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Dog Park Etiquette 101

Just like humans, dogs love a trip to the park. Time in the dog park is the canine version of happy hour: socializing, flirting, and playtime galore! But like with any other social event, there are unwritten rules. Want to be sure that you and your animal companion are playing the game right? Follow these helpful suggestions for doggie park etiquette:

Photo by Henrique Lopes

  • Know your dog’s temperament. It’s easy to forget that the world doesn’t know your pooch as well as you do. Taking dogs to the park introduces them to a variety of breeds, temperaments, and levels of training. You can’t predict how other dogs will behave, so be sure you consider your dog’s temperament. Is he or she prone to barking at large dogs? Definitely consider the small-dog section of the park. Is he or she intimidated by crowds? Find a time to visit the park when it’s not packed.
  • Scoop your dog’s poop. Many parks have a pooper scoop and trash cans available, but not all of them. Scope out a park before you go. If resources aren’t provided, be sure to take along supplies to deal with your dog’s doo-doo. Plastic bags—and a small shovel for the squeamish—are a must. If you want to make some human friends while you’re there, pack a few extra baggies; people who forgot will be grateful.
  • Fix first. Before you head to the park, get your dog spayed or neutered. Male dogs will get along better, and female dogs will be spared a dog-park frenzy from being in heat. You’ll also help prevent animal overpopulation—just one unaltered female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in only six years.
  • Keep pups at home. Eager as you may be to socialize your puppy, it’s not a good idea to take puppies to the dog park before they’re 4 months old. They don’t have the vaccinations that they need, which can put them and other dogs at risk, and they can also be frightened or even trampled by other, larger dogs.
  • Take along water but not food. Some dog parks have bowls available for dogs to drink from, but don’t count on it, especially on a hot day. Take along a water bottle and a small dish that you can use to help your hound hydrate. Avoid taking food, including treats, into the dog park, as this could provoke a food fight among dogs who don’t like to share.
  • Insist on good behavior. If you see that your own dog is starting to behave aggressively, remove him or her from the park immediately and seek help from a humane dog trainer.

By following these simple rules, you can make trips to the dog park a breeze. Got any other suggestions to ensure smooth sailing? Share them in the comments section!

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  • Jennifer D. says:

    Vet Tech here: No puppy should be taken to a dog park until AT LEAST 4 months of age! They won’t have a rabies vaccination until that age, and their other vaccinations are not fully effective until this point. I would recommend socializing a puppy younger than 4 months with dogs whose vaccination history you can confirm, as to not put your pup at risk. Happy Dog Park-ing!

  • Caleb says:

    Simple Owner here. I have taken my 5 year old male doxie to the dog park once so far, it was a nice day and we were the only ones out. He loved it and explored the whole place (around 2 sq blocks of area) He gets along great with my friends chihuahua and normally with all well behaved dog that he meets on walks. Today however he was attacked by a Bull Terrier on our morning walk, Im wondering how long I should wait before I start to bring him around strange dogs again, he’s normally very happy to meet every single person and dog we pass, but now im not so sure. any advice would be greatly appreciated. also this is a great article and hope more people will follow what you have to say, most of which is common sense.

  • Alicia Bean says:

    Today i took my 3 year old cairn/wheaton terrier to the dog park for the first time. She was having such a great time until this owner showed up with her chihuahua and clearly did not know how to read her dogs body language. it was barking with its tail stiff and the hair on its back raised. Clearly a sign of aggression yet she still brought it in. my dog saw that and became a little defensive so we left. I just wish owners would recognize when theyre dog is okay to be at the dog park and when it isnt. oh well, we’ll just have to go try it out another time.

  • Sandy Scharmann says:

    I have never taken my Bedlington to a dog park. Not every pet owner is responsible. I have found, over the years, that taking my boy to a regular park and being responsible is far better and much more fun for us both.

  • Beth says:

    Took our 18 month old fixed mixed breed female to the local dog park for the 2nd time yesterday. The 1st experience was great. The 2nd was not. Not being experienced dog owners my husband & I were unsure of dog park etiquette. Anyway, our poor dog was surrounded by a pack of mostly male dogs as she enetered. One very aggressive pit bull – the poor thing was scared. The pit bulls owner just said how funny I might add that he was there with 3 other dogs also part of this “pack” and he was smoking. We waited to see if things would turn around and it did for a bit when a new dog entered but they went right back to surrounding our dog. So within 5 minutes we left. Should we have said to the other dogs owner – maybe you should remove your dog?? And the other dogs that were surrounding her – their owners were off talking in the back of the park. I felt so bad for our dog. She had such a good experience the first time. Any suggestions?

  • Em says:

    Hey I also work at a vet clinic. These are some great tips, however, you should never allow your dog to drink out of a park bowl nor let him or her share the bowl with other dogs. Dogs can easily pass on illnesses that can’t be vaccinated against, such as colds. Also, if your dog isn’t vaccinated for leptospirosis (a very deadly disease that can be passed on from dogs to humans and can kill both within weeks) and/or kennel cough, you could also be in trouble. A lot of vets don’t vaccinate for kennel cough unless you ask or they know your dog is often around other dogs. As for leptospirosis, some dog breeds are not compatible with the vaccine and a lot of times vets don’t even bring these vaccines up unless you ask. You should ask your vet if your dog is protected from both of these illnesses BEFORE bringing him or her to a dog park. It could save your dog’s life! :)

  • Emily says:

    Dog trainer here, in response to vet tech: Their immune systems may be weaker at one year than they would be at two or three, but fully vaccinated puppies are still strong and healthy enough to begin to socialize with other dogs as well as humans. In fact, if you don’t begin to socialize them at an early age, you run the high risk of behavioral problems down the road – the kind that prevent you from taking your dog to the dog park or out in public at all.

  • sandra mason says:

    I really appreciate the dog owners who follow those rules of doggy etiquette. It would be nice if dog owners followed rules of etiquette everywhere. I can’t believe how many times people allow their dogs to jump onto other people at the vet’s office. the dogs are stressed and nervous and shouldn’t be allowed to be 15 feet from it’s owner. Even in their own homes, they should realize that a dog could bite a visitor and should realize that some people are not comfortable with jumping dogs and slobber.

  • chander kumar soni says:

    so nice and useful information.
    as a dog owner, i always follow above stated instructions.
    thanks.

  • Eli says:

    Vet tech here. Actually you shouldn’t take dogs to the park or really out and about too much until about a year. They may be vaccinated against certain things but their immune systems are still weak until around a year.

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