A trip to the dog park is a great way to give your pup a chance to get out the zoomies and interact with other dogs, especially if you live in an urban area without a big yard. But like all public places—and especially those where dogs are involved—there is a set of both spoken and unspoken rules that all pets and their parents should be abiding by in order to keep everyone safe and happy. As the human half of your dog park attending duo, it’s important to read up on the following park etiquette guidelines and make sure you’re following them next time you make a trip.
1. Always pay attention to your dog
There’s a strong temptation to sit back and catch up on Twitter or emails while your dog plays, but it’s important that you’re consciously looking out for your furry one while you’re at the park, even if you’re doing so while relaxing on a bench. Your dog’s safety and well-being are your responsibility, as is making sure your pet doesn’t act aggressively, eat something bad, or make a run for it when someone opens the gate. Always be aware of what your dog is up to instead of spending the whole time staring down at your phone.
2. Make sure your dog is well-socialized
Things can get rowdy at the dog park, and it isn’t always the best place for shy or nervous pups. While your dog can certainly learn a thing or two about how to properly engage with other dogs from time spent at the park, he should be coming in with a good foundation of socialization already and proven good behavior in social situations. If you think your dog could use some work on their social skills, cover the basics with a trainer in a group class instead of at the park.
3. Keep your dog on a regular preventative schedule
Speaking of keeping pups healthy at the dog park, your dog should also be up-to-date on their flea/tick and heartworm medications. This is always true for dogs who spend time outside, but especially true when they’re going to be around other animals. Fleas can easily jump from one infected pet to another, so if you’ve missed a dose of preventative you may end up dealing with an itchy and uncomfortable situation.
4. Be friendly to other pet parents (but know when to give space)
Dog parks can be just as fun for pet parents as they are for the pets themselves. It’s a great place to meet other dog lovers in your local area, and over time you may even build some real friendships. Be polite and friendly to the other people you meet there, saying “hello” even if you don’t take it much further than that. Do be aware of social cues too, however, and if you notice someone looks like they’re trying to get some alone time just let them be and don’t take it too personally. After all, the dog park is a great place to just zone out and enjoy time with your favorite furry one.
5. Pick up the poop
You’d think that this one would be a given, but too many pet parents fail to pick up after their pets. Don’t be that person. Not picking up your pet’s waste is rude, gross, and bad for the environment. Most dog parks provide poop bags and trashcans right on site, so there’s truly nothing difficult about making sure you’ve got what you need to scoop the poop.
6. Have your dog up-to-date on all their vaccinations
There are always going to be health risks when your dog interacts with other dogs, but you can greatly mitigate these risks by ensuring that your canine companion is completely up-to-date on their vaccinations. Vaccines your dog should have before going to an off-leash park include Bordetella, Distemper, Leptospirosis, and Rabies.
7. Ask before giving other pets treats
Being the human who hands out the good treats is a surefire way to get lots of sweet doggy attention at the park. However, some dogs have allergies, health conditions, or weight loss needs that mean they can’t indulge in what you’re offering. Always double check with a dog’s guardian before giving her a treat so that you can be sure it’s healthy and suitable.
Following proper dog park etiquette is about common sense more than anything. And always remember, the dog park environment is not a good fit for everyone. Don’t feel bad if your dog doesn’t love it. Our canine companions can get socialization and exercise form daily walks and other adventures with you!