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Dog parks are The Place To Be in the canine world. Pups are able to get fresh air, socialize, and run off-leash until their heart’s content. Basically, it’s a great place to simply be a dog.
It seems easy enough to take your pal to the dog park, let them do their thing for a while, and go home. Yes, that’s the idea. But it’s not always so simple when multiple dogs (and their owners) are using the same space. In a blink of an eye your friendly designated dog park can turn into a nightmare. From dog fights to tiffs between humans about following rules, there are quite a few issues that can ignite negative – and sometimes dangerous – encounters for you and your canine sidekick. These dog dedicated areas have their own unique and delicate balance that needs to be maintained in order for all involved to have a safe, fun, and beneficial experience.
Whether you’re exploring the idea of your pup’s first trip to the local park or a seasoned veteran, it’s always a great idea to brush up on Dog Park Etiquette. What are the rules? How are my dog and I expected to behave? Is my fur babe ready to play off-leash with other dogs? Don’t worry, we’ve got all of the rules, expectations, and etiquette tips to prepare you for a trip to the dog park. Knowing is growing and being armed with the right information will help make a day out at the park a great experience!
Dog Park Rules
The basic Dog Park Rules are quite similar to the rules of walking your dog. Pick up the poop and dispose of it, keep your pal under your control, don’t allow aggression or jumping. The only differences are that your dog will be off-leash and there will be multiple dogs in one space. The rules promote supervision and safety, while making sure you understand that you’re entering the common space at your own risk. Signs will often be posted at or near the entrance to let you know what is unacceptable. The rules can vary from one park to another, so be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the posted requirements before entering.
Before bringing your pup to a new park, take the time to check it out on your own. Visit the park to read the rules, determine the condition of the park, and see if small dogs are segregated from larger dogs. Get an idea of what the environment is like and if other pup parents are also following the rules of the park. If you notice waste littering the ground, dogs nipping at each other, and pup parents watching videos on their phone instead of watching their dogs, it may not be the park for you. It’s best to find a space where dogs and humans are considerate of one another and respect the common space of the dog park.
No one is responsible for how your pup behaves expect for you, the owner. Consider if your dog is aggressive or suffers from anxiety, or likes to jump into stranger’s laps. They may need a bit more training before a trip to the park or it may not be the right space for them at all. Which is okay! Not all dogs like or are suited to a dog park and there’s nothing wrong with that.
The dedicated doggy space isn’t appropriate place for training or therapy exercises. The park is for the furry companions who have been trained (specifically with voice commands) and do well in social environments to play and exercise.
The rules apply to those who enter the dog park and, when followed, they make everyone’s experience pretty easy-going. However, there’s much more to know before you let your fur friend off-leash. Dog park etiquette is a totally different situation. It’s usually learned with time, but you don’t have time for trial and error. We’ve got you covered. It’s time to break down the etiquette to make sure your time at the do park goes as smoothly as possible!
Dog Park Etiquette
There are certain expectations for how we behave everywhere we go and it all boils down to respect. Parents are expected to keep their kids home from school when they’re sick. Passengers on an airplane are expected to stick to the confines of their seats, and you’re expected to flush the toilet after use. Why would it be any different at the dog park?
All dogs love to play and socialize. The dog park is literally their playground. It’s the perfect place for them to let loose to burn off energy and exercise. It’s fun to watch your pal play off-leash with other pups. They’re in a comfortable environment and the humans are following dog park rules. You’re going to be there for a while, so you open a bag of chips. Uh-oh! You’re suddenly surrounded by pups jumping and begging for a bite, and the owners are trying to pull them away while giving you the evil eye. What did you do wrong?
Refraining from carrying any kind of food into the dog park may not be written on the rules sign, but it’s definitely a part of dog park etiquette. A fun day at the park can take a very bad turn with food and treats are involved. Most dogs are motivated by food and it can cause unnecessary fights when brought to the dog park, so it’s best to eat before or after your visit.
Toys are a dog’s best friend! If you like to carry tons of toys for your pup to play with while you two are away from home, try to cut it down to one item. And make sure it’s a toy you wouldn’t mind never seeing again. Bringing too many toys to a park can be distracting and the other dogs are certainly going to want to play with them as well! You’ll never know how aggressive another dog is with toys, and it’s possible that your pup’s toys will be destroyed at the park. Save your pal’s favorites for home. It’s better to bring a simple Fetch Toy like the “Best Balls Ever” in case other dogs want to join in the game. If the Fetch Toy gets destroyed it’s not a big deal, you can always replace it!
Note: some dogs resource guard their toys, which can lead to reactivity around other dogs. Make sure your dog does not do this before bringing them or their toy to a dog park.
The American Kennel Club shares more Dog Park Etiquette tips to know before you head out to the park:
Basic Dog Park Etiquette
- Should your pet show signs of illness or a contagious disease, don’t bring him/her to the park.
- Don’t bring a puppy less than 4 months old or a female dog in heat.
- Keep an eye on your dog! Don’t let your dog be aggressive with another dog.
- Obviously, you should pick up after your dog.
- Don’t bring food for yourself or your dog.
- Bring a portable water bowl for your dog—water bowls at dog parks carry the risk of communicable illnesses.
- Keep your small dog in the designated small-dog section of the park—even if he/she enjoys hanging out with the big dogs.
- Bring a ball, but be prepared to lose it.
- Don’t let your dog run in a pack. Intervene when play starts to get too rough.
Dog Park Etiquette goes further than the clearly laid out park rules. Dog Park Etiquette is focused on public dog safety, mainly health issues. It lets us know what’s expected from pup parents in the common space. Following these guidelines will help execute a trip to the park without a hitch. Everyone comes to the park for fresh air and to watch adorable dogs run free. Don’t forget to have fun!
If you’re still pondering if your pal is ready for the dog park, consult your vet or trainer!
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