Your Canine Etiquette Guide: Dog Park Do's

Small dogs at dog park
Keep on eye on your pup while he's playing in the dog park. Save catching up on Facebook and texting for another time.

Your dog loves the dog park, and you love taking him there to play. But you both need to be on your best behavior while you’re there. Here are six simple ways to be a good dog park citizen and help your pooch and his friends enjoy their play time together.

Dog Park Do’s

Mind your dog’s manners. A walk or game of fetch at home can help a high-energy dog wear off excess energy so it's easier to relax and focus when he gets to the dog park — and may make it less likely that he will overwhelm his doggy pals with his enthusiasm. If you have multiple dogs, consider taking them to the dog park one at a time or asking a friend to come along to help supervise. And never take an aggressive or fearful dog to the park — doing so puts others at risk and is likely to be traumatic for your own dog. The dog park is not the place to socialize a canine or to fix behavior problems.

Prepare to share. Don’t bring anything into the dog park that’s not designated for communal fun. Purses, treat pouches and valuable toys your dog doesn't want to share are best left behind. Since other owners may bring balls and other toys, if your dog isn’t good about sharing with others, you may need to consider alternatives to the dog park for playtime.

Respect the (leash) law. Your dog needs to be off leash inside the dog park but on leash in the parking lot — and it’s important to obey both of these rules. Local leash laws almost always apply in the areas just outside the park boundaries, which means leashes on until you hit the gates. But you never want to venture inside the dog park with a dog on leash, so stop immediately inside the gate and take it off. You also want to remove harnesses or certain collars prior to play, as mouths and paws can become twisted and caught in another dog’s equipment, risking strangulation, physical injury or a fight. Choose a collar that is fitted with a quick release buckle or use a breakaway collar when your dog’s at play.

Be present. Step away from the Internet while you’re at the dog park — email, Facebook and Instagram will all still be there when you get home. Feel free to visit with the other dog owners, but be sure to keep an eye on your pooch at all times. And never, ever leave your dog unattended at the park, even for a quick task like retrieving something from the car, unless another adult who is familiar with your canine can supervise (don’t ask someone you just met to be in charge of your dog). If you absolutely must leave, take your dog with you.

Leave no trace. Always have supplies on hand to pick up and properly dispose of your dog’s waste — good citizens of the dog park don’t leave anything behind. It’s also courteous to offer other dog owners a poop bag if they don’t have one with them — and it’s extra nice to pick up stray poop you may encounter at the park. Yes, it’s super annoying when other people don’t manage their pet's mess, but it’s better than leaving it for someone to step in. Cleaning up is just good manners.

Keep kids safe. The dog park can be a dangerous place for kids, even under the best of circumstances. A romping dog or one who greets with extra enthusiasm can easily knock a small child over or out of your arms and supervising your own dog — or intervening in a doggy disagreement — is much harder and more dangerous if you are holding an infant or toddler or are trying to keep an eye on a curious preschooler. It’s also important to remember that just because a dog gets along well with other canines doesn’t mean he also gets along with children. In the interest of safety — your child’s and your dog’s — leave kids at home when you head to the dog park.

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