Basic Training

What You Need to Know About Dog Parks

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Dog parks are becoming more and more popular across the country.  When owners hear of a new park opening up, they are very excited to get their dog out to play, run around, and meet new dog friends, but there are a few things that dog owners need to keep in mind.


Dog parks can be a great experience for both dog and owner, but there are a few Do’s and Don’ts that owners should be aware of.  We want the dog park to be a safe and fun experience for both owners and their pets.  Here are just a key points to remember:

Do exercise your dog before going to the dog park.  A nice 15 minute structured walk prior to entering the dog park will help put your dog in a better state of mind before you cut them off leash to run around.

Do educate yourself on the signs of healthy play and dog body language.  Owners should watch their dog and intervene if things start to escalate before a scuffle breaks out.

Do leave your cell phone and other distracting devices at home.  It is important for owners to be mindful of their dog’s interactions at the dog park.

Do practice obedience commands such as “Sit”, “Down” and “Come” when called.  Having your dog reliable with their obedience commands when off leash in the presence of a high level of distractions will make the dog park experience that much safer and more enjoyable for you and your dog.

Don’t bring your dog to the park if you think or know that they are under the weather with an illness that they can transfer to other dogs.

– Don’t think a dog park is a great place of try and socialize a dog with issues (fear, aggression, reactivity, etc.).  These types of behavior issues need to be addressed in a safe manner by a professional before bringing the dog into a public environment like a dog park.

Don’t introduce foods and treats in the presence of a pack of dogs.  Food is a common trigger for aggression, so it is better to reward your dog with verbal and physical praise (petting) instead of food.

Dog parks are a great opportunity for residents and their dogs, but it is important to make sure that owners are educated on the important considerations for dog park play, and that the dogs are well behaved and obedient for the safety of all dogs and owners.  Creating safe dog to dog interaction is essential to “Changing the World for Dogs”.

Steve Reid is a Certified Dog Trainer and owner of S.R. Dog Training, LLC based in Westchester, NY.  Steve’s mission is “Changing the World for Dogs”. As part of his mission, Steve presented a webinar to readers of The Dogington Post on Addressing Common Behavior Problems in the Family Dog and the Shelter Dog. Steve’s informative webinar can be viewed by clicking here.

For more information about S. R. Dog Training, send an e-mail to [email protected], call 914-774-7654 or visit Please also become a fan of Steve on Facebook at

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  1. Avatar Of Ruth



    We are lucky enough that the localschool doesnt mind dogs in the field.and although every one is good and well mannered dogs,theres always one dog.I now go during the day.I also always bring a large bag and a bunch of poo bags just incase an irresponsible owner doesnt pick up.I also go on sunday afternoon and clean up any poo or forgotten bags so that the kids dont run or fall in a pile.I appreciate the school allowing my dog the enjoyment of running free and would hate to lose it for a bad dog owner

  2. Avatar Of Andy



    I travel alot and have been to several dog parks. I find that the regulars police the park pretty well. They know the “offenders” and either run them off or keep a close eye on them. There are a few minor scrapes every once in a while, but usually the pooches get along pretty well. Most dog parks have rules and regs posted and a few I’ve been to even had pamphlets by the entrance. Most parks also do not allow any kind of treats but pet parents are encouraged to bring jugs of water. You must keep an eye on your furbaby and watch for the body language that spells trouble. If your dog doesn’t play well with others it is time to go.

  3. Avatar Of Harriet Grossman

    Harriet Grossman


    The tech at my vet also suggested having wipes with you and cleaning paws before you head home. Most people pick up after their dogs but let’s face it, a dog park is going to have much more “stuff” on the ground than the typical walk area.

  4. Avatar Of Lynia



    The first time I took my Sheltie to a dog park, there were several large dogs there. They all decided to play “Bowling for Shelties,” and continually knocked my dog over and sent him rolling. The big dogs’ owners were either oblivious to what was going on, or thought it was hilarious. I had to rescue him before he was totally traumatized. We now take him to the “little dog” enclosure next door, where he can play with smaller, less threatening dogs.

