Dog Park Etiquette: What You Need to Know for Off-Leash Fun
Dog parks are more than just places for your pampered pooch to burn off some steam and calories. Within the chain link confines of dog parks, you can find camaraderie, exercise, laughter, fun and of course, dogs!
Here are some tips for merging good manners and common sense to create the ultimate dog park experience for you and your pet:
Scoop the Poop
Nobody likes messy shoes (or paws). As soon as your dog makes a mess, clean it up and throw it away. Many dog parks are well-stocked with “mutt mitts” for clean-up but always show up prepared with your own. This simple step will help keep the park clean and prevent the unintentional spread of disease.
Bring Only Healthy Dogs to the Dog Park
Make sure your dog is fully vaccinated before you go to the dog park. This is especially important for puppies. Also, check your local park’s rules and regulations—some parks don’t allow puppies younger than 4 months inside. Never take a female dog that’s in heat to a dog park either: you risk meeting up with non-neutered males and exposing your dog to aggressive pursuit.
Be Responsible for Your Dog's Behavior
Your dog may be good-natured and obedient at home, but be prepared to monitor her closely when exposing her to the new environment of a dog park. “Let your pet play with the other dogs, but watch her body language and look for signs of fearful or aggressive behavior,” says Dr. Robyn Jaynes, PetSmart Services Veterinarian. “This means always keeping an eye on your dog and not letting her get too far out of reach.”
Keep in mind that other Pet Parents may not be as responsible as you and their dogs may not want to play.
If your dog begins to growl, show teeth or behave aggressively or is the target of another dog’s aggression, intervene and redirect your dog to another area of the park. If the behavior continues, it may be best to leave the park entirely and seek the advice of a trainer who can help socialize your dog in a safe, controlled setting.
Jaynes also advises limiting the number of dogs you bring to the dog park. Some parks have restrictions on how many dogs Pet Parents can bring, but even if yours doesn’t, only bring as many dogs as you can safely manage.
Leave Toys at Home
Some parks have communal tennis balls free for the tossing, but remember that squeaky toys, tug toys, and rope toys brought from home can cause normally docile dogs to become possessive. Avoid any possible conflict over favorite toys by leaving them at home. If you encounter a dog that is playing with a toy from home, try to steer your pet’s energy away from that pup and toward a communal ball or a play pack having a good time.
Toddlers and Dog Parks
Don’t risk the chance of an accident by bringing small children into dog parks. Dogs running around the park can really build up speed and aren’t always paying attention to where they are headed.
Toddlers can easily be knocked over during the fun. Also remember, dogs with a strong prey drive will often chase and sometimes nip at anything small and moving. If you absolutely must bring your children to the dog park, make sure you keep a close eye on them and keep them at a safe distance from dogs at play.
Remember, Safety First
As soon as you enter the dog park, take off all gear other than your dog’s collar and ID tag. This will help prevent your dog’s (and any of his four-legged friend’s) teeth or jaw from getting caught in any gear.
By approaching the whole dog park experience with a friendly attitude, responsible behavior, and a willingness to keep the park itself clean, you’ll find it easy for you and your dog to get exercise and socialize.