The dog park can be a wonderful place to exercise your dog, get him better socialized, and most of all have some fun! But, nothing ruins a trip to the dog park like owners who ignore dog park etiquette.
In addition to regular rules, usually posted at your local park – rules such as, dogs must be up-to-date on vaccines, dogs must not be left unattended, owners must pick up after their dogs, etc – familiarizing yourself with these important dog park etiquette tips can make your (and your dog’s) trip to the park a fun and safe one!
1. Call your dog away from the gate while others are entering and leaving. This rule of thumb is both to make life easier for those trying to enter or exit the park, but also helps to avoid some of the altercations that can happen when new dogs are entering. A dog entering the park can become anxious or overwhelmed when greeted by many unfamiliar dogs. A tense or uncomfortable dog is more likely to become aggressive or frightened. Keeping your pup away from the gate will also prevent her from slipping out.
2. Remove your dog’s leash before entering the park. Most dog parks have a double-gate system that prevents dogs from escaping whenever a gate is opened. This double-gate system offers the perfect opportunity to remove your dog’s leash before they enter the park. Not only does this prevent any accidents associated with your dog darting around the park with her leash flailing behind her, but prevents leash aggression incidents, too.
3. If your dog wears a metal collar, remove it before letting him into the park. Dogs at the park often play and romp, even rough-house with each other. If your dog is wearing a spiked collar, choke chain, prong or metal collar, he or his playmate may get injured just from playing.
4. Keep an eye on your dog at all times. One of the biggest complaints of pet parents at the dog park is when someone brings their dog inside, then plops down on a bench and looks down at their phone or a book the entire time they’re there. Instead, use this time to interact and play with your dog!
5. Pick up after your dog. People not cleaning up after their dogs is the single biggest complaint of pet parents at the dog park. Not only is it just plain gross, diseases, illnesses, parasites, and worms can all be spread through contact with a dog’s feces. While many parks provide waste bags, don’t depend on your park to always have them in stock. Instead, carry a waste bag dispenser or spare bags with you at all times.
6. Keep a close watch on your dog’s body language and the body language of any dog’s he’s interacting with. If you notice any signs of discomfort – ears pulled back, wide eyed stares, a tense mouth, tucked tail, excessive lip-licking or yawning, etc. – be prepared to remove your dog from the situation. Just like people, all dogs don’t get along with all dogs.
7. Leave sick dogs at home. Do not bring a dog that is sick, has parasites, worms, fleas or ticks, or is coughing or sneezing to a dog park, even if the park is completely empty of other dogs. Illnesses can quickly spread around the dog park through shared water dishes, urine and feces, through contact with other dogs, and even through contact with the ground where a sick dog has been. Likewise, if your dog is very young, very old, has not been appropriately vaccinated, or whose immune system is compromised in any way, leave them at home.
8. Don’t bring dogs that are not spayed or neutered, and especially dogs in heat, to the park. Dogs that aren’t spayed, regardless of whether they’re actively in heat run the risk of becoming pregnant. Both males and females that are unaltered may attract extra, unwanted attention from other dogs. This unwanted attention can lead to conflict.
9. Leave food, treats, and toys at home. Because dogs all react differently to food and treats, it’s best to leave these at home. It may be tempting to reward your dog for good behavior with a treat, but handing out treats can very quickly backfire and cause unnecessary conflict. Instead, reward your dog with praise and petting. Further, many dogs have special dietary needs or restrictions. Passing out a chicken treat to an allergic dog, no matter how well-meaning the offer, can be very dangerous. Additionally, some dogs can become very possessive of a favorite toy or ball. Bringing toys to the dog park can easily lead to fights.
Some of these tips may seem obvious, like keeping an eye out for your dog and keeping him at home when he’s sick. But, before you visit the dog park, take the other dogs and dog owners into consideration.
In addition to dog park etiquette tips for your dog, here are some guidelines for people to follow, too!
10. Don’t go to the park wearing your Sunday best. It’s nearly impossible to get in and out of the dog park without at least some dirt, mud, or drool on yourself. The beauty of dogs is that they love us no matter how we dress! Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. And, consider carrying along a pack of wet wipes for quick cleanup of dirty hands and paws.
11. Be cautious when bringing young children to the dog park. The truth is, you’re at a dog park, not a playground. Bringing your kids can be a wonderful experience for them, just make sure to keep them close and teach them that not all dogs will welcome their attention. Small children should be taught how to properly greet and handle dogs and should refrain from running and yelling inside the park.
12. Monitor your dog’s activity level, especially in warmer weather, to make sure she doesn’t become exhausted or overheated. Most dog parks provide fresh water, but always err on the side of caution and bring along your own water bottle and travel bowl. On especially hot days, consider a cooling vest or cool collar and watch for signs of heat exhaustion – excessive drooling, panting, red gums and a tongue that hangs longer than usual and is wider at the bottom.
Follow these guidelines of dog park etiquette and safety to ensure a great trip for both you and your dog! And most importantly, have fun! Do you take your dog to the dog park? Have any other dog park etiquette tips not mentioned above? Share them with us!