Ah, the dog park – your dog’s very own playground. There are plenty of great things about them: they provide green space for your dog to roam and play off-leash, they’re ripe with opportunities to socialize with other dogs, and some even come equipped with tools to teach your dog agility.
However, dog parks have their negative aspects as well, and it mostly boils down to owners who refuse to follow the appropriate dog park etiquette. For the uninitiated, here are a few do’s and don’ts to follow when visiting your local dog park, so you can do your part toward making it an enjoyable space for everyone.
Top 3 Do’s and Don’ts of the Dog Park
1. Always unleash your dog when you enter.
When you arrive at the dog park, your dog should be unleashed the very moment they are inside the gate. Most dog parks even have a gated partition to allow for this exchange; once inside the first gated area, you have a small space to remove your dog’s leash or harness before letting him into the park at large. Why? Because leash aggression is a real thing.
When you insist on bringing your dog into the dog park on leash, you create a tense situation between your dog and the other dogs. Off the leash, your dog is more able to use communicative body language with other dogs, letting them know whether they want to play or back off. They can more easily move away from a dog they feel threatened by. Not to mention, the whole point of a dog park is giving your dog space to run and play!
2. Pick up after your dog.
This should be a no-brainer, but you should always pick up after your pet inside a dog park, just as you would anywhere else. It’s the law! Nobody wants to wind up with dog poop on their shoe, nor would you want it to end up on your dog’s coat or paws.
Cleaning up after your dog ensures you maintain a clean, disease-free environment for your pet and all other visitors to the park. Dogs can get parasites such as hookworms and roundworms from other dogs’ waste and spread such diseases to their owners. It’s in the best interest of everyone that you always scoop the poop, even in the park.
3. Don’t bring aggressive dogs to the dog park.
Not all dogs enjoy playing with other dogs, and you shouldn’t force them to interact, especially if your dog is prone to snapping or biting dogs that get too close. Early socialization is key to raising a dog that will enjoy the dog park, but sometimes that isn’t possible, particularly if you’ve adopted a rescue who might be skittish from experiences with a previous owner. As your dog’s owner, it’s important to be aware of the type of play your dog enjoys. If your dog really only wants to play fetch with you and can’t handle the company of other pups, the dog park isn’t for you.
Likewise, dogs can get less social as they get older. If you notice your dog is behaving aggressively at the dog park, it’s time to take them out even if they usually behave well around other dogs. The confines of a dog park don’t give you free license to do whatever you want while your dog plays; you still need to keep an eye on Fido and stop unwanted behavior from occurring.
The dog park isn’t for everyone.
It’s also important to realize that not all types of dogs will benefit from a dog park environment. Monitored socialization can be achieved through dog daycares, if you’re looking to expose your dog to other pups, and they usually require a temperament test beforehand to ensure your dog will fit in well with the group. If your dog loves to run and play, but only by himself, it may be wise to invest in a dog run or a bigger yard where you can let your pal off-leash without worry.