Dog Park Manners

On a recent visit to the dog park… I was bothered. First time dog owners stand out like a VERY sore thumb in a dog park. The dogs are there to do their OWN thing… let them. They smell butts, they talk to each other, they play, they run, they jump… it’s why you brought them there – so please, LET THEM DO IT!

1. Do expect to allow your dog to be OFF leash at the park. A leashed dog cannot behave normally toward approaching dogs and may become defensive and aggressive. This is not the place to practice training or tricks, and your dog is NOT safer if he is tethered to anything, even you. He must be able to evaluate and react on his own terms if he is EVER to feel comfortable interacting with new dogs.

2. If your dog is in heat, leave her home.

3.If your dog is aggressive or timid, it might be wise to work on remedying these behaviors before bringing your dog to a dog park.  As a general rule, well-behaved, well-socialized dogs do best at a dog park.  However, a dog park can be a WONDERFUL place to socialize a dog, if you can stick with them, keep them under control, comfort, and encourage them.  Most parks have a special area for small or timid dogs.   Take advantage of that as a way to get your dog used to a dog park or to learn to behave courteously and non-aggressively.

4.Stick close to your dog the first time you bring him or her to the park.  They are likely to get really happy and excited and might not quite understand what to do.   Give them some freedom, but be close by for safety and comfort until they’re acclimated.  By their 2nd trip, they usually “get it” and start having the time of their life!  Some dogs take longer; some adapt immediately.  Don’t be over-protective — but don’t be negligent either.  PAY ATTENTION.  Your dog will communicate their emotions to you.

5. Again, PAY ATTENTION and know where your dog is and what your dog is up to at all times.   Some inconsiderate folks just let their dog off leash, sit down to read the paper or start chatting with others and ignore what their dog is doing.  This leads to unsafe conditions, attacks, annoying of people or other dogs, missed poops (see next item), accidents, escapes, injuries.

6. PLEASE, pick up after your dog.  A PARK FILLED WITH POO IS FUN FOR FEW!!  Most parks have poop bags available — or start saving your newspaper bags and bring them along.  If you can’t find your dog’s deposit, pick up one you CAN find that somebody else left behind.   Unfortunately there’s always poop to be picked up.  It’s just plain RUDE to let your dog leave something behind.  And it’s the number one complaint of non-dog owners who object to dog parks.

7. Don’t give treats to other dogs without permission.   That other dog may have allergies or be a vegetarian or might be in training and thus only be allowed to have treats as rewards for certain behaviors.  Just check with the dog’s human before treating a dog you don’t know.

8. Don’t pick up or grab somebody else’s dog without permission.  You might get bitten or you might inadvertently injure a dog who’s recovering from illness or surgery, etc.

9. Don’t bring puppies under about 10 weeks to a dog park.  They’re just too young, unpredictable, and have too little impulse control. You be the judge (see suggestion # 2 above).

10. Don’t bring small children (under 6 or so) to a dog park.  It’s too easy for them to get injured.  Also many dogs don’t know how to behave around small children.  If your child is wonderful with your dog, it doesn’t mean their behavior will be appropriate with a strange dog.

11. PLEASE THINK first and use your common sense.   Dog parks are SO WONDERFUL and when we follow the general rules of safety and courtesy, we can keep them open, make wonderful new friends for ourselves and our dogs, and continue to have the time of our (and our dogs’) lives !!


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