Proper Dog Park Etiquette for You and Your Dog

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dog parkFor those of us in the know – dog parks can be a fantastic place to spend some time with your dog. For those of you who haven’t experienced it yet – if you want your dog to get much-needed exercise and good socializing skills, then there are fewer places better than your local dog park.

However, before you jump in your car with Fido and head down to the park, there are some rules of etiquette you want to follow to make sure you and your pet aren’t run out of town with pitchforks.

Give your dog a trial run first

If you don’t know how your dog reacts in social settings among dogs and other people, it’s strongly suggested that you do a trial run first. A trial run will include driving down to your dog park, and letting your dog sniff around outside the park. This will help your dog get comfortable with the setting.

A trial run could also include taking baby steps inside the dog park, meaning, only allow your dog inside when there’s 2 or fewer dogs. That way you have a better chance of gaining back control if something goes awry. Overtime allow your dog to enter the park when more dogs are present. By the time he goes there on a full day, he’ll be extremely comfortable and familiar with the place.

Make sure your dog is up to date on licensing and shots

Your dog is about to go into an extremely social setting. For the protection of you, your dog, and others, you have to ensure your dog is up-to-date with his vaccinations and city licensing. Any dog that isn’t licensed with the city or town might be viewed as a dog that isn’t up-to-date with his vaccinations. In order to shed this stigma, be sure your dog is sporting his city tag. Also, check to see if your dog park specifically requires special registration in order to enjoy the park.

Don’t bring treats inside the park

Many dog owners are afraid their dogs won’t come to them when called from inside a dog park. There’s just too much excitement going around. To remedy this, the owners bring a pocketful of treats to get their dog’s attention. The problem is, you’ll also get the attention of any and every dog within a 15-foot radius of you. This could be more than just annoying; it could be dangerous. Leave the treats at home and either practice your verbal commands, or be prepared to try and corner your dog in the park.

Don’t bring intact males or females in heat to a dog park

Do we really need to explain why? This could have disastrous results including an unexpected pregnancy as well as a brawl between competing male dogs.

Don’t get stressed out by horseplay

Dogs play rough, rougher than most of us expect. Just because you hear growling doesn’t mean your dog is in a tussle. He may be having fun. There are ways to be able to tell the difference between horseplay and fighting.  If there’s a lot of running around, twirling, and voluntary rolling on the floor, then your dog’s having fun. If your dog and another dog are not moving around much, or the hair of their mane is raised, you may want to intervene before things get heated up.

Don’t be the stand-offish parent

While it’s true that dog parks are a great place to let dogs be dogs, this doesn’t mean you should let your dog run around unsupervised. Don’t use this moment to take business calls or, worse, go off and do errands. You must watch your dog at all times to make sure he’s safe and healthy. You also want to make sure he’s not picking up bad habits from other dogs, such as bullying, unwanted digging, or excessive barking.

Dog parks are a great way to tire your dog out. And they’re a great way for your dog to learn positive social skills. But if you don’t follow these tips, you may find that you and your dog are locked outside of the gate.