Dog parks can be one of the most fun social experiences for dogs, as they are able to play with others without leashes or constraints. It’s a perfect weekend activity to wear out your pup while also meeting some fellow dog owners. However, before going to a park, make sure both you and your dog are prepared. In this guide, we’ll be going over basic dog park etiquette, as well as dog park tips for ensuring that it’s a fun experience.
First Time at a Dog Park? What to Know Before You Go
Before even considering going to a dog park, you need to make sure that your dog is ready for such an experience.
If they’re younger than four months old, puppies aren’t ready for dog parks. Going to a park with other adult dogs will be an overwhelming experience for a puppy and may have adverse effects on socialization and development. A dog should have all their vaccinations before visiting, as there’s a danger that an unvaccinated puppy may catch an illness from the other dogs. It’s recommended they’re vaccinated for bordetella, leptospirosis, influenza, and treated with flea, tick, and heartworm.
If you are concerned about dog aggression at the park, tuck your BarxBuddy ultrasonic trainer into your pocket or bag. This device easily interrupts bad dog behaviors without harming the animals. Then, you can give corrective commands, whether it’s to your dog or someone else’s.
Signs Your Dog Isn’t Ready for an Off-Leash Dog Park
- Aggressive or standoffish dogs may not be welcoming and friendly toward any other strange dogs.
- If your dog is in heat, don’t take her to a park. It’ll cause the male dogs to act more aggressively.
- Any dog that’s sick or that has a known illness should stay at home.
- Make sure your dog will obey basic commands, like come, get down, and stay, so that you can get their attention at any time. It’s best to train your dog to listen in a distracting environment prior to going to a park.
- If your dog has a tendency to snap at other dogs when they get near their possessions like water bowls or tennis balls, they may not be well suited for a dog park.
If any of the above is true for you, socialize your dog with one-on-one interaction with other dogs before going to a park. Shy or nervous dogs might need to work up to going to a park.
Dog Park Safety Tips
Above all else, always be aware of your dog at a park. Treat it as you would taking a child to a playground — keep one eye on them at all times. If you notice other dogs piling onto them or chasing them around repeatedly, intervene in order to stop the visit to a park being a potentially traumatic experience.
Also know the distinction between good and bad play. If your dog is bouncing around, doing play bows and taking turns wrestling on the ground, they’re probably having a good time. If they’re demonstrating aggression at the dog park, doing a lot of barking and are very stiff and have raised fur, they’re probably nervous or aggressive and you may need to take them away. Know your dog’s body language so you can tell when it’s time to go.
If your dog is sitting by you or the gate, it’s a sign that they want to leave. If they want to leave early, or you notice the dogs at the park aren’t well matched for your dog, don’t be afraid to try other parks to find a better fit.
Human Etiquette (Yes, You Have Rules Too)
Seeing as your dog has to be on their best behavior, it makes sense that you should as well!
- Review the rules for your off leash dog park. Most are posted near the entrances, and some municipalities even post them online.
- Clean up after your dog. Look up beforehand if your specific park supplies doggie bags so that you can bring them along if the park doesn’t provide them.
- Keep your dog on a leash until they’re in the park.
- Do not groom your dog at a park, as it will make a mess that’s difficult to clean up.
- Some dog park rules and regulations require that your dog is spayed or neutered prior to visiting in order to cull aggressive behavior.
- Smoking, drinking alcohol, and eating food is not allowed in a dog park.
- Do not bring children under 12 into a dog park, as some larger animals may gang up on them.
- Don’t give treats to other dogs. While it may be tempting to hand out gifts to other dogs, it will create an aggressive atmosphere and may even lead to an allergic reaction, if the dog you feed has a specific allergy you weren’t aware of.
- Be courteous to other dogs and their owners!