Dog Park Etiquette for New Pet Owners

Most dogs enjoy running and playing in off-leash parks but it remains the responsibility of the pet owner to ensure it’s a safe and truly fun environment for everyone. From following the posted dog park rules to keeping an eye on their dogs, pet owners are ultimately the ones in control and are the ones who need to be aware of the proper dog park etiquette.

Although many dogs are friendly at home, it does not necessarily mean that all dogs should visit dog parks. Only pets with good socialization and adherence to commands should be allowed off leash with other dogs. To guarantee a safe park visit, the following dog and human behaviors should be followed.

Dog Behavior

  • Only dogs which are well-socialized should enter dog parks. If the dog shows any signs of aggression towards other dogs, whether it be by growling or acts of dominance, it should not be exposed to an off leash environment until it has been better socialized.
  • Dogs should be allowed to run and play at the park but should not exhibit excessive mouthing of other dogs or rough play, like slamming into other dogs while running. Also, jumping on other dogs or people should be at a minimum.
  • All dogs should be able to follow basic commands, especially: come, sit, stay. In an open situation where many dogs will be playing, it’s important that a dog owner is able to quickly attain control of their pet through these basic commands.
  • Only dogs in good health should visit dog parks. Pets with recent medical issues or diseases should not be exposed to other healthy pets in order to minimize the spread to other dogs. Dogs with any physical medical concerns should not be exposed to active dogs which could further aggravate the issue.

Human Behavior

  • Posted park rules are available in most parks and should be followed by the pet owners. Rules may outline the size and breed of dogs allowed in the park, as well as rules of conduct. It’s also important to understand that dog parks are not intended for small children.
  • Treats and toys are allowed in most parks, but be warned that it will be difficult to limit them only to a single pet. Once treats or toys are displayed, all dogs will come running. Since some pets have serious food allergies, treats should never be given to a pet other than your own without permission from the pet owner.
  • Pet owners should supervise the play of their dog to make sure it is playing nicely with other dogs. Keep a leash on hand so that a dog can quickly be brought under control if a dog fight should occur. Also, even though it’s an off leash area, dog owners are still required to poop scoop so the environment remains clean for both dog and humans. Come prepared with poop bags as not all parks provide them.
  • Dog play should be monitored and a dog’s actions corrected if improper. While it’s OK for a pet owner to correct their dogs behavior, it’s generally not acceptable to correct or punish another dog. Should another dog not be following the rules of safe play, kindly let the owner know so that it can be handled.

And while some pet owners may not be aware of the rules to follow, an informed dog owner can help teach others through leading by example. By following these dog park etiquette suggestions, a pet owner can ensure a safe and fun dog park experience.

Note: This article is authored by Allen Williams and originally appeared on August 24, 2009.

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