We all want to have a good time at the dog park, but stepping into a poo pile or breaking up a bark brawl can ruin all the fun. Here are six simple rules of thumb (er, paw) to keep you and your favorite tail-swisher safe, socialized, and happy.
1. DO Let Your Dog Bark.
They’re dogs! How would you feel if someone took you to happy hour and told you not to say a peep? That’d be no fun. But DON’T allow your dog to snarl at or scare a fellow fluffball. Whether he thinks he’s alpha or the two simply don’t get along, if a pup shows signs of fear, like cowering, whimpering, or tucking its tail between its legs, then the playmates should be separated. (It’s bound to happen. Just like us, not all puppers get along. And a safety tip: cautiously pull your dog from the situation rather than touch another person’s agitated pet.)
2. DO Let Your Dog Rough House With Other Dogs —As Long As They’re Both Into It.
My little fuzzinator loves to wrestle with her friends (in fact, her signature move is to try to sit on top of them and smoosh them with her bulk). There have been times at the dog park where my Luna and her new buddy have been rollin’ about, when the other owner apprehensively pulls her pooch away. But when the pup is set free, he comes a’boundin’ back to Luna for more play. My point? If both dogs are participating in the action, and they keep coming back to each other, they’re fine! However, DON’T let your fur monster corner, snap at, or steamroll other dogs (especially teeny puppies). You know your dog’s mannerisms—regulate accordingly!
3. DON’T Bring A Fearful Smaller Dog To Play With Bigger Dogs.
If you’re that teeny puppy owner (aw!) or have a lap-sized breed who is skittish around his larger counterparts, avoid a potential conflict by guiding him to an appropriate area of the dog park. That may mean taking him to an open space away from the pack, or to play with a group of fellow miniature mutts. Many dog parks have separate places designated to dogs of certain sizes, just for this purpose. However, if your little sniffer loves bouncing’ about with dogs twice her size, all the power to her!
4. DO Keep Your Dog Within Eyesight.
This sounds obvious, but in the five minutes where you get sucked into your Facebook newsfeed, your dog could be involved in a tussle or dropping a deuce behind a tree. On the flip side, DON’T keep him on a leash so he remains “under control.” Dogs are usually way more apprehensive when they’re approached while restrained. And if you don’t trust your dog off-leash, maybe the dog park isn’t the right place to play.
5.DO Pick Up After Your Dog.
I know, another “Duh!” point. But it never fails: land mines litter the dog park, just waiting to explode on the foot of an unsuspecting park guest. As mentioned above, this often happens when people simply lose track of a pooch as she squats out of eyesight. Don’t assume that it won’t pose a problem to others. We all use the park; do your part to take care of it. (And also: karma.)
6. DON’T Wear Nice Clothes To The Dog Park.
If you’re stopping by after work, heading out to dinner, or wearing the new shirt you just cut the tags off of, GO HOME AND CHANGE—you’re going to get dirty! Dogs will jump on you, lick you, and try to crawl in your lap…and that’s okay! DO wear junky clothes that you don’t mind getting stained or torn, along with an old pair of closed-toed shoes (because you never know what you might step in). If you’re not worried about getting your outfit ruined, you can fully enjoy the poochies in all their playful puppy glory!