Dog Park Etiquette – things you should know before you go

dogs and people in parkThank God for dog parks! If you’re an urban dweller, both you and your best friend can be grateful there are so many of them now available. Finally, Freedom! Your pooch gets to run around off his leash and frolic blissfully with other dogs. It helps him to socialize, keep his muscles toned up and loose weight. But, before you both start your happy dance, you need to know there is something called dog park etiquette. Thus, you have to follow the rules if you’d like a positive experience and become a regular guest.

Dog parks come in all shapes and sizes. Some are small and might only take up a city block. Others are huge with many acres in which to gallivant. Some are even by lakes and rivers so if your pooch is a water dog like a Labrador Retriever, it will be heaven for him and a wet car for you!

So, keep these rules in mind before entering the sacred gates:

Make sure you have plenty of poop bags

Often, a park will have many, many dogs and that equates to an awful lot of doggy doo. So, just like in the city, have bags handy and pick up that poop! Often, parks will have their own bag dispensers but bring your own just in case.

Make sure your dog is vaccinated

It’s pretty obvious that when dogs interact, disease can spread, so take precautions.

Take charge immediately

Establish yourself as the alpha dog. With all the stimulation and potential fun, it’s easy for your pooch to become overly excited. There may be occasions when you need to reel him in, so establishing authority is important.

Don’t let your dog run in a pack

Dogs are social pack animals and when a bunch of them get together, there is potential for pack formation. A pack is harder to control than a single dog.

Bring a portable water bowl

I know; your dog drinks out of mud puddles and most dogs don’t hesitate to do so. But why not cut down on the chances of any communicable disease and bring a bowl. Also, there’s no guarantee there will be running water, so bring a supply of that as well.

Bring a toy for your dog

Maybe he likes to play fetch so his favorite ball or stick will provide stimulation and exercise.Long haired Dachshund with toy

Don’t bring a puppy less than 4 months old

Obviously, you don’t want him to get hurt. After all, those big guys can play pretty rough sometimes.

Don’t Bring a female in heat

This one needs no explanation.

Put the smart phone away

You need to be watching your dog, not your Twitter feed.

Conceal dog treats from other pooches in the park

Unless of course you’d like to make a dozen new dog friends who will follow you relentlessly.

Bring a leash – just in case

It’s possible your dog may want to show that big bruiser Bulldog who’s boss. So, a leash might come in handy if you’d like to keep him out of harm’s way. Also, if the park has on-leash areas you’ll be prepared.

Don’t bring little kids

They likely won’t understand the rules and have potential to aggravate the dogs. Additionally, you don’t want to deal with dog bites and all the possible injuries and legal issues that might come with them.

Make sure your dog has his collar and tags

Yes, dog parks are generally enclosed areas but there’s potential for your dog to get out. Obviously, you don’t want him to get lost.

Meet the parents

There’s a good chance your dog will find a new friend and want to play with her. But, before you let them romp, check with the dog’s parents. They may like the idea but it’s also possible they would like some personal time with their pooch. If they do give the go-ahead, it’s a good idea that both dogs are leashed at first, just in case there are any altercations.

Read the signs

Be good at reading canine behavior. Dogs that are ready to play have relaxed ears, wagging tails and “play bow” with their front ends on the ground. Upset dogs hold their tails at half-mast or between their legs with pinned back ears and shrunken pupils. A dog who’s ready to fight, will hold his head high, lean forward and his lips will be snarly and curled back.

Two dogs fightingKnow what to do if a fight breaks out

Fights do happen and so be prepared. If your dog starts to fight with another, don’t physically put yourself between them. Instead, use a stick to separate them or a squirt bottle. If they continue to scuffle, approach your dog from the rear and try to move him away while holding his hind legs.


Follow these tips on dog park etiquette so you and your pooch will have a positive experience. Also be aware that each city or town will post its own set of rules so read those carefully and abide by them.

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