15 Dog Park Etiquette Rules You Should Never Break
There’s no better place than a dog park for exercise and socialization. Follow these guidelines to make sure the experience stays fun.
Know the fees and requirements before you go
Most dog parks require dogs to be licensed (with tags and a collar) and fully vaccinated, says Tabytha McConnell, general manager and trainer at Zoom Room in Redondo Beach, California. Depending on where you live, expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $20 a year for the license, although it can be more if your dog isn’t spayed or neutered. When you get to the park, make sure you avoid these 14 things you may be doing that your dog actually hates.
Don’t take a puppy
There are several reasons not to take your puppy to the dog park—the primary one being that the puppy isn’t fully vaccinated. It’s also a good idea to become familiar with your puppy’s level of social skills before you head to a park. “While young puppies should socialize with dogs of different sizes and ages, it’s safest to do this through one-on-one interactions or puppy socialization classes,” says Corinne Fritzell, behavior specialist with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City. Wait until your puppy is at least nine months old, McConnell says. Until then, you should know how to keep your dog happily occupied at home.
Know your dog’s personality
While they can be a lot of fun, dog parks can also pose challenges, and you need to make sure your dog is capable of handling them. The best way to do check is to watch how well your dog does in new situations. This is especially key if you’ve recently adopted an adult dog. McConnell suggests having your dog interact with other pooches, either on walks or playdates. If your pup shows any reactivity like barking, teeth-baring, or growing, he’s not ready for the park. Also, if your dog gets overexcited, this could cause another dog to react, which could lead to a fight. If you have a shy dog, you don’t want to make them more fearful or stressed by bringing them to the park.
Know the rules of the park
Every park has different rules so read them before you go. Some, for instance, may not allow you to bring your dog’s toys or treats, as it could cause issues with other dogs, McConnell says. And your dog may not even want those to begin with—here are 19 things your dog actually wants from you.
Pack water and a bowl so that your dog has access to clean water. Along with keeping your pup hydrated, you’ll be giving your dog a chance to touch base with you. “It encourages your dog to take breaks and check in with you during their playtime,” Fritzell says. Also, the water facilities in parks are an excellent way for dogs to pass around illnesses like kennel cough, adds McConnell.
Don’t give treats to other dogs
If the park does allow treats, give them at appropriate times and only to your dog. You don’t want to hand them out in the presence of unfamiliar dogs, as it could lead to aggression and guarding, Fritzell says. Plus, some dogs may have food allergies. Surprised? Then you should read up on these 50 other things your vet probably hasn’t told you.
Keep your first visit short and sweet
You want your dog to have positive associations with the dog park, which is why it’s best to keep that first visit short. Go at a time when the park is quieter and let your dog get used to the setting. If there are other dogs around and your pup is interested, let them causally interact, McConnell says.
Always, always pick up your dog’s poop
This should be a no-brainer no matter where you are but especially when you’re at the park. “Beyond being a courteous and respectful gesture, picking up after your dog also prevents the spread of common bacteria and parasites,” Fritzell says.
Don’t ignore your dog
Socializing with other dog owners is a big perk of the dog park, but keep a sharp eye on your pooch at the same time. Also, if you see a lot of the people standing around and talking or even just talking on their phones, proceed with caution. “They could be missing warning signs that play is getting too rambunctious or specific dogs might not be getting along,” Fritzell says. Also, if you see somebody bringing in several dogs, you may want to skip the park until they leave, as it’s difficult to watch the behavior of so many dogs at once. That’s just one of the pro-tips that dog trainers won’t tell you for free.
Don’t wait to remove an uncomfortable pooch
Always pay attention to how your dog is behaving, who your dog is playing with and where your dog is. If your dog seems uncomfortable or overexcited, or she is getting chased by another dog or is simply not enjoying the park, leave so that nothing bad happens, McConnell says. Do the same if your dog is being aggressive or getting too wound up.