Taking your dog to a dog park or dog bar to run and play with their friends is one of the best parts of owning a dog! But make sure you’re following dog park etiquette every time you visit. Keep an eye out for the posted rules at every dog park you visit, and make sure you follow them. There are also some good rules of thumb to remember.
Keep reading to learn more about do’s and don’ts at the dog park.
Rules of Thumb to Remember
As your dog’s owner, you are responsible for his behavior at all times. That means if your dog acts up, your job is to react properly to the situation. For the best results, make sure your dog is properly socialized and friendly toward strangers and other dogs.
Always pick up after your dog. The park will likely have waste bags and bins ready to use, but bring your own bags just in case. Cleaning up after your dog will keep the dog park looking nice and keep it sanitary.
Before you think about taking your dog to the dog park, make sure he’s vaccinated and up to date on all his boosters.
Leave unneutered males and females at home. The presence of either can throw the dog park into chaos and create fights and distractions for other dogs.
Leave food for your dog at home. Even if your dog is good around food, others might not be, and it could trigger aggressive behavior. The same goes for treats. If your dog performs a command that usually earns him a treat, lavish him in praise instead.
Leave infants and toddlers at home. They’re in danger of getting knocked over by playing dogs and might get themselves into unsavory situations because they aren’t old enough to read your dog’s body language. You also run the risk of encountering dogs that aren’t good with children. All in all, it’s safer to wait until your children are older to bring them to the dog park.
Follow leash rules. Every dog park has different rules for on or off-leash roaming. Your dog may be great on or off-leash, but they may react differently to another dog that is on or off their leash.
Leave toys behind. Like kids, untrained dogs have been known to throw tantrums when they have to share, so it’s better to remove the toy.
Make sure your dog is always wearing a collar. This gives you something to grab if you need to, and it ensures your dog has identification in case he finds a way to escape the park.
Signs Your Dog Isn’t Ready for the Dog Park—Yet.
Dog parks aren’t for everyone—and that’s okay! There are plenty of other activities you can do with your dog to help him socialize and exercise. Here are some signs that the dog park might not be for your dog:
Young puppies who have not received all of their vaccinations and boosters should never be allowed around unfamiliar dogs. Their immune systems aren’t fully developed, and there’s always a risk that they could be exposed to a disease or illness that could be life threatening. Play it safe and wait until your puppy is fully vaccinated.
Dogs that aren’t up-to-date on vaccinations should also stay home. At the minimum, make sure you take them to the vet and get them vaccinated for Bordetella, leptospirosis, and canine influenza. They should also be on regular flea, tick, and heartworm preventives.
In line with the above, any dog showing signs of illness should stay home to prevent spreading sickness.
Males that are unneutered and females stay home.
Dogs that won’t obey basic commands, such as come, down, and stay, should work on obedience before coming to the dog park.
Unsocialized dogs might not enjoy the dog park, especially if they’re shy or nervous around strangers.
Reactive and aggressive dogs might need to stretch their legs somewhere more isolated than a dog park where they won’t feel uncomfortable or have to deal with large packs of dogs.
Dogs who resource guard might not be a great fit for the dog park, either, depending on what they guard.
Remember the Rules, and Have Fun!
Now that you’re familiar with dog park etiquette, get out there and have fun! Don’t forget to always follow the rules of thumb and any posted rules for your specific dog park.