Dogs, like people, need mental and physical exercise. They crave playful interaction with their peers. Going to the dog park will allow them to see, hear, and smell new things as they exercise with other dogs. Active dogs, like active, people, are healthier. So, let’s take a trip to the park!
Here are a few simple rules of etiquette for you and your dog at the dog park:
Scout the park. Make your first visit to the park without your dog. Look around, walk the perimeter, observe the park guests (human and canine).
Avoid rush hour. As a new park visitor, your dog may fare better when the park isn’t crowded. Take your time to acquaint yourselves with the surroundings during a less busy time. It’s easier for both of you to focus without the distraction of lots of dogs and owners.
Obey the rules. Your dog may be smart, but she can’t read. It’s your responsibility to read and obey all posted rules. Especially obey the “clean up after your dog” rule.
Leave human children at home. It’s great to have your children play with your dog, but it’s best to do that without the interference of other dogs. Even though your child and dog may get along wonderfully, not all dogs are well-socialized with kids. And just because a dog loves children it doesn’t mean that he won’t barrel right over a toddler while in the throes of a game of chase.
Limit toys and treats, but not water. Don’t pack the entire toy box or pantry for a park excursion. It’s OK to give your dog a treat, but brandishing lots of toys and treats may create conflict with other park patrons. Bring bottled water and a collapsible water bowl if your dog park does not have a dog-friendly water fountain.
Observe park age restrictions. Some parks do not allow young puppies for many reasons. Pups under 4 months of age aren’t fully immunized and exposure to other dogs puts them at risk of infection. Small pups are more vulnerable to injury, even by well-intentioned larger dogs. And young pups aren’t adequately socialized and may not do well when bombarded by multiple new faces, human or canine. Socialize your pup gradually, vaccinate and de-worm him regularly, and let him grow a bit before venturing out to the park.
Control your dog. Bring a leash along to restrain your dog as needed. Make sure your dog heeds basic verbal commands. He may get so excited to be around his friends that he temporarily forgets his manners. If you have multiple dogs, consider bringing only two at a time so that you can adequately control them both.
Be aware of your dog’s physical condition. Don’t bring your dog to the park if he is sick. This isn’t good for your dog or his playmates. No one wants to share sniffles, coughs, or diarrhea. Also, it’s best to leave female dogs at home when they are in heat.
Supervise your dog (and everyone else’s). Spending time with your dog in the company of others is a joy. Avoid reading a magazine or playing games on your smart phone. You may get so distracted that you miss something really fun or really dangerous. Feel free to interrupt inappropriate play when necessary.
Be nice. Don’t correct someone else’s dog, but notify the owner if you observe misbehavior. If someone complains about your dog’s behavior, keep an open mind and try to remedy the situation. The park is no fun if you make enemies.
Going to the dog park can be an exciting outing for your dog and time for the two of you to bond. By following some simple, common sense rules, you can ensure you, your dog, and everyone else at the dog parks has great fun in a safe and courteous way.