Dog Park Etiquette

After a busy day at work it’s time to toss our work clothes aside, throw on the casual wear,
grab our dog’s leash, load up Fido, and head to the dog park! For many of us, this trip is not just about socializing with our four-legged friend; it’s about catching up with our two-legged friends as well.  While it’s easy to see the benefits of a dog park, sometimes we might fail to take note of things that could turn a great social occasion into a small disaster. 

I want to take the opportunity to raise your awareness and, hopefully, give you a few tips to make the most of your dog park adventures.

What should you be looking for while taking part in the fun and games to ensure your dog and others are having fun at the dog park?

3 Things you need to be aware of…

  1. Owners who are not aware of appropriate body language between dogs: You know these guys, they are the ones whose dog is always mounting other dogs or snarling when other dogs get close. Your best bet here is to redirect your dog’s attention to other dogs or a quick treat training session. Click here to recognize signs of stress in your dog
  2. Owners who are busy talking on cell phones or answering emails, thus not paying attention to their dogs: These are also very easy to spot. They are the ones who are usually calling their dog’s name long after he’s been jumping on every new person that walks into the park. If you find yourself and your dog around this crew, stay close and make sure their dog is properly socialized before relaxing your attention.
  3. Over-excitement in dogs: This is probably the most important issue you need to be aware of! This is one of the greatest contributors to doggie scuffles in the dog park. If your dog tends to get over excited or doesn’t know how to take a break, add a few positive time-outs into the play session. All you need to do here is separate your dog from the others and have them go into a down-stay for 2 to 3 minutes. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to train! Another option is to leave the park for a short time to give your furry friend a break.

Other tips for keeping the dog park safe…

  • Keep little dogs playing with little dogs.
  • Keep dogs around the same age playing together. Juvenile or adult dogs may play too rough for puppies still growing and learning social skills.
  • Always be looking for training opportunities with your dog. This will help keep your dog focused on you.
  • Always clean up after your dogs.
  • Go to the dog park off hours when there are not a lot of other dogs. (This is my personal favorite.)

Don’t have time or interest in the dog park? Here are some alternatives for you…

  • Create an exercise program for both you and your dog, which includes walking, running, hiking, or swimming. This is a great way to engage with your dog and burn extra calories.  Take it a step further and create an exercise group with friends.
  • Enroll your puppies in a puppy kindergarten class. During class you will learn about canine body language in a safe setting. 
  • Enroll your dog in an agility or nose work class. During agility, your dog will learn to engage with you while stimulating their mind and exercising. During nose work your dog is encouraged to use one of their best senses: SMELL!
  • Whatever activities you decide to do with your dog make sure your dog and others around are having fun. Also remember, the more you train and engage with your dog, the more your dog will look to you for direction and guidance.