Dog Park Etiquette

Dog parks are a great place to let your pup socialise, explore and get some exercise. A dog park is a shared space, and as with any communal area, there are some common courtesies that should be followed. Read on to educate yourself about dog park etiquette; being aware of the simple dos and don’ts is the first step to ensuring that you don’t end up in the dog house!

Supervision

Many owners see the park as a place to leave their dogs to run free. This is not the case, and there is nothing worse than owners who tap away on their phone whilst their dogs are getting up to mischief. Although dog parks are a great place to socialise, don’t forget that your dog is your responsibility. Use your time at the park to engage your dog in a game (fetching, running, etc.) or watch closely as they play with other dogs.

Remember that you are responsible for the safety of your dog and those interacting with it, and you therefore need to be paying attention. Keep in mind that although your dog may be “friendly”, this may not be the case for every other animal in the park.  Like humans, dogs too can have differences in opinion or clashes in personality.

If your dog is pestering another, it is your job to deal with the situation. Contrary to popular belief, “letting the dogs sort it out” is in fact the worst way to deal with things. Call or move your dog away or distract them with another activity. Paying attention to dogs’ body language will give you some hints about how they are feeling and you may be able to prevent conflicts before they arise.

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Doggy Doo

Doggy doo duty is one of the main reasons we need to keep an eye on our dogs at the park. No one pretends to love this job, but unfortunately it is part and parcel of being a dog owner. No matter where in the park your dog goes, do the right thing and pick up after your pooch.

Gates – The Red Zone!

Fights often develop when new dogs enter a dog park – there are a few simple tips you can follow to decrease the likelihood of this happening.

If you are already inside the dog park:

  • As a courtesy, call your dog away from the gate as a new dog is entering.
  • This will give the new dog time to enter without being bombarded, preventing frustration that may brew into aggression.

If you are about to enter the dog park:

  • If you find the greeting party a bit overwhelming, chances are your dog does too.
  • Give people time to call their dogs away from the gate before you allow your dog to enter the park.
  • Remove your lead before or immediately as you enter so that your dog is able to move freely (it’s a good idea to do this in the area between the double gates, if your park has them).

You must also be mindful of other dogs as you are entering or leaving the park. Dogs can be incredibly quick, so ensure that someone else’s pooch doesn’t slip past you as you open the gate. Finally, remember to always close the gate as you come or go, even if you are the last person to leave. Someone may enter through a different gate and be unaware that there is an escape route on the other side of the park.

Balls & Toys

If your dog is protective of his or her toys, using these items at the dog park may not be wise. Only engage in this type of object-oriented play if you have adequate control of your dog, as you will be responsible for diffusing the situation in the event of a conflict.

Treats

You may like to use treats with your dog at the dog park, but you must be aware that this may draw other dogs’ attention.  If you don’t like the thought of having strange dogs sniffing around your pockets, then it may be best to leave the treats at home.

Always ask other owners before offering treats to their dogs, as there may be potential food intolerances, allergies, or a behavioural problem related to begging.

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Small Dogs

If you’re a small dog owner, you may be tempted to pick up your dog to “protect” him or her.  You may in fact be doing more harm than good, as picking your dog up raises their status in the eyes of the other dogs at the park. This could potentially lead to aggression: other dogs may jump up to reach your pup, or try to reinstate the natural hierarchy when you put your dog back on the ground.

Although picking your dog up may make you feel safer; in reality it puts the dog at more risk than if they were allowed to run on the ground and use body language to assert themselves.

Use your best judgment, and if you are not comfortable with your dog running around with bigger dogs, then a walk may be a better option. Either this or you could try going to the dog park at a time when there are less boisterous dogs present.

Many councils are now providing small and large dog parks side by side to help segregate smaller dogs that may be accidentally trampled or hurt.  Small dogs are most definitely welcome inside large dog parks, but you must be mindful that your dog may be injured by larger ones as a mere result of excitable play.