Pets 101

The Skinny on Dog Park Etiquette

Dog With StickOne of the greatest perks of being a dog and a dog guardian is the dog park. They’re wonderful places to go and spend the day socializing and playing.  But are there rules to follow? Are there certain considerations to be aware of? Are there things we should know in case our dog gets bitten?  According to Stacey Hawk of Hawk City K9, one of the founders of Chicago’s first dog park Wiggly Field, the answers are yes, yes, and yes!

Dog Park Rules:

Follow these simple guidelines to enjoy a day of fun and frolicking while avoiding possible mayhem, altercations, and even lawsuits:

1. Watch your dog at all times. In the dog park, your dog’s social life takes precedence over yours.

2. Don’t go to the dog park unless your dog is current on all vaccines.

3. Be prepared: Bring water and poop bags. Always clean up immediately after your dog.

4. Don’t even think about going into the dog park unless your dog has been trained.

5. Does your dog like other dogs? If not, why would you want to go in the first place?

6. Before going into the dog park, scope out the scene: Are the people there as attentive to their dogs as you are to yours? If not, take a rain check.

7. Do not let your dog off leash until you are safely within the confines of the park.

Dog Park Game-Changers:

The dynamics at the dog park can change in an instant with the arrival of a new pup, a change in weather, or even your dog’s general temperament. The following scenarios could transform your dog’s demeanor from happy and playful to anxious, scared, or aggressive in seconds, in which case, you should leave the park immediately:

1. Watch out for female dogs in heat. They shouldn’t be there, period, but if they are, keep your dog away.

2. Does your dog freak out at thunder? Get out of the park at the first sign of rain clouds.

3. Maybe your dog doesn’t like big dogs. Or little dogs. Or male or female dogs. If you see your pooch becoming agitated because there are too many of the “wrong” canines, get him out of the park.

4. Your dog was jumping into the water, fetching sticks, and rolling around with his favorite doggie pals when you first arrived at the park. Now he’s shadowing you, shivering, and yawning. He’s not happy anymore. Get him home!

Dog Bite Dangers:

1. Regardless of whether your dog was the bitten or the biter, you and the other dog guardian are equally responsible for the incident.

2. Separate the dogs immediately to prevent further harm.

3. Check to make sure there are no puncture wounds. If there are, get the dogs to the vet. Those wounds can easily become infected if not treated right away.

4. Exchange contact information with each other.

5. Collect contact information from witnesses who saw the incident take place.

6. In Illinois, the guardian of a dog who bites a person may be held liable for civil damages. For more information, visit DogBiteLaw.com

* So you want to start your own dog park. Hawk says: Good for you!  Before you begin, know that the creation of a dog park takes time, money, and the whole community working together. But you can build the dog park of your dreams with patience, determination, and support.

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