Simple rules every dog owner should know to keep parks safe and fun for everyone.
Whether it’s on-leash, enclosed, or off-leash, dog parks are the highlight of the day for many pups, and it’s up to pet parents to ensure the the experience remains a pawsitive one for dogs and fellow owners. If the right social norms are followed, dog parks can be a wonderful mental health break for your pup. A chance to burn off energy, socialize, and sniff their little snouts off. But it only takes one canine misfit or one inconsiderate pet parent to spoil the experience for everyone.
So, here are our 20 tips for proper dog park etiquette to ensure everyone plays nice.
1. Understand Your Pup First
“Knowing your dog will set them up for success,” Bonnie Hartney, Certified Dog Trainer of Surrey’s Ocean Park Dog Training tells OhMyDog!. “The busy centre of the dog park is like being in a lively nightclub. It may not be your dog’s thing and that is okay. Move on.”
2. Practice Social Behaviour
Before going to a dog park, consider gauging how social your dog is. Playdates are a controlled way to tell, as well as letting your dog visit and sniff other dogs along your walks. This will prepare him for the big leagues.
3. Know Basic Commands
Sit, stay, come, leave it, or any variation of commands will give you an effective control in the park, and help avoid any canine confrontations.
4. Enter With Care
A good dog park will have a double-gated entrance to ensure safe comings and goings. When inside the first gate, close it and pause before going through the next gate to the park. That pause will give your dog a chance to reset and calm down.
5. Clean That Poop!
This one is obvious, but we still see inconsiderate pet parents walking away from messes. Dog poop not only dirties a public park, it can spread sickness to other dogs. Bring lots of bags.
6. Stay Off Your Phone
Eyes on your dog at all times! You need to pay attention to your dog’s interactions, bathroom breaks, and tiredness. You can socialize after.
7. Visit When Vaccinated
In such an intimate play area with strange dogs, it’s crucial that yours has all its shots. And if your dog is showing signs of sickness, stick to private, personal walks.
8. Read Your Dog’s Signals
A happy, playful dog wags her tail, relaxes her ears, and bounds and bows. An upset dog shows signs of snarling, has pinned-back ears, raised-hair, and a tail at half-mast. Read the room, folks. “Keep dog-to-dog interactions short,” says Hartney.
9. Read The Rules
A good dog park will post it’s rules on the fence, and they do differ. Read ‘em.
10. No Under-agers
Puppies should not come to the park until they are at least 9-months, experts say. Not only are they hard to control and can get hurt by the big boys – many puppies aren’t vaccinated, socialized, or spayed/neutered, and shouldn’t roam free with others.
11. Keep That Leash Handy
It’s proper etiquette to remove your dog’s leash inside the gates, but keep it handy to break up foul play. Do we need to mention collars and tags are no-brainers?
12. Bring Water
Your dog needs to keep hydrated. But just as importantly, communal water bowls and taps risk the spread of illness.
13. No Horndogs
If your dog is in heat, keep away. And only spayed/neutered dogs need apply.
14. Leave Treats at Home
Rewards are great – after your visit. Flashing treats around can lead to possessiveness and aggression in other dogs. And never feed anyone else’s pup.
15. Leave Certain Toys at Home
If your dog has a favourite frisbee or is possessive about a ball, this can tip the power scales in a dog park. Another dog stealing a precious plaything leads to trouble.
16. Do Some Recon
It’s not a bad idea to check a park out by yourself first. Look for cleanliness and upkeep. Proper gating and places to dispose of waste. Are there bags offered? Benches for you to sit and keep watch? Is it too full of big dogs for your smaller dog?
17. No Picnics Please
Like dog treats, it’s not a good idea to break out a buffet or wave around your meatball sub in front of twenty dogs.
18. No Child’s Play
Take babies and toddler to a kiddie park, not a dog park.
19. No Lifeguard on Duty
No one wants to rescue a pup out of the water, so if your dog park has a pond or lake, make sure your pet can swim.
20. Know When To Leave
Experts recommend about 30-minute visits. Watch your dog’s tolerance and exhaustion levels. “No dog wants to be overwhelmed or forced to engage when tired,” says trainer Bonnie Hartney. “Leave while the going’s good.“