In the U.S., dog parks are becoming as common as the neighborhood tot playground. Its wishful thinking on our behalf to regard dog parks as amusement parks for our furry family members, and they can be…if both the dog and his human know what to expect and how to behave.
Before visiting a dog park near you, make sure you understand that there are actual rules, and then the unwritten Dog Park Code of Etiquette! Read on to find out if you and your dog are ready for the park – there is more to it than you might think.
10 Tips for Following Dog Park Etiquette…
#1 Pick up after your dog.
This kinda goes without saying, but its good manners and good hygiene to clean up after your dog. Diseases and parasites can live in the feces of any dog and other dogs, and even you, can contract these unwanted maladies. Also, not picking up your dog’s waste is one of the quickest ways to earn a confrontation from another dog owner. Bring extra bags and you could meet a friend too!
#2 Take care of the introductions.
While you may love how your dog comes barreling to the door upon your arrival from a long day at work, other dogs won’t initially find him so charming. Just like you probably don’t enjoy someone you just met invading your personal bubble, arriving dogs at the park may not appreciate having your dog sniffing their every orifice while they are trying to examine their new environment. It’s up to us to make the introductions between our dogs, so accompany him when he meets someone knew and pull him away if there is any tension.
#3 Don’t bring a dog that doesn’t obey.
Probably one of the most important rules of dog park etiquette is being sure your dog has recall skills. Having a dog that will follow your commands is important so that you can separate her from any activity that may be harmful. Even a simple game of chase can escalate into a battle of dominance and your doggy needs to have the skills to come on command until tempers pacify. Keep your dog home until she is taught recall skills!
#4 Don’t let your dog be a bully.
Just like parents are defensive over their human kids, dog parents are protective over their four-legged babies. Before bringing your dog for a day at the dog park, make sure they have good social skills. Taking your dog to places where he or she is leashed and they can meet and learn social cues first, will prepare them for being unleashed at the dog park. Teach them to sniff suitably and to back off when another dog is uncomfortable. You must constantly be aware of your dog’s interactions at a dog park; too much bouncing, hovering, pushing, or attempted fornication (hmm…hmm), can not only upset dogs, but other owners as well.
#5 In heat or pregnant? Stay home!
Since most females go into heat only 2x a year and are considered to be “in heat” for 21 days (7 days going in, 7 days in heat and 7 days going out), it is advisable not to bring them to a dog park during this time. If you don’t want to see all hell break loose among a group of dogs, then leave your dog at home for a couple of weeks.
#6 Consider exercising before heading to the dog park.
This may sound silly, but the confined space of the dog park is not the time or place for a dog to release bottled up energy. A visit to the dog park should be a complement to your dog’s regular activities. Bringing your pet to the most stimulating place for a dog – the dog park – with repressed energy can be disastrous. You stand to immediately ruin potential relationships between pets and people if your dog starts running around like a madman and causes other dogs to respond in ways that gets them in trouble or upset their people. Well-exercised dogs are well-behaved dogs!
#7 Don’t keep your dog leashed in an off-leash park.
Though it may make you feel more secure to have your dog leashed, especially if it’s you’re first visit to the park, a leash is a tripping and choking hazard not only for your dog, but for others as well. When you give a tug, the natural response when you become nervous about two dogs meeting for the first time, the response can cause anxiety and fear. A leash can make your dog insecure when surrounded by other dogs because they feel as though they can’t escape if they need to. If you feel like your dog has to be on a leash in order to ensure their safety, then your lovable companion may not be ready for the dog park.
#8 Keep out puppies less than 12-weeks-old and dogs with incomplete vaccinations.
It goes without saying that your dog should be vaccinated, not only to protect their own health, but so that they don’t pass diseases on to other dogs. That being said, puppies simply do not have the strong immune system of a large dog, so exposing young pups to diseases and parasites, such as Giardia, worms, distemper, or Parvo, that make their way through a dog park, can prove deadly to a helpless little puppy or unvaccinated dog.
#9 If your pooch is protective, don’t bring their stuff!
Sharing can be a real issue for dogs. Sometimes you don’t even know that your pampered pup is protective when it comes to his toys, treats, or your attention until another dog tries to take them away. If you know your dog is extremely possessive, leave the treats and playthings home or you are just asking for a fight.
#10 Pay attention to your dog, not your phone!
They don’t build dog parks so that you can sit back with a cup of coffee and read, text, or get lost in conversations with other dog owners. Dog interactions require supervision! Don’t be that dog parent that stares at their phone the whole time and relies on others to supervise your dog’s behavior. If you are tweeting, you have no idea if there are mounting aggressions and a fight is about to break out. The most important thing for you to take care of in the dog park is your dog…your texts and tweets can wait.
Indoor and outdoor dog parks located in Saratoga, Ballston Spa, and Clifton Park, NY allow your dog to exercise, play with other dogs, or just enjoy some new scenery. Saratoga Dog Lovers makes it easy to find a dog park in Upstate NY!