Dog Park Etiquette
If you were a dog, would there be any more magical place to be than the dog park? You have all the benefits of being well cared for by your humans: a steady supply of food, love, and companionship, and yet you still have this place where you can let your natural instincts take over. A place where you can run free and play with other dogs… sounds great!
If you live in a city, there is probably a dog park near you. If you don’t know of one, check your municipality’s website – they are usually listed. Some of these parks are free, some are pay-per-use, and some offer memberships. Almost all of them are wonderful places to go that your dog will love.
But before you take your dog to the dog park, there are some things you should know. Each park usually has a list of rules and regulations that are applicable to all attendees so look for these (usually found online or posted at the park) and follow them. Here are some general guidelines that you and your dog need to follow too.
- Poop & Scoop – Picking up your dog’s waste should already be part of your daily routine, and the dog park should be no exception! You wouldn’t want you or your dog stepping in another dog’s poop, and the sentiment is the same reversed. By picking up your own dog’s waste, you also help keep the park much more sanitary – and of course, you also reduce maintenance fees by ensuring that no one else has to come pick it up. You can easily carry a refillable poo-bag dispenser attached to your dog’s leash. Try the one by Bags on Board – they are refillable and the bags are biodegradable, which helps the environment.
- Be Aware, Play With Care – Dogs usually run around and have lots of fun in the dog park, but once in a while even well-behaved dogs can get into fights – whether provoking another dog or being provoked. Just like people, all dogs will not get along all the time. Always be attentive to your dog when she is in the dog park, so that you can stop fights before they go too far. Your dog should never be out of sight.
- Only Bring a Well-Trained Dog – No matter how much you watch your dog, if your dog is well-trained, it is easier to stop fights before they require physical interference. Basic commands of SIT, STAY, COME and more are essential in the park. Your dog may be extra-excited in the dog park and as a result, may not listen as well as usual. Bring treats to reinforce good behavior!
- Make Sure Your Dog is Old Enough – While socializing puppies is an essential part of their training, if your puppy is under six months old, a dog park is probably not the best place for him. To avoid catching communicable dog diseases, a puppy requires their full set of vaccinations, which will not be completed until they are six months of age. After they have their full puppy vaccines, the dog park awaits!
- Speaking of Diseases… – Even if your dog is over six months of age, do not bring him to the dog park if he is sick. It will not be a pleasant experience for him, and other dogs do not want to get sick either. Rabies & other vaccinations should be up to date, and you may be required to provide proof of this, depending on the park.
- ID, Please – Dog parks come in fenced and unfenced varieties. If your park is unfenced, you probably know that it’s best to make sure your dog has an ID tag and/or a microchip, up to date with your current address, in case she runs away. But in fenced parks, it is just as necessary. Your dog might be an amazing jumper and could easily jump the fence (depending on how high it is). Or, more likely, she could slip out the gate as others enter or exit.
- Water, Water… Nowhere? – What will your dog do a lot of at the dog park? Running! Playing! Jumping! Working up a powerful thirst! To ensure your dog doesn’t become dehydrated, make sure you bring water to the park. Some parks have fountains, but they’re not always in good working order. Other parks will have nothing, making a bottle of water and a portable dish your best friend’s best friend.
No Cats Allowed! – Maybe it’s obvious, but really, you should only bring dogs to the dog park! No matter how well trained your cat, rabbit, ferret, or other pet is, the dog park is not for them! Even if your dog is used to your other critters, other dogs aren’t, and will likely see them as prey. On the off chance that every dog there loves your other pets and will not cause them harm, it would still be a stressful situation for those other pets (their natural instinct would likely be to run, hide, or even attack). So, for the sake of all involved, and we can’t stress this enough – dogs only at the dog park!