Top Dog Park Etiquette Rules to Know

Pay Attention to Posted Signage

Every dog park has its own rules, so it's important to read through any posted signage to make sure you know what to expect. Some dog parks allow treats and toys, while others don’t. Large parks may have designated areas for bigger dogs and smaller dogs to help prevent problems. You may want to do a quick online search for information about parks you're unfamiliar with before you arrive so you'll show up properly equipped.

Clean Up After Your Pet

The cardinal rule of etiquette for all public facilities is to always clean up after your dog. You can purchase a small roll of waste disposal bags to keep in your pocket, purse, or bag so you're always equipped to deal with messes. You can even get a carrier for these baggies that clips onto the end of your leash if you don't want to worry about carrying any extra items around with you. Always clean up messes as soon as they occur. The park should have a waste receptacle designated for just this purpose.

Stay On Top of Your Pet's Health

You should never bring an unhealthy dog out to a dog park. Don't take your puppy to the park until they've had all of their vaccines, and make sure adult dogs are kept up to date on their shots as well. The close contact and rambunctious nature of a leash-free dog park can become a hotbed for disease if sick animals are permitted to attend.

You should keep your pet home if they're experiencing any signs of illness, including cough, fever (exhibited by a dry, warm nose), vomiting, lethargy, red or cloudy eyes, scooting, or unusual eating and drinking behaviors. Take your pet to the vet before you allow them to go to the park so you can address any undiagnosed problems and keep the other pets safe and healthy.

Many dog parks require all animals to be spayed or neutered. If you're visiting a park without this regulation and you have an unspayed female, you should avoid bringing her when she's in heat. This can seriously disrupt the atmosphere, creating behavior problems not only with your own dog but with other pets as well.

Know What To Bring

Your dog should always wear a collar while at the dog park. You’ll need a leash to get your pet in and out of the park, and you should keep this on hand for the duration so you can restrain your pet quickly if needed. As mentioned previously, you should have waste bags with you to clean up after your dog.

You should also bring a bowl and water for your pet to avoid dehydration. While some dog parks have dog fountains, these can easily become contaminated by viruses and bacteria. It's best to encourage your dog to drink only fresh, clean water from their personal bowl.

Know What To Leave Home

Dog parks are divided on whether they allow treats and toys. Even if these items are permitted, you may want to think twice before you bring them along. Even a well-mannered pooch can become possessive and potentially aggressive when another animal picks up their favorite ball or frisbee. These toys are typically best suited to times when you're alone with your pet. If you're visiting a dog park that's often empty, you might bring some toys along in case. However, you’ll probably need to put them away if other visitors show up.

Treats are another problematic item at some dog parks. You should never give treats to someone else's dog. Even if you're in the habit of giving edible rewards for good behavior, you might want to leave your tasty bites at home. There are many other ways to reward your dog, including scratches, chest rubs, and soothing praise.

Be Mindful of Who You Bring

Though small children may beg to come out and play with the dogs, it's usually best to leave them at home. You can run into aggressive or overexcited dogs at a dog park which may pose a threat to babies, toddlers, and smaller children. If you take older children, make sure they're mindful of their surroundings and careful around unfamiliar animals.

Keep an Eye on Your Surroundings

Always pay close attention to your dog and your surroundings when you're at a dog park. Watch for distracted dog owners who are glued to their phones or deep in conversation with their backs to the pack. This can signal the potential for some sticky situations as the result of unsupervised pets. Signs of an uncomfortable animal include the following:

  • Hunched back.
  • Low or tucked tail.
  • Crouched position.
  • Baring of teeth.
  • Raised hair.
  • Tense posture.
  • Ears pinned back.
  • Small pupils.

If your dog exhibits these signs, you should redirect them from whatever is troubling them or even leave the park. If you see another dog showing these signs, remove your own pet from the vicinity to avoid a fight.

Keep an eye out for the formation of large packs, which can also lead to aggressive behaviors. If you see a pack coming together, separate your dog and redirect them to an area that's less crowded.

Know When To Leave

Start with a short visit when you're going to a new dog park for the first time. Give your pet time to acclimate to this type of environment slowly over several visits. Always depart if your pet appears agitated, nervous, or tired.

If you need help preparing your pet for the rigors of a dog park, our team at Sploot Veterinary can help. We offer wellness visits, vaccinations, and behavioral counseling to keep your dog healthy and happy.

Image by Mathew Smith is licensed with Unsplash License

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