If you are fortunate to live in a community with a dog park and your dog is of the correct temperament, the park is a great place for socialization.

Dog parks get mixed reviews for many reasons. Some have to do with owner behavior, while others focus on dog behavior. Knowing the guidelines will help in making the right decision for your dog.

Take your dog’s temperament into consideration and don’t assume he is going to have a good time just because you want him to. You know your dog best, so keep an eye on your dog’s body language and behavior to decide whether they are happy there.

Some dogs will have no desire to play but love to sniff around and just race off leash.

Here are some tips to help you decide if a dog park might suit your dog:

• First, make sure your dog is healthy and up to date on required vaccines.

• Does your dog like to play with balls or toys but is not obsessive or aggressive about them? Does your dog like both male and female dogs? If yes, check out a park.

• If the park has separate small and large dog areas or times, abide by those parameters.

• Be prepared to leave if your dog or another dog is a bully or acting inappropriately. Break up bad behavior but don’t get your hands close to a dog’s face or collar.

• Supervise your dog instead of taking too much time socializing with other people. Keep moving around the park rather than staying stationary.

• Dremel your dog’s nails to prevent scratching other dogs or people.

• Do not take treats, as they cause fights.

• No unneutered adult males (even if friendly) or females in heat.

• No pinch or choke collars, to prevent injury.

• If your dog humps other dogs, he does not belong in a park. Even if your dog is play humping, remember that many other dogs don’t like it and it causes fights.

• Don’t allow bullying. If a dog is cornered, break it up. Don’t hang out by the gate, as dogs can become fence aggressive as dogs come and go.

• Don’t bring your dog if they don’t like having other dogs in their face. Don’t bring dogs less than 4 months old. Don’t keep a dog on leash at a park.

Body language to be aware of: Raised hackles can be play, stress or aggression. By itself, it might not be clear so look for other indicators. Is the dog’s tail raised straight up and very still? Is the dog in a frozen position? Is the dog doing a hard stare? These can be indicators of dominance or aggression.

Loose body language is playful. Low tail wag is confusion or stress. Medium height tail and wag is usually comfort and play. If dogs enjoy rough play, it is OK as long as both dogs participating enjoy it. Seek out dogs that have a similar play style.

Knowing your own dog is a key to a successful dog park experience. When in doubt, get out!

Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy. AlphadogTrainingAcademy@gmail.com