Play Nice at the Dog Park

Dog parks are a great opportunity for pets to socialize and exercise. But not without some responsibility on the pet owners’ part! Understanding some common dog park manners and etiquette will not only help keep the dogs safe, but will also elevate the fun factor for all:

  • Always keep your eye on your dog. This means, put down your cell phone! And, if you are conversing with other humans in the park, don’t forget to watch your pup.

  • Bring only dogs who are well-socialized and who follow your commands. If your dog is known to be aggressive with other dogs, this is not the place to “teach them manners.”

  • Should your pet show signs of illness, don’t bring him/her to the park.

  • Don’t bring a puppy less than 4 months old or a female dog in heat.

  • Don’t bring your young kids. Not all dogs are socialized with children.

  • Pick up after your dog. There are diseases that can spread in dog poop, so it’s best to clean up any mess to avoid illness. Plus, it’s gross if a dog or human accidentally steps in it!

  • Don’t bring treats along. Dogs can become competitive around food, which can lead to aggressive behaviors.

  • BYOD. Bring your own dish (for water). Water bowls at dog parks can be convenient, but because they often go unwashed and not sanitized, they also 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. Not all big dogs are used to playing with the little pups, and it’s best to take proper precautions.

  • Intervene when play starts to get too rough.

  • Consider exercising your dog before going to the park. Sounds redundant but it can help manage your dogs’ manners. A dog that has been inside or alone for hours has pent-up energy, and bringing her into an extremely stimulating environment without releasing some of that energy can backfire.

  • Remove any prong collars, choke chains, gentle leaders or harnesses on your dog before entering a dog park. The neck and shoulders are where most dogs nip during play, and catching a tooth on one of these devices can be incredibly painful!

  • Obey off-leash areas. While you may prefer the idea of keeping your dog on leash in an off-leash dog park, it can be a safety concern. This could lead to accidental wrappings of legs (yikes, rope burn!), and also increased stress for your pup. Dogs on leash can feel more insecure because they know they can’t escape if needed, which can lead to unexpected behaviors.

  • Speak up. If you are concerned about a dog’s behavior and it’s putting your dog – or others in the park – at risk, politely talk to the dog’s owner. If for some reason the owner isn’t receptive to your concerns, take your dog and leave the park until you discuss the situation with management of the dog park.

Playing by these rules will help everyone have more fun at the dog park!