Dog parks are all over the United States and are a great way to socialize your dog. They allow dogs who are living in smaller areas a chance to run free and burn off some pent up energy as well. But before you head to the local dog park, take a minute to understand what to do once you’re there.
Become familiar with the dog park you want to visit before taking your dog. Look for posted rules for the park and talk to the other visitors. Dog park etiquette is fairly universal. Obey the rules, pick up after your dog, and make sure your dog doesn’t cause problems for anyone.
Be Responsible Owners
Before you take your dog there, spend a little time to watching his/her interactions with other dogs. Be realistic about your dog’s temperament and tendencies. Is he/she a bully and plays rough? Is he/she easily frightened? Is he/she older and needs a quieter environment? Aggressive dogs, even if he is your “best buddy”, are not allowed and are not appreciated by others. No matter how cute you think they are and no matter how much you want them to be able to use the park, if your dog’s acting aggressively, for the safety of everyone it needs to leave.
Try out a new dog park during a weekday, while most everyone is at work. This gives you an opportunity to visit the park when there aren’t large amounts of dogs and people, and allows your dog to get used to the new smells, toys, sounds, and the sensory overload that can happen there. Encourage a fellow dog lover to bring their dog at the same time, and you both get the benefit of using the park, and of familiar puppy friends as well.
Many behaviors can become exacerbated by visiting a dog park. For instance, we learned our dog is a bit of a tennis ball hoarder. It’s a behavior he never displayed before visiting our first dog park, but came out very quickly. As responsible pet owners, we now KNOW what his tendencies are, and we keep him in check. And when he becomes too much to handle, we leave. Remember, after about 20 minutes of massive exercise, dogs become tired and sometimes get “cranky” (just like children do!). You will know when your dog has had enough and is ready to go.
Know when to use your leash and when not to
Please use your leash while in the parking lot or just outside the dog park. This is the law but it is also common courtesy. Once inside the double-gated areas or just inside the dog park, take your dog off the leash. When a dog on leash is greeted by free-roaming dogs, the leashed dog will not be able to interact normally and he may feel trapped or threatened. When all dogs are off leash they can act normally, greet other dogs, and they can get away from a pressure situation if they feel they need to. This is very important!
Note: Pinch, prong, or even choke training collars should be removed prior to entering the dog park. They may cause injury to another dog that may catch his teeth or bottom jaw in it while playing with your dog.
There are different opinions on bringing children to a dog park. Many parks have rules about this, and most do not allow children under a certain age inside the dog park. This is more for your child’s safety than the dogs. Think of it this way, if an 90 pound dog is running full speed towards a 7 year old who is holding a tennis ball, who’s more likely to get hurt when they collide? Be safe, be smart.
Most parks do NOT allow females in heat within the park, for obvious reasons. However, you also need to take caution with intact males as well.