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Dog Park Etiquette

Dog parks are an amazing place for your dog to romp and play and for you to meet other pet parents.  Just like there are rules for children’s play areas, there are rules, both written and unwritten for getting the most out of your dog’s visit to your local dog park.

Consider these do’s and don’ts before taking your pup to the park:

Be considerate. Always…pick up after your dog

Daily dog traffic is significant in the dog park on any given day, so doggie poop is inevitable. However, stepping in it is a sure-fire way to dampen the mood and shorten the trip.  Do the right thing and always scoop your dog’s poop.

Be attentive. Always…keep an eye on your dog

While the majority of dog parks are fully fenced in there are some that are not.  If you are going to a dog park that is not fully enclosed make sure your dog’s recall is good and always know where your dog is.

Even if your dog park is fully enclosed, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to pay attention to your dog.  As your dog interacts with the other dogs and pet parents at the dog park you want to be aware of any interaction that might be less than positive.  According to Leslea Villigan at Henderson Pet Resort, “even before entering the dog park, you should take a few minutes to observe the dogs that are already within the dog park to ensure that your dog will match not only their physical size but play style as well.  Then once inside the dog park always pay attention to your dog’s and other dogs’ body language so that any escalation of play or inappropriate behavior can be redirected very quickly, and play stays safe and fun for all dogs in the park.”

Remember. Always…remove the leash as soon as you are in the off-leash area

Many dogs that play well when off-leash have issues when on-leash.  Audrey Reichardt owner of  Dogwood Acres reminds us that “When a dog is on a leash he does not feel he has complete control of his movements.  If confronted and lacking the ability to back away, a dog might feel the need to warn off another dog.  This is the classic “fight or flight” issue. If a dog senses no option for flight when leashed, the only option remaining is fight.”

“Some dogs also resource guard their owners.  Giving distance between you and your dog by removing the leash can reduce the chances of fights when entering a dog park.  Also, pay attention when your dog approaches you while other dogs are around.  Although we do not recommend dog parks, understanding dog language and proper play can benefit you and your dog when choosing to take them to the park”, added Angie Pickren from Canine Cabana. Ensuring your dog is off-leash in the designated areas can allow them to interact non-threateningly and openly with the other dogs at the park.

Be wise. Never…bring an unvaccinated dog to the park

A fully vaccinated dog protects all the dogs.  Talk to your veterinarian about the vaccines recommended for your dog based on your local environment and your and your dog’s lifestyle. 

Be smart. Avoid a problem and know what to do next

There are times when play at a pet park can get to be a bit too much and there are some dogs that go to pet parks that should not.  Catherine Crews of Canine Crews explains “It’s always best to avoid a problem before it starts.  Knowing how to redirect your dog away from a problem or having good recall so your dog can stay away from a situation is ideal. I recommend practicing your recall cues and other basic obedience BEFORE you go to the dog park; it is also a good way to reestablish that you are in charge of your dog before they get overstimulated in the off-leash setting.”

But if you can’t avoid the problem and a dog fight happens?

Knowing as much as possible about your local dog park, who tends to go there, and what tools are there to deal with a scuffle is an ideal start.

Be cool. Never…bring an aggressive dog to the park

It goes without saying, a public dog park is not the place for dogs with aggressive behaviors. If your dog has issues with other dogs, it is not the place to work this out.  Mark Klaiman from Pet Camp explains  “It’s ok that your dog doesn’t enjoy socializing with other dogs or needs some socialization in a more controlled environment before going to the dog park.  Many doggie daycare facilities have programs specifically for dogs just like yours.  Availing yourself and your dog of these programs will lead to less stress for you, a better experience for your dog, and will potentially avoid harm to a dog or person.”

Public dog parks when used correctly by the right dogs can be amazing places for dogs and pet parents alike.  Hopefully these tips allow you and your pup to have a great experience at your local dog park.

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