Dog parks can be a wonderful place to visit with your dog, but understanding dog park etiquette is an important first step before you attend. Remember, these are public places and only well-behaved dogs should visit. Before you make a faux pas, here are the important dog park etiquette rules every dog owner should know.
Dog Park Etiquette Before You Go
Although we often think of etiquette for when we arrive at the dog park, there are a few dog park etiquette considerations you should know before you head out to the dog park:
Age: Avoid dog parks before your dog is 6 months old. Under 6 months? Attend puppy socialization classes so they can interact with dogs their own age.
Vaccinations: Always have a fully vaccinated dog. Not only is this excellent etiquette but it keeps your dog safe.
Commands: Your dog should know basic commands such as down, sit, come, and leave it.
Licensing: Make sure your dog has proper tags and microchips before you go, as dog control will visit dog parks.
Wellness: Never take your dog to the dog park if he is sick or injured.
Before you do head out, make sure that you take a few trips to the dog park with your canine. Don’t walk in, just walk by the fence and gauge your dog. If he seems stressed or aggressive, the best etiquette is to avoid the park altogether.
Dog Park Etiquette for the First Visit
The first time I entered a dog park, I knew my Labrador Retriever was not going to be a regular guest. He was immediately stressed and my normally well-trained dog was suddenly not listening to a single command. He was overwhelmed and scared so I quickly left.
That was a lesson I urge everyone to avoid. Dog parks aren’t for every dog, even those who enjoy canine companionship. To avoid my mistake, start slow and during off hours.
Afternoons during the week are usually the best time as there are fewer dogs. Before you enter, watch the dogs that are in the park. Are they playing rough? Are they really big? Pushy? If you are in doubt about how your dog will react, come back another time. Having a bad first experience can not only make dog parks a terrible place, but can create fear aggression problems in your pup.
Finally, keep your first visits short. 10 to 15 minutes is more than enough time for your dog’s first few experiences with a dog park.
Dog Park Etiquette for Every Visit
Now that you have the first few visits and the pre-visit etiquette covered, it is time to understand the etiquette for every visit.
Stay Near Your Dog: This can be difficult but the rule of thumb is to be constantly walking. Don’t sit and visit with other dog owners. Fights can happen in an instant and you want to be near your dog.
Pick Up After Your Dog: Poop and scoop every time. Even if it means trekking across a large dog park to throw it away.
Don’t Bring a Toy: Toys can often cause fights. Some dogs are very protective of toys, and if you have a toy, you’ll end up having problems between dogs.
Use the Proper Park: Little dogs should be in the small dog park and vice versa. This is for the safety of all dogs.
Leave Treats at Home: Like toys, some dogs are pushy with food and owners can be nipped quickly. In addition, dogs may fight over the food.
Bring Water: Always bring water along with a portable water bowl to keep your dog hydrated and safe from communicable diseases.
Break Up the Play: A great way to keep dogfights to a minimum is to break up the play. Pull your dog away from large packs, give commands, play games, and break up the dog attention. This will give him much needed breaks he may not take for himself.
Remove the Leash Immediately: It can be very stressful when a leashed dog is surrounded by free roaming dogs. For this reason, take the leash off right away and don’t leash until you are at the gate to leave. This will reduce stress for your pup.
Dog parks can be a wonderful place to visit but knowing dog park etiquette is necessary. Without it, you can quickly find your dog in a serious situation where he can get hurt. So if you are planning a visit to a dog park, be sure to know the etiquette rules first. Dog parks can become a great place to meet people and make doggy friends.