Most dog owners understand the basic concept of a dog park –dogs get to play off the lead with their friends in a safe environment (and pet parents get to catch up with each other). A dog park requires some very important rules, and it’s crucial that you understand the do’s and don’ts of the dog park. Follow them every time you and your pooch visit the park to ensure a paws-itive experience for everyone.
Dog Park Do’s
Teach your dog to enter the dog park calmly and under your control. If your pup is extremely excited and reactive, she may affect the other dogs in the park and contribute to the possibility of aggressive behavior. Teach your dog how to relax and enter the park without barking and fussing. If your dog is hyper because you’ve just come home from a long day at work, take your pup for a short walk before going to the dog park to bring the energy level back to normal.
Take your dog’s leash off before allowing her to join play with other dogs. When all dogs in the park are off-leash, there is a general reduction in aggressive behavior. Dogs that are not on leash are more likely to use appropriate body language to discourage unwanted attention, or they can run away from a dog that seems threatening. Dogs that are restricted by a leash are often more defensive and can become protective of their humans when literally tethered to them. Many dog parks provide a holding pen at the entrance where you can safely remove your dog’s leash.
Pick up your dog’s poop. Cleaning up your dog’s mess is more than good manners – in many places you are required to pick up after your dog. Removing feces from the dog park prevents other guests, dogs, and you from stepping in something unpleasant. Picking up after your dog also helps the community to avoid the spread of parasites.
Make sure your dog is up to date on vaccines and parasite control. Your pup should be vaccinated for rabies, distemper, and kennel cough and protected by flea, tick, and intestinal parasite control. Your diligence about these protections will not only keep you and your pet safe and healthy, but it will also protect other animals from infections and infestations. Talk to your vet to determine if you need to take additional precautions, such as leptospirosis or canine influenza vaccines, based on your location and other risks.
Dog Park Don’ts
Don’t take your new puppy to the dog park. Puppies are not ready for the park — or any high-traffic areas that also include pets — until they are at least 12 to 16 weeks of age and have had all scheduled vaccinations. You will want to consult with your veterinarian about the right time for your puppy to visit the park.
Don’t take your dog’s favorite toys or bones with you. Dogs that guard can become aggressive about certain items — including toys, rawhides, or food — and can pose a risk to other dogs and guests if he feels like his belongings are threatened. Leave his favorite things at home to keep you, your dog, and other guests safe.
Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. Talking on your phone, texting, emailing and Facebooking are all bad ideas while you are visiting the dog park. Your dog needs to be actively supervised at all times, even when you are talking with the other pet parents or greeting one of your dog’s canine buddies. It also goes without saying – never, ever leave your dog unattended in the park, even for a moment.
Don’t try to break up a dog fight. This is a good way to get bitten — in the midst of an excited state, your dog (or someone else’s) could unintentionally injure you. Dogs may also think of you as a threat and turn their aggression toward you. Rather than getting into the fight, try other tactics like a squirt gun, dumping a bowl of water over the dogs, or shaking a noisy object like a can filled with pennies.
A little respect and some attention to the rules can make the dog park a great place for you and your pup to enjoy some time outside. Remember your manners, and have a great time!