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Dog park etiquette

Some parts of the country are “opening” back up after having been under quarantine because of the coronavirus. This may mean you and your pup can get back out of the house and you’re your way back to the dog park. Even though you’re out-of-doors with your dog you will want to practice social distancing, wear a mask and perhaps not let your dog share toys or treats with other dogs at the dog park.

We’ve put together a list of our best dog park etiquette tips for your consideration along with a few reasons why getting out and exploring is great for you and your pup.

Socialization. As we’d mentioned socialization will lead to a dog who is better adjusted to life. If your dog doesn’t get to interact with – or even come upon – another dog on a walk, he may lunge, bark and want to fight this “intruder.” If doggie day cares and dog training classes are closed, going out for a walk and heading to a dog park will introduce your dog to dogs of other shapes and sizes.

Keep your dog in the part of the park appropriate to his size. If the dog park is separated by dog size, don’t put your tiny dog in the big dog area and keep your big dog out of the small dog space. The dog parks are separated for a reason and you don’t want your dog to get injured or injure another dog because she’s not in the appropriate area for her size.

Pick up the poo. Be a responsible dog owner and clean up your dog’s messes. Don’t rely on there being waste disposal bags available. Take your own just in case there aren’t.

Don’t take your dog’s favorite toy. If your dog is a resource guarder of his toys, leave toys at home. Even if your dog doesn’t resource guard his toys at home, he may if he is faced with sharing a toy with a strange dog. Use your dog park time to let your dog run and expend excess energy.

Watch your dog. Just because you’re at an off-leash dog park doesn’t mean your pup gets to run wild and potentially scare or bully other dogs. Keep your dog’s behavior in check and make certain the other dogs and pet parents feel safe with your dog there.

Bring water. No matter what the temperature is, bring a water bowl and water for your dog. Keep her hydrated while she runs and plays.

Keep your dog home. If your dog hasn’t been vaccinated or is in heat, keep her home. Ask your veterinarian when it is safe for your dog to visit a dog park. Your vet may recommend a specific age before you let your dog go to a dog park. The local dog park may also have requirements for admittance. Keep your dog and the other dogs safe.

Pay attention when you enter and exit. Be mindful of other dogs who may try to “rush” the gate and get out when you’re coming in. Hopefully, the other pet parents will pay attention to their dogs and keep them away from the gate, but if they don’t you may need to help ensure their dogs don’t escape – even though it may not feel like your responsibility.

Know when to leave. Not all dog parks are a good experience for all dogs. If your dog is shy or fearful, it may never be a good time to take him to the dog park – unless there are few to no dogs there. Don’t force your dog to socialize in a situation in which he may be terrified’ this won’t help him face a fear, it will only make him more fearful.

Dog parks aren’t a good fit for all dogs.

  • Your dog may be happier just going for a walk and exploring the neighborhood
  • You may want to have a more controlled atmosphere than a dog park; find friends with whom you can socialize your pup.
  • A walk in a new neighborhood or in the woods or on a beach may be the best way for your dog to explore the world and keep him safe
  • If you don’t live in an area where there is a dog park, don’t despair, you may be able to find others in your neighborhood who will welcome your pup to his or her fenced in yard for a play date.
  • Some pet supply stores or boarding facilities provide space in which a dog can come and run around in their fenced in space – for a fee.

Dogs who don’t have any fur-siblings benefit from socialization whether that’s at a dog park, a doggie day care or even visiting with friends and family who have dogs. Your dog will fare better if he interacts with other humans and pets and will be better-adjusted when he is exposed to other sights, sounds and situations. A dog who is isolated or who may just spend all her time home alone with you may be frightened when faced with new dogs or humans on a walk or in a dog park.

You are the best proponent for your dog and his or her well-being. Play it safe and know whether a dog park is a good fit for your pup for his exercise and socialization needs.

Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.


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