Dog Park Rules and Etiquette
By Arlo the Hound with help from Honor Tarpenning
The dog park provides a great place for dogs to play, be social, and burn off excess energy. When I get home from the dog park I am exhausted and happy as a clam. It is my favorite place to meet up with my friends, but sometimes one bad dog can ruin the park for everyone. The park I used to play at had one mean dog who came all the time, and eventually everyone else stopped coming around. We can all do our part to make sure that doesn’t happen at anyone else’s dog park.
No Fearful, Aggressive, or Reactive Dogs
If your dog has any of these behavior issues, the dog park is not the place to work them out. Help your dog get over his issues at home or in other controlled environments. When he is more comfortable around other dogs, then he can come to the dog park.
No Jumping Up
If your dog has a consistent habit of jumping on people, correct this behavior before you start bringing him to the dog park. Nobody wants to get knocked down by an excited 85lb Lab, even if he is “just being friendly.” Learn more about curbing Jumping
Brush Up on Commands
Your dog should respond without hesitation to common commands including sit, stay, come, and drop it or leave it. Learn more about the Commands Every Dog Should Know
Safety in Numbers
Make friends at the dog park or encourage a group of friends with dogs who will back you up against owners of aggressive or otherwise troublesome dogs to come along. Peer pressure isn't always a bad thing--it can help drive away disrespectful dog park users.
Do not bring a dog to the park if he is not up to date on all his immunizations. There are lots of diseases your dog can pick up at the park if he is not properly immunized, and he can spread diseases to other dogs.
No Excessive Barking
Occasional barking is normal and ok. However, do not let your dog bark incessantly. People come to the park to relax and let their dogs play, not to listen to constant barking.
No Sick or Injured Dogs
Sick dogs could be contagious and have no place among other dogs. Also, illness or injury can cause dogs to be especially sensitive, fearful, or aggressive, even if they are usually mellow, trustworthy dogs. Leave ‘em at home until they feel all better.
No Young Children
Specific age is up to the parent’s best judgment (unless otherwise stated in the specific dog park’s rules) but a good rule of thumb is that children under 8 years old should stay out. Small children are very likely to get hurt in the dog park and many do not yet understand what constitutes safe dog park behavior.
No Females in Heat
Females in heat attract male dogs and can often cause aggression and conflict.
No Treats, No Food
Some dogs who have never shown food aggression could still display such behavior in the presence of many other dogs. Furthermore, other dogs at the park could be food aggressive. Besides, do you really want to be tackled by a pack of slobbering dogs while you’re trying to enjoy a snack? Just wait till you’re out of the park to partake.
Never Leave Your Dog Unattended
Dog parks, even dog parks with attendants, are not pet sitting services. If you cannot keep an eye on your dog, leave him at home.
Know When to Leave
If someone complains about your dog, do not immediately go on the defensive. Maybe your dog is acting out of character; maybe something happened that you didn’t see. Try to consider the perspective of those complaining. Watch your dog very closely at the park, address problems that arise immediately, and you can usually avoid this kind of problem. If your dog is complained about several times, it is time to go home.
No Puppies Under 4 Months
Until this age, puppies are not fully immunized and can catch dangerous and even deadly diseases at the park. Before four months it is also likely that they could be injured or traumatized. Hold out till four months and you’re doing your dog a huge favor.
No Glass Containers
Protect those precious paws and leave the glass bottles at home. Put any beverages in a plastic thermos and you’ll be just fine.
Never Discipline another Person’s Dog
Ever! Think of it just like kids at the regular park. You wouldn’t want some stranger spanking little Suzie over by the monkey bars, would you? Break up fights if necessary, but do not lay your hands on another person’s dog unless it is absolutely unavoidable for safety reasons.
Pick Up After Your Pooch
Just like anywhere else you take your dog, pick up after him, and encourage others to do the same for their dogs. Dog waste spreads disease, is unpleasant, and often dog parks are shut down because of sanitation issues resulting from too many owners not picking up after their dogs.
A good way to encourage other owners to pick up after their dogs: Have a pocket full of clean up bags and offer them one saying, in a friendly tone, “Did you forget your bags? Here you go, you can have one of mine.” That way, you aren’t accusing the other owner of being a bad person or an irresponsible pet owner, just assuming they forgot their bags. Who knows, maybe they just didn’t know better, or maybe they really did forget their bags. Avoiding conflict is always a plus at the dog park.