Dog Park Etiquette 101

this dog wants to go to the park

"I'd rather be playing at the dog park!"

Do you and Fido spend time at your local dog park? Are you both enjoying a great experience?

In any social situation, having good manners means that common sense and respect for others guides our behavior. In the case of a dog park, you are responsible for your dog’s polite behavior as well as your own. Make sure that the chance of Fido picking a fight with Fifi is as unlikely as you initiating a fistfight at the gym.

Basic kindness and consideration at the dog park:

Health Considerations

Be careful not to pass along disease or parasites.

  • Pups less than 4 months old (they won’t have had all their shots) or an unvaccinated dog can infect other pets.
  • A sick dog in the park can be as infectious as a sick child in a classroom.
  • Have fun at home with your female pooch if she is not spayed and is in season.

Your Dog’s Temperament

Not all humans like a crowded, noisy party, and not all canines love a very busy dog park.

  • If Chumley is a bit of an introvert, go to the park at a quiet time of day.
  • Make sure your dog is having a good time. If Chumley is fearful or anxious, it’s not kind to stay longer at the park just because you think he should be having fun.

Dog Park Rules

Just like public swimming pools, dog parks have their own sets of rules.

  • Check the rules of each park you visit, and follow them.
  • Always close the doors of gated parks when entering or leaving.

Paying Attention Sidesteps Trouble

Keeping a close eye on Fifi helps you catch potential problems early on.

  • Mobile phones distract attention from what is going on with the dogs.
  • Young children can drag your attention away from your pooch, and they may be at risk in an environment where all the dogs may not be as tolerant and loving as Fifi.
  • It’s best not to smoke or eat while at the dog park. Cigarette butts and food wrappers are tempting treats to dogs, but bad for them.
  • Leave your pet’s treats at home. You may want to bring a bottle or dish of water for your canine friend.
  • While Fifi may be the perfect canine citizen, other dogs can be bullies. Watch to make sure other dogs are not picking on her, and that she’s not picking up bad habits. It is not cute or funny when your dog bullies and dominates others. Correct this behavior immediately.

Dogs Behaving Badly

Always keep in mind that you are responsible for your dog’s behavior. At the dog park, help Fido learn how to get along with other dogs.

  • Fights in the dog park often begin when owners fail to pay attention to doggy body language.
  • Boisterous greetings: Leo the Labrador greets everyone by jumping up to face level and giving wet kisses; he doesn’t know it’s inappropriate behavior. He can frighten shy dogs and people, too, unless you teach him otherwise.
  • Be cautious about taking advice from other park patrons who are not dog professionals.

Humans Behaving Badly

PICK UP THE POOP!

  • The number-one dog park complaint is owners who fail to pick up after their dogs.
  • Leaving a dog pile for others to pick up is rude in so many ways: not only do you endanger the shoes of your fellow dog-owners, this lack of simple courtesy can spread disease and parasites among the dogs.
  • People catch on to poop evaders right away. Don’t be a Poop Pariah.

Safety First

  • Check to see if there is a knowledgeable human on staff to supervise the park. Most parks will not have this, but if there is someone, it’s a bonus.
  • When you notice potential problem dogs and situations, walk faster to keep your pet’s attention and move further away.

For more information about safe and happy use of dog parks, you’ll find a detailed and helpful article on the ASPCA website at http://www.aspcabehavior.org/articles/58/Dog-Parks-.aspx.

If you take appropriate precautions and follow posted rules, you and Fido will have a peaceful day at the park. You and others will appreciate your polite playground pooch!

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