Dog parks can be a great way to get outside with your dog, as well as a great socialization tool for them. Yet, just like any place that features people, there are those that ruin the experience for the rest of us. Disregarding etiquette, or simply being inconsiderate, isn’t just annoying to fellow park goers, it can be dangerous for both the animals and their companions. Following a few simple tenants can improve the experience for everyone, human and canine alike. We put our heads together and came up with a list of the most vital rules to remember when you take your best friend for a day in the park.
1. Not picking up after your dog.
This should be the most obvious thing to remember, but it’s sadly the most forgotten thing on the list. Typically one would carry a plastic bag on a walk in order to pick up after our dogs, and the same thing goes for the park. No one wants to step in their own dogs leavings, let alone someone else’s dog. Plus, other dogs may decide to eat the feces, which can lead to major health concerns. So be polite and pick up after your pup!
2. Bringing dogs with rude greeting skills.
A personal anecdote: my dog is a jerk. He doesn’t mean to be, but he was abused and abandoned, and he is still extremely shy of people, and larger dogs. Eventually he loves everyone he meets (to a disgusting degree as I’m pretty sure my lap has a permanent imprint from him), but he has a difficult time adjusting when there are lots of people. This means I can’t take him to a dog park. If your dog is like mine, he won’t bite anyone, but he certainly comes off that way at first. Your dog also has to have proper greeting skills with other dogs! If your dog gets nervous around other dogs, bringing him to the park is equivalent of tossing someone who is afraid of snakes into a pit full of them. Work with your dogs anxiety before diving into the deep end. It will be more rewarding for both of you.
3. Small dogs in same play area as large dogs.
On a similar level with properly socializing your dog, keeping a small dog from running with the big ones is important. Smaller breeds can look like prey to larger dogs, or they simply want to play too rough with a dog they outweigh by a 100 pounds. Most likely, injuries will happen just from rambunctious pups, but it’s not worth the risk. Keep your smaller dogs in the small dog area, or keep a sharp eye on them.
4. Allowing dogs to bully other dogs.
Some dogs are bullies. That doesn’t mean they are malicious, they are just dominant. However, letting them pick on other dogs is an absolute no-no. Keep an eye out for how your dog is engaging, or being engaged by, other dogs. Are they continually nipping and jumping on another dog, or are they being polite when asking to play? If you see a dog that is obviously unhappy, or is causing another dog to be uncomfortable, make sure to step in and stop it. No one wants play to escalate into something more.
5. Bringing in a dog that lacks recall skills.
Some dogs just don’t listen when they are wound up. If your dog has trouble responding to their name, a dog park isn’t the best place for them. Dogs that have trouble being corralled end up running rampant, and can even run away entirely. Dogs need to be able to listen in order to break up rough play, prevent them from going farther than appropriate, and numerous other situations. Don’t put your dog, or any other, in danger because of poor listening skills.
7. Bringing puppies less than 12 weeks old or dogs with incomplete vaccinations.
Bringing a young dog to a dog park is asking for trouble, especially if they haven’t finished all of their vaccinations. Older dogs might be able to shrug off the bugs younger and unvaccinated dogs carry, but it isn’t worth risking anyone’s health over it. You’ll have more than a decade with your fur baby, so don’t get impatient!
8. WATCH YOUR KID
And we don’t mean your fur kid. Bringing your children to the park with you is fantastic, and a perfect family outing. The problem comes about when kids are allowed to run free. Their natural inclination is to make friends with all the dogs (ok, I do that too), but not all dogs can be approached the same way. Make sure your child knows how to approach a dog, and how to ask the dogs guardian if they can pet them. And if your child isn’t behaving with the dogs in the park, make sure to go somewhere with them to explain how to be careful with other animals, or it might be time to head home and come back another time. That way everyone can be safe.
9. Spending more time looking at a smartphone screen than at the dogs.
Yes, it’s tough to pull yourself away from binge watching “Daredevil” right now, but put the smartphone down. If you need to check an email or answer a work call, that’s understandable. But playing a game or burying your nose in Facebook means you will miss almost all of the points listed above. You can’t see them fight, poop, run off, or get bullied if you’re on the phone. So wait until you get home.
10. take responsibility for your dog!
This is the absolute golden rule. This isn’t etiquette or being polite, this is being a responsible adult. If you rear-ended someone, you’d get out and exchange insurance information right? Well, if you dog hurts another dog, go up to the owner and apologize. If it’s a serious injury, help pay for the vet bills. If you miss a mess your dog made and someone mentions it, apologize and clean it up. You are responsible for your dogs behavior just like you are your own. Doing the right thing will not only prevent any serious problems, it will more than likely make you some new acquaintance.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Do you have any you’d like to add? Any behavior you’d like to see eliminated or encouraged? Let us know!
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