Dog parks are happy places where pets and people can go to enjoy the outdoors and spend quality time together. What better way to socialize than to chat with other pet owners and meet their adorable pups? While dog parks are a major plus for any community, it’s important to learn about and observe good dog park etiquette when you bring your canine out to bask in the sunshine and romp around with their buddies. Dog parks have rules for a reason—to keep pets and people safe, and to ensure maximum enjoyment for all visitors.
Below, we offer a list of essential tips to help you and your pet enjoy your visits to the dog park and potentially make some new friends!
Tips to Help You Practice Good Dog Park Etiquette
Here are 8 essential tips for practicing good dog park etiquette and setting an example for other pet owners:
Always Ask Permission to Approach or Pet Another Person’s Dog
For most of us, seeing another dog out and about triggers a warm, fuzzy feeling that makes us want to go up and pet them right away. However, even the friendliest of dogs may not take kindly to being accosted without a proper introduction, and their owner most likely won’t, either! Some dogs are skittish and uncomfortable around strangers, and while some might come off as merely shy, others might give a warning growl or nip if you get too close!
Be respectful of the boundaries of other dogs and people, and politely ask permission to approach (with or without your dog) before moving in to give head pats. The worst thing that could happen is that the other dog owner simply says, “Sorry, but my dog is anxious around strangers.” Simply respect their wishes and keep a reasonable distance.
Make Sure Your Dog is Always Securely Leashed*
*If they are in a leash-free zone, keep your pet’s leash in your hand just in case!
One of the most basic but important rules of visiting the dog park is to keep your dog leashed. Some dog parks have fenced in areas where dogs are welcome to roam off-leash, but in other areas, they need to stay leashed. Naturally, this is to prevent fights among dogs that aren’t familiar with one another, and it can also prevent smaller dogs from being bullied and intimidated by larger and more assertive dogs.
Another important reason to keep your dog leashed is to prevent or minimize conflict if you’re introducing your pet to another dog. If your dog or the other dog suddenly becomes aggressive, you need to have full control so you can remove your dog from the situation as quickly as possible.
In short, keeping your dog leashed is essential to their safety, your safety, and that of all the other 4-legged and 2-legged guests at the dog park.
Note: We strongly recommend against having your dog on a Flexi-leash. This is because Flexi-leashes are not very strong, and allow dogs far too much distance from their owners to roam. A dog on a Flexi-leash is harder to control, and liable to get too close to another dog before proper introductions are made.
Keep Your Dog’s Collar On
Just like the leash, your dog also needs to have their collar on at all times, with up-to-date ID tags, in case they ever happen to run off and slip through the park gate. While this may not be likely, having a collar with current ID tags can make it easier for your dog to be quickly returned to you if they decide to take off.
Pick Up Your Dog’s Waste
This is common sense, but it’s important enough to mention. If your dog has to do their business at the park, clean it up right away. This is just plain good etiquette, but it can also prevent the spread of illness or infection—while your dog might be perfectly healthy, there is always a small chance that they might be carrying an intestinal parasite or some other underlying disease that can put other dogs at risk. Help to keep your local dog park clean and safe!
Make Sure Your Dog is Vaccinated
Dog parks generally require that every dog be properly vaccinated before it can mingle with other dogs. Naturally, you never know whether a stranger’s dog is harboring a virus or parasites that can harm your dog, and potentially even you. Keeping your dog’s vaccinations up-to-date ensures greater protection for them, and also for other dogs visiting the park.
Avoid Bringing Food, Treats, and Toys
If there are things liable to cause a hubbub at the dog park, they are food, treats, and toys. Not all dogs are well trained to ignore the distraction of snacks and toys, and they may start to misbehave and give you and your dog unwanted attention. Keep the peace and leave the treats and toys at home!
Avoid Bringing an Infant or Small Child to the Park
If the dog park you visit is frequented by larger and often more rambunctious dogs, it might be best to leave your infant or small child at home or with someone who can watch them for a little while. Dog parks are generally quite safe, but small children do not know any better and could get knocked over, nipped, or bitten by a skittish or over-excited canine. Plus, your dog will need your full attention; having another individual to watch over will make it harder for you to keep your dog under control if things get rowdy.
Know the Rules
Last but not least, you need to know the rules of your local dog park. Every park has its rules, and when it comes to dog parks, you, the owner, must take full responsibility for your pet. If you are unsure about anything, you need to contact the appropriate authorities to find out what the requirements are for admitting your pet into the park, and what rules need to be upheld for you to continue using the park.
Have Any Questions About Dog Park Etiquette?
We’re happy to answer any questions you have about dog parks and the things your dog needs to stay healthy and protected while they’re at the park. Getting out and socializing with other dogs can be a wonderful thing for your pet, but a little planning and forethought are necessary to further reduce their risk for infection and/or injury. For more information, call our Holmdel, NJ, animal hospital at (732) 671-3110.