  5. Avatar Of K. Trollinger

    K. Trollinger


    JC is right. You really do need to know your dog and dog language in general to be in a dog park. Just two days ago a man stabbed to death a 10 month old pit bull pup (video taken 10 minutes before the incident showed the dog playing and socializing well) after it chased, as puppies are wont to do, his dog and jumped up on him. I understand the fear people have over this breed, but the dog was being an off lead pup in a dog park not a raving menace to dog or human and this guy, with little understanding of dog body language just stabs and kills the dog.

  6. Avatar Of Jc



    My dog loves going to the dog park. The problems I’ve encountered include people with maladjusted dogs coming in, the treat issue, people who have no clue in deciphering play from aggression, people ignoring the postings to not bring their female in heat to the park, and people who don’t close gates. I had one guy swing at my dog because he brought his female in heat to the park and my dog took notice. The other dog owners, who were closest to the location where the guy was swinging and knew my dog (and the idiot owner of the other dog) got to the guy before I could and started putting him in his place. They called someone (police?) about the violation and the guy left. Usually, the regulars are very good about watching out for each other and newbies. If you mind the rules, they take you in as one of them, so don’t be put off by what could happen, walk the perimeter to make sure all gates are closed (even if people are there already), make yourself familiar with the differences between pecking order behaviours and aggression, and if you have any reservations keep your pet at home. Maybe consider going to the dog park for a few days without Fido and watching how the other dogs interact and the owner’s response before bringing your dog there. That will help you decipher the play and aggression behaviours. If you are uncomfortable with what is going on, take your dog out…don’t expect all the other dog owners to change their behaviours and don’t reprimand their dog (you are likely to get yourself bit if you do so, not to mention you will tick off the owner). Remember, if something is not right, you always have the option to leave.

  7. Avatar Of Liadan



    I disagree with leaving the cell phone home. Don’t go on it (self-control people! Focus on the dog!). But cell phones might be needed in case of emergency.

    I never go to parks any more. Too many irresponsible dog owners…I wish dog parks worked the way they are supposed to.

    • Avatar Of George



      I agree. I used to love bringing my two to get rid of all that energy since our yard is not fenced. But too many inconsiderate, its all about me, owners out there. Get off your phone. How nice that you have Starbucks for yourself, but don't bring a drop of water for your poor dog, who is left to mooch off the responsible owners – who feel sorry for your dog and want to let him drink, but then won't have enough left for their own!

      There are separate areas for a reason. Don't bring in your little Chihuahua into the play area for big dogs. You are face down in your phone, oblivious to your poor pup being run into the ground by big dogs. I cringe every time – hoping I don't see a tiny leg snapped by a big dog who is just innocently playing. Shame on you.

  8. Avatar Of Bmitch



    I have taken my dogs to the dog park closest to where i live and i have never had an issue. All great people there and very well behaved dogs. Its like a big family up there. Everyone knows who is coming by their vehicle because they go so often its pretty cool.

  9. Avatar Of April



    “Leave it” is one of the best commands an owner can teach their dog.
    Works in so many situations:
    a dog, treat (until release command), squirrel, human, all scary and unfamiliar/unwanted things…

    Very appropriate to be taught/learned prior to a first dog park visit.

    We loved our parks/beaches. Never once had a bad day there. My boy Max learned so much at the beach.

  10. Avatar Of Merri



    The problem with dog parks is that you cannot trust other people to take care of their dogs health and behavior as well as you do. We went to one once and never again.

  11. I have never taken my 2 to the dog park but also when going, be aware of who is out there with their dogs. I would not stay if there is only one person out there and also don’t go alone. Not just the dogs safety but also human safety as well. There are way too many people posing as one thing and actually someone who could be a person that is very dangerous.

  12. Avatar Of Mary Beth Finnerty

    Mary Beth Finnerty


    Wish I knew a tactful way to tell others to get rid of their food/treats at the dog park. Resentment seems to be the most common response!

    • Avatar Of Jo Storie

      Jo Storie


      I agree. My dogs have allergies so i am very watchful of what they eat. People just seem they can feed any dogs treats and then you are considered the bad person for saying anything. Ten the next time my dog sees that person that ey will get food which is a bad habit as well.

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