The dog park is a great place for your dog to let loose and burn off some of that extra energy, and contrary to popular belief, these parks are safe for you and your dog when you practice proper dog park etiquette.
If you don’t, you can ruin the experience for your dog and other visitors there, and might even put yourself and your dog in danger.
Much of proper dog park etiquette is really just common sense, but you might be unaware if you’re a new dog owner or if you’ve never taken your dog to a dog park.
The dog park is meant to be enjoyed responsibly. This means being an attentive dog mom and looking out for potential hazards, just like if you were to take a two-legged child to a public playground.
For example, you should always be on the look-out for signs of a distressed dog. This includes behaviors like trembling, hard stare, showing teeth, and growling.
Recognizing these behaviors (in your dog and others) can help avoid an incident, which will make you glad that you took the time to learn. Now let’s take a look at other things you should be doing to stay safe and respectful at the dog park.
6 Tips for Practicing Proper Dog Park Etiquette
1. Teach Good Behavior
One of the most important things you can do is to teach your dog good behavior. This means a multitude of different things.
First, you should teach your dog proper manners. This means that you should never take an untrained dog to the dog park. Your dog should be able to listen and obey basic commands.
Second, your dog needs to have acceptable social behavior toward other dogs and humans. If your dog is at all aggressive or afraid of other dogs, the dog park is not the place to be.
Finally, you need to teach your dog how to behave in the park. This means being patient and composed. There are usually two areas within a park, one when you first enter and another designated for off-leash activities.
Your dog must be able to behave in the first area before proceeding to the off-leash area. If you can’t trust your dog in the leashed area, then the potential for poor behavior only increases in the off-leash section.
2. Pay Attention
You also have a responsibility to always be paying attention to your dog and your surroundings. You wouldn’t ignore a young child playing in a public park, and your dog is no different.
There are two important things you need to look out for in the dog park. First, you have to make sure that your dog is behaving properly and there are no hazards present.
This means being able to understand your dog’s body language. If your dog is acting aggressively or showing signs of a potential attack, then you’ll need to jump in and prevent this from happening. Or better yet, leave the area immediately.
In the same vein, you should also look out for your dog’s safety. If you notice someone else’s dog behaving inappropriately, then you’ll need to be quick about separating them. Again, moving to a different area of the park is a good idea.
Some dog roughhousing is normal, so sometimes your intervention is not necessary and can even be detrimental. Be vigilant about scenarios where it seems that aggression is involved and the exchange seems more than playful.
Also, be wary of interaction between small and large dogs. In my opinion, this should be avoided at all costs.
3. Know What Not to Bring
You must be careful about what you bring to the dog park. More specifically, what you intentionally do not bring.
It may be tempting for you to bring toys, treats, or even food for your dog, but these are the three main items that you should never bring. There’s nothing wrong with rewarding your furry friend, but doing this in front of other dogs can create jealousy and territorial behavior. Even an ordinarily well-behaved dog may act poorly if food and treats are involved.
If you want to bring a toy, choose something basic like a ball. There’s a good chance that you’ll lose it and maybe another dog takes it, so don’t bring anything sentimental. Try to only use it when other dogs aren’t present.
If you want to include treats and food, wait until you get back to the car for them. Verbal affirmations, positive tone, and pettings are a good way of encouraging good behavior while at the park.
Something else you should consider leaving at home, or at least in the car, is your cell phone. Too many people become distracted by their device, and that’s when trouble can occur.
4. Understand Eligibility
You must be clear about when your dog can and cannot go to the park. More importantly, you should understand what prohibits your dog from enjoying the park.
As mentioned above, any dog that cannot behave or is aggressive should not be at the park. If you’re unsure about your dog, then you shouldn’t take the risk.
Additionally, you shouldn’t take your dog to the park if she isn’t up to date on her vaccinations. You never know the status of other dogs, and you certainly don’t want to expose your pet to another dog’s illness or disease.
Also, don’t bring a dog that is under 4 months old to a dog park. It is unlikely that their vaccinations are finished before this and they may be too young to obey commands before this age.
You should also refrain from bringing a dog that has not been spayed or neutered. This can cause problems with other dogs, like aggression and sexual behavior.
A healthy and well-behaved dog is an eligible candidate for the dog park.
5. Proper Leash Use
Another important part of proper dog park etiquette is knowing proper leash use. There are two key aspects to this. The first involves knowing when and when not to use a leash.
As I mentioned above, most dog parks have a leashed and off-leash area. You should understand which area is which and act accordingly.
This means taking your dog first to the leashed area and seeing how she behaves, checking out other dogs, and evaluating if the off-leash area is a good idea.
If it is, then you should ensure that your dog is not wearing a leash in the off-leash area.
Furthermore, you should avoid using any fancy equipment. A reliable dog harness is a fantastic tool, but it can create problems at the dog park. If your dog is playing with another dog and that dog accidentally bites the harness, it can injure them and damage their teeth.
Make sure to read all signs and know when leash use is appropriate.
6. Respect the Rules
Speaking of signs, you should always know and follow the rules of any dog park that you visit.
This means respecting leashed areas, breed and size restrictions, open hours, and anything else that is listed. There’s also the common-sense rules of picking up after your dog and not letting her misbehave.
The dog park is a public space that should be enjoyable for any well-behaved pooch. This means that you need to be respectful and follow the rules to maintain a safe environment for all dog and their owner.
Dog park etiquette might not be something that you think much about, but it’s important to understand before taking your dog to visit one. Taking this into account will help keep the park fun and safe for you, your dog, and everyone else there.
If you don’t have access to a local dog park, check out these other fun ways to exercise your dog that you both will enjoy.
Do you and your dog go to the dog park?
I’d love for you to share about your experience, as well as any tips and tricks that have helped to make the dog park a success for you and your mutt.