Dog Park Etiquette for Recreation and Parks Month

This month is being hailed Recreation and Parks Month. Dog parks fall under this umbrella because after all, they are all about doggie recreation. From a canine perspective, a trip to the dog park is probably the doggie equivalent of happy hour at your favorite hangout socializing with your friends.

If you have never taken your dog to a dog park before, I think its really important to “scope out” the park in advance to see who the regulars are at the time of day you plan to go. It’s probably a good idea to go solo on this expedition so that you can really judge not only how busy it is, but whom the other regulars are that your dog is going to be meeting and greeting.

There is standard dog park etiquette, which is really important to adhere to if everyone is going to have fun.

Here are some quick tips to ensure that each visit is a fun experience.

  • Know your dog. Naturally a variety of different dogs in terms of breed, size, temperament and, most importantly, levels of training visit every dog park. It’s important to be very cognizant of your dog’s temperament so that you can anticipate how she will fit in. Some parks are divided in terms of dog size and that can be a big help in situations where for example you have a small dog that is always intent on barking at the bigger guys.
  • And then there is the dog park bully! It’s important to ensure that that moniker doesn’t belong to your pooch. And, secondly you are aware how your dog will react if she is confronted. Rather leave if you are not sure about how things are going to play out.
  • Know your dog’s play style. Some dogs like a very rough-and-tumble style of play, with lots of growling, grabbing, tackling, and wrestling. Others have a daintier style, with bowing and chasing but not much physical contact. Some dogs like to herd other dogs, and may bark or nip at the other dogs. The important thing is to know what is normal for your dog, and what the warning signs are that your dog may be getting over-stimulated and may be in danger of crossing the line into aggression.
  • Scoop! Pick up after your dog. While some parks do provide bags, it’s a really good idea to always have your own supplies with you.
  • Water – Yes. Food – No. Again, while some parks do have special water bowls for dogs, it’s a good idea to take your own water and portable bowl. (It’s a much healthier option too.) Don’t take food – it’s not a doggie picnic. And if you take treats be sure you are only dispensing when your dog is alone with you!
  • Leave toys at home. Don’t take a bag full of toys. It’s difficult to teach other dogs about sharing! This is a no-brainer and yet people still do it and it only causes problems like bringing on aggressive streaks and causing confrontation.
  • Dog parks are an off-leash zone. It’s important to unleash your dog the moment you enter the dog park gate. A leashed dog knows that it cannot maneuver freely and cannot get away if necessary. This can lead to a sense of vulnerability, which in turn can lead to aggression. Also remove spiked collars as they can become dangerous if dogs engage with each other in play.
  • An important gate rule: If you are already inside the park, be sure your dog doesn’t rush to the gate when a new comer arrives. It’s difficult for a new arrival to enter the park if a wall of dogs is blocking the gate. Dogs are territorial creatures, and the gateway to a park can be a flash point for aggression.
  • And finally, you are there to ensure your dog has a good time. It’s the same as when you are at the playground with a small child. This is not the time or the place to catch up on cell phone calls…

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