Pepper is on a 5 year, 50 state road trip with her husband, Stephen Pepper and their dog, Truffles. You can follow their adventures on their website, No Home Just Roam

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