Dog Park Etiquette for You and Your Pet

dog park

Fall’s in full swing, and pet parents are ready to reward their good boy or girl with some fun at the dog park. For many dogs, it’ll be their first time in such an open area with fellow ball-chasers. For canines and their two-legged companions, safety and good manners should come before fun.

Making Sure Your Dog Is Ready

Many pet parents assume that dog parks are safe havens. There’s no doubt that they provide an excellent opportunity for dogs and their parents to play and exercise, but as with people and roller coasters, some dogs aren’t cut out for the ride.

Before you head out to your local dog park, make sure your dog:

  • Has a clean bill of health from the vet.
  • Is up-to-date on his or her immunizations.
  • Is fully vaccinated and older than 6 months.
  • Isn’t pregnant or in heat.
  • Has been neutered.
  • Is trained to politely greet other dogs and disengage on command.
  • Is comfortable in social situations.

If your dog checks out, try to give him/her moderate exercise prior to park time. This expends pent-up nervous energy and helps your dog transition from a dull day in the living room to a lively environment full of sounds and motion.

What to Bring to the Dog Park

Treats, tennis balls and Frisbees are all safe bets. Try not to bring unique toys such as your dog’s favorite stuffed animal. Other dogs may covet it and create conflict with your dog. Other essentials include a pooper scooper, water bowl, doggie first aid kit, and miniature air horn for breaking up potential fights.

Pay Attention to Your Dogs

One of the top reasons dogs get into trouble at the park is that their parents fail to keep an eye on them. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our smartphones and tablets or even in a conversation with a fellow dog parent – but these distractions can lead to disaster. Dogs are sleuths when it comes to our mental states, and when they feel bored or ignored, they’re likely to look elsewhere for fun – be it a not-so-friendly Doberman or a cute little Shiba Inu. Before you know it, your dog is tail-deep in trouble, and an angry parent has a few words for you. So, take in the sights and sounds, breathe the fresh park air, and above all, put the gadgets away – because it’s time to play!

Tips for responsible pet parents:

  • Pick up after your dog.
  • Supervise your dog at all times.
  • Look out for overly aggressive dogs or dogs with health issues.
  • Break up play if things get too rough.
  • Try to keep your dog away from much bigger dogs.
  • Play with your dog one-on-one occasionally to help him/her calm down.
  • Be courteous to other parents and their dogs.
  • Leave the park if your dog bullies or is being bullied, or appears bored or tired.
  • Be sure they have plenty of water.

If a fight breaks out, stay calm and don’t charge into the situation. First, make lots of noise. Yell your dog’s name, clap your hands, or use a miniature air horn. If this fails, find the other dog’s parent and separate both dogs simultaneously. Hold your dog by the hind legs directly below the hips, and turn him or her away from the other dog. Strap on the leash and create distance between the two.

Bear in mind that dogs, even siblings of the same breed, have unique temperaments. One Golden might become second-best friends with every dog he meets, while his sister would rather sniff the shrubbery. That’s perfectly fine! Both are having fun in their own way. However, if your dog can’t help lunging at every Labrador, gets stiff or antsy, or takes to a quiet corner, the park might not be his or her cup of kibble.

If you have questions about your dog’s behavior, schedule an appointment with one of our specialist to talk about your dog’s wellbeing.