The Old Trainer: No training for a dog park

October 19, 2012 

Dear Old Trainer: I just adopted my first dog, Rico.

You always advise taking dogs to the dog park, but I have never been to one. I can't wait to take him, but what training does he need before we go?
-- Chris, Atwater

Anwser: None. He is like the champion racehorse Rising Star in that old movie, The Electric Horseman, when Robert Redford releases him into the herd of wild mustangs and tells him, "Don't worry, you haven't lived wild like them, but they never won no races like you did, so just do what comes naturally."

Rico may be nervous for a few seconds, but if you are calm he will relax. Let him stand by you and observe if he wants. Dogs are pack animals, so it is natural for them to play in a group. Rico knows how to do it and will join in when he feels like it.

Your job is to make sure Rico has his basic training and to make him behave. Maintain proper park etiquette yourself. Pick up after Marco and make sure the park is clean when you leave.

Dear Old Trainer: My husband just retired and we plan to do a lot of traveling by auto. We want to take our Corgi, Max with us. He is well behaved, but has never taken trips in the car. I saw an article that said you need to keep your dog in a crate while traveling. Is that true, and what training do they need?
-- Doris, Palo Alto

Answer: Forget the crate. Anyone who tells you to put your dog in a crate knows nothing about dogs.

Little training is required because dogs are born loving car rides. Take Max with you on short errands around town for a few days. Stop at various parks along the way and let him out for a few minutes, then say "load up" as the command to get back in the car. Pet him and love on him each time he does.

In three days Max will be ready for a road trip. After the first one he will turn into Willy Nelson and walk around the house singing, "I can't wait to get on the road again."

The only thing you have to show him is his place in the car. If Max does not know the "sit" command, use the training tips I sent you to teach him.

Once he learns it -- a day or two at most -- place a blanket on the floor and lead Max to it. Point to the blanket and change the command to "sit on your blanket." In a day or two, Max will learn to go to his blanket and sit. Love on him when he does.

Place the blanket in the car, give the order, and he will know his place during the trip. When you arrive at a motel or a friend's house, put his blanket down and he will be right at home.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained, and placed more than 2,000 dogs. Send questions to

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