Ms. Manners for Dog Parks

It’s heartwarming to see dog parks full of friendly canines playing, chasing and interacting with their canine brothers and sisters. But dog park etiquette is important for all pet owners and dogs that participate in this off-leash experience. I’ve put together a few posts on this topic, which will be featured over the next month. So, welcome to Part I!

When I originally decided to write on dog park etiquette a few years ago, I asked for input from all those I’ve worked with through pet adoption and other canine owners. They submitted various ideas from their observations at dog parks. They also sent me articles they had read. I have worked with the information submitted, added some other cautions and developed this article. However, I cannot take complete credit for it as it is a compilation of comments submitted to me at various times. While there are a variety of opinions on this topic (and all topics related to caring for our pets), I do believe it is fairly complete – and cautionary – for all dog owners.

 Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear appropriate clothing for going to a dog park. High heels might look great, but they won’t help you chase a renegade dog down. Also, consider leaving your purse in the car or at home. Fanny packs or your pockets are good places for your keys, cell phone and whatever else you feel you need while at the park.
  • Keep your focus on your pet. Cell phone should be used for emergencies only at a dog park – it is not the place to “chat” with friends. You need to be alert to what is going on at all times. Don’t bring the latest novel to read. You should never turn your back on your dog and the activity that is occurring in the dog park.
  • Do not bring an unvaccinated dog or puppy to a dog park.  This encourages a rapid spread of disease which can sometimes be fatal. Do not bring a sick dog to a dog park.  Bringing a female in heat is irresponsible, yet some people do not monitor their dogs for this.
  • Do not bring young children into the dog park. Absolutely have your child and pet interact and play together…in a different location. You are at a dog park to be with the dog, and other dogs can/may run and knock over a stroller or a child. Children who love dogs might be very excited to greet all the new pets, but these unknown dogs might have different reactions to an overly-energetic child. This is not the place to go when babysiting. Attention needs to be directed to your dog and the others he or she is playing with. Also, it is best if children are not playing soccer or other rowdy, running games right outside the fence of the dog park. This will encourage the dogs to run the fence line in order to join in on the game and may start a frenzy among the dogs inside the fence.
  • Don’t bring too many dogs. Some dog parks have a limit on the number of dogs any one person can bring to a dog park. Your dogs form a pack at your home and this pack mentality may continue at the dog park. This may be detrimental to their interacting with the other dogs at the dog park and they may become aggressive as a pack.
  • Never leave a dog alone in the fenced area. Don’t bring a small dog for the small dog area and a large dog for the large one, unless you bring a family member or friend to sit in the other fenced area with the other dog. You cannot be two places at once, and your dog will need supervision.
  • Watch out for large numbers of unneutered male dogs. Check to see that there are not an abundance of intact males in the dog park. If you see quite a few, do not bring your dog in the park until the number is reduced to just a couple. While very loveable at home, even a mild-mannered intact male dog when at home can, in a group, become territorial or even aggressive.
  • Observe the dogs already in the dog park before letting your dog loose among them. Do not put small dogs in bigger dog pens, nor should you put larger dogs in smaller dog pens. No matter how well the smaller dog gets along with your big dog (or dogs) this is inviting disaster with strange dogs.
  • Protect your dog, and be adamant if necessary. Make sure the dog park you go to has pens for various sizes of dogs – small, medium and large (or at least small and large) and be adamant about removing your dog should someone come and put the wrong size dog in the pen with your dog.

Now that all of the warnings are out of the way, HAVE FUN! Most dogs love social interaction and exercise at the park. Take these ideas into consideration so that the dog park experience is positive for everyone. Do you take your pet to a park? Have a tip or pet park pet peeve to share? Tell us about it in the comments!

Also, if you want to give your dog that off-leash experience, but you’re not sure where your local dog park is, check out!

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