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Avoid These Pet Peeves At The Dog Park
Make sure to follow these unspoken rules of the dog park when you bring your pup to play and socialize.
Visiting the dog park can feel like going to Disneyland for your pup! Especially for dogs that live in apartments or condos, this may be the one place where they can run free without a leash and play with other furry friends. During the summer, trips to the dog park can be a great way to enjoy some time outdoors with your dog and let them burn off excess energy! For vaccinated puppies and younger dogs, the dog park is a great place for socialization, which is an important part of their development, and a place where they can simply learn how to be a dog. The dog park is a place where pet parents can also form human friendships, too!
Unfortunately, it only takes one inconsiderate dog owner to ruin the dog park experience for everyone. From not paying enough attention to your dog or neglecting to pick up after your pet, there are a lot of ways to make enemies at the dog park. So whether you frequent your local dog park all the time or have just started taking your pup out for some fun, these etiquette tips will help ensure your dog park trips are always a success!
Make sure your dog knows his obedience commands.
Before visiting your first off-leash dog park, make sure your dog is well trained and understands essential commands, such as "stay" and "come." The dog park will have lots of new smells, furry friends, and stimulation to excite and distract your dog. In the event of an emergency, such as a dog fight, you should be confident that your dog will come back to you. Plus, when it's time to go home, you want your dog to come back to you rather than you chasing him all over the park.
Keep your dog’s collar on.
No matter how well your dog listens, always make sure he is wearing his collar and that you have his leash on hand or attached to you. Don’t make the mistake of settling your leash down only to find another dog owner picked it up accidentally.
Additionally, you need to be able to intervene quickly in emergencies. In the worst-case scenario, you can always grab your dog's collar quickly to pull him away from danger. He should also have a collar with identification on if he somehow escapes the designated dog park area to make reuniting easier.
Only bring healthy dogs over 4 months old.
Depending on where you live, dog park rules may state that you can only bring your dog once it is fully vaccinated, which typically happens around 4 months of age for the average puppy. These vaccinations are extremely important for protecting your dog from potentially life-threatening diseases, such as rabies, distemper, kennel cough, and canine influenza. Similarly, don't bring your dog to the park if they are showing signs of illness, as he may be contagious and could spread the sickness to other dogs. The dog park will still be there when your pup feels better!
While this isn't an illness per se, don't bring unspayed female dogs to the dog park while they are in heat. When a female dog is in heat or close to coming in season, she releases pheromones that could distract other canines, and can trigger aggressive behavior in male dogs in particular. Her presence could cause fights between other dogs and might even lead to an unplanned litter of puppies.
This should go without saying, but always stay alert while at the dog park. Fellow owners hate when other pet parents don't pay attention to their fur babies or intervene as quickly as they should. This doesn't mean you have to be a helicopter pet parent and hover, but be aware of your surroundings and look out for any of your dog's triggers. Pay close attention to your dog's body language and the body language of the dogs around him to prevent any dog fights or altercations before they even begin.
Pick up after your dog.
All pet parents are expected to pick up after their dogs while at the dog park, so make sure you are armed with plenty of poop bags. Usually, the dog park will provide trash cans for your convenience, but they don't always have poop bags in stock. Leaving pet waste behind is gross, unsanitary, and will irritate other dog owners.
Stay on the right side of the fence.
Some dog parks will divide their unleashed areas into a small dog area and a big dog area. The idea behind this is to encourage safe and congenial mingling. A smaller dog might be intimidated or injured by a rambunctious bigger dog, even when there is no malicious intent. It's ultimately safer for everyone when pet parents obey the dog park rules on size. And when you enter and leave the off-leash dog park, make sure to properly close the enclosure gates to keep all the pets safe and on the right side.
That said, there may be some exceptions. For example, a mellow older dog on the larger side that doesn't like to play much may ultimately be safer on the small dog side of the fence. Large senior dogs could be injured by younger pups on the big dog side.
Don’t bring food into the dog park.
While your dog may have good manners around food, the dog park isn't the right place to have a picnic or give your dog his favorite treats. The presence of food may distract other dogs, especially those with resource guarding issues. Dogs could act aggressively toward you in order to get what you're eating, or may become jealous and lash out at you and your dog if they see him getting a treat they can't have. If your dog normally receives a treat as praise for doing a command, such as going to the bathroom, give them praise through love and pets while at the dog park. Similarly, do not give food or treats to other dogs. They may have allergies or dietary restrictions you don't know about.
That said, you may be able to safely bring a toy to play with at the dog park, such as a ball or a frisbee. Many times, multiple dogs will chase the ball or frisbee together peacefully. However, be on the lookout for resource guarders and untrained dogs who may throw tantrums if they are forced to share a favorite toy.
Don’t smoke in the dog park.
Not only will smoking distract you from watching your dog, but it can also bother the other dog owners trying to enjoy the park around you. It can also be dangerous for the dogs to breathe in the secondhand smoke while they are exerting themselves or could aggravate the health conditions of other pet parents, such as asthma. Plus, dogs that ingest discarded cigarette butts can become very sick.
Exercise caution when bringing small children.
While there is no rule in place that says children can or can’t come to the dog park, be careful when bringing small children or toddlers along. This is because strange dogs may be unfamiliar or scared of kids, which puts the child at risk for injuries or bad experiences. In addition, rambunctious dogs may accidentally knock children over while playing. If you do bring a young guest with you, make sure to ask other pet owners for permission before your child pets or plays with their dogs.
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