Ms. Manners for Dog Parks, Part 2

A couple of weeks ago, I posted the first in a series of posts on dog park etiquette. As promised, here are a few tips to help make your day out the best it can be – for you and your dog.

  • When you enter the park, remember that a group of dogs may come to “greet” you and your dog – someone they consider the newcomer.  This can be intimidating and may overwhelm your dog. It may cause a skirmish as the new dog enters, so take it slow and easy as you go through the gate.
  • Be a responsible park visitor. If your dog digs a hole, fill it in. If your dog poops, clean it up.  Supervise the dogs constantly and interrupt any rough play.  Make sure there is clean water available for the dogs to drink. Beware of standing puddles of water at dog parks – standing water breeds disease and a wide variety of parasites and their eggs. Stear clear!
  • If you are afraid of certain breeds of dogs, don’t go to a dog park. Your nervousness and concerns may be transmitted to your dog, thus encouraging a confrontation which could wind up with a dog getting injured – either your dog or another one at the park.
  • Don’t bring highly sensitive dogs to a dog park where there are lots of dogs. This atmosphere will overwhelm them. The “rule of thumb” is no more than two dogs per every 20 yards of space. But you still may overwhelm a sensitive dog, and it is highly recommended that you make play dates with friends with like dogs in the yard at home rather than force a sensitive dog into a dog park situation.
  • Do not bring toys or treats to a dog park. These are two things that can/might create a disturbance and encourage possessiveness by your dog.  If someone else is in the park with a toy or treats, wait until they leave if you feel that a situation might arise. (This also applies to snacks for you while at the park – eat before you go or afterwards – not while at the dog park.)
  • Don’t let a dog off lead in a dog park if he/she is not responsive to verbal commands. Dogs should be taught the elementary commands before they are permitted to interact in this type of community. (Training should be done to have a well mannered dog in any circumstance.)  Dogs taken to a dog park should have a very strong recall.  Train them to come when called.  Train them to leave it! Do not let dogs smell feces on the ground that may be loaded with worms and worm eggs.
  • If your dog is being bullied by another dog (or dogs) remove him / her from the dog park. Conversely, if your dog is doing the bullying, take him/her away from the dog park.
  • When at a dog park there is a lot of advice passed from person to person. Use discretion as to what you absorb as these are dog owners and not professionals.  If you need advice, go to a professional dog trainer or veterinarian with your questions. You need to watch out for people who say they are “dog trainers” and yet they have no credentials or education to properly train a dog.
  • Watch for dog body posture or communication signals – on your dog and on the others in the park. Dogs can give a warning that something is “wrong” and you may be able to stop it before it escalates if you observe the body language for stress, fear, and tension as well as that which occurs for play and enjoyment. Know when your intervention is required and when the dogs are able to handle the situation on their own.

My personal breed is the retired racing Greyhound and there are particular cautions that apply to these dogs when being introduced to a dog park. A Greyhound has been muzzled when he/she is in an area where they can run freely with other Greyhounds (they do not interact with other breeds of dogs during their racing career.) However, it is not a good idea to muzzle your Greyhound at a dog park when there are other dogs there that are not muzzled. The “rule” is to muzzle all dogs or not muzzle any – you would never want one dog to be at a disadvantage to protect him/herself when surrounded by other dogs. Take the introduction period slowly – give them time to meet the other dogs before they are turned loose together and obey all the “rules” of etiquette for the park (as should others also) and you will have a successful time.

When you take your dog to a dog park you need to be aware that there are certain risks involved regarding injury to your dog or that he/she may injure another dog at the park.  Be vigilant – be careful and you and your dog will be able to enjoy the time you spend together at the dog park.

Do you take your dog to the dog park? What works for you? Share in the comments!

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