Whoever invented the idea of a dog park must not have considered just how potentially INSANE such a place could be. Dogs are surrounded by dozens of strangers, other pooches, and given the space to romp and roam as they please? With all the predatory drift, alpha male dominance, and rambunctious young pups, it seems as if all hell could break loose at any second! (To say nothing of the diseases or parasites that could be shared!) But before our imaginations run away, it is important to remember that somehow dog parks do indeed work well, without incurring death, plague or dismemberment on a daily basis. So, how do good canine companions avoid disaster? By applying some of these crucial dog park etiquette tips:
Rules and Etiquette for Dog Parks
- Make sure your dog is trained. In an arena like a dog park, the space immediately becomes unpleasant when there are one or two unruly dogs terrorizing the place. We’ve all seen the Doberman who refuses to return at his master’s call, and even sprints away from him when it’s time to go home. The poor owner is left baffled and looking ridiculous; don’t let that be you. Make sure the other dogs and people there are respected, (and save yourself a headache) by training your dog to respond to calls and commands. A dog who is not obedience-trained is frustrating addition to any public place.
- Take your dog on a walk first. Dog parks are good for playing and socializing, and some fun running around. However, when a canine’s standard exercise or long walk is foregone in favor of puppy-play hour, you can expect some negative repercussions. Your little spit-fire might have too much energy pent-up, causing him to behave badly and cause trouble. This is supposed to be a peaceful and happy part of your week, not a time when you are begging a stranger not to sue you because of your dog’s mistake.
- Respect other’s space and time. Some people genuinely enjoy connecting and socializing with other dog owners when they go to the park, but it is always best to let others approach you. Do not allow your dog to charge any new comer, or pester and aggressively sniff the lady who would clearly rather be left alone. However IF someone does approach you and wants to make friends, consider using some of these irresistible conversation starters about dogs. After all, you are BOTH dog-people, right?
- Be alert and watchful. Don’t force someone else to “parent” your dog simply because you weren’t paying attention and Rover tackled a Collie to the ground. While you may not be in the hot seat of entertaining your pup, it does not mean you are off the hook. Keep an eye out and make sure your furry friend is minding his manners.
- DO bring water; DON’T bring food. While some dog parks have water for the visitors, it would be unadvisable to show up unprepared. Dehydration is a serious cause for concern in pet health, and should be guarded against. It would not be that big of a deal if one of the other pups lapped up some of the refreshing liquid from the bowl, but food is another story. Bringing food could cause fights between the dogs, and arguments between the owners whose pups might have an allergy or strict diet. Leave your dog food and training treats at home; the public park is not the best place to work on new tricks.
(A word to the wise- this applies to human food too. Don’t pull out a snack while you are in the park with these scent-sensitive pooches. Not only might they crowd around you, but they could eat something harmful, or even get too rowdy to calm down. Forget about bringing your dog’s favorite toy too, unless you know your dog is good about sharing.)
- Clean up after your dog. Just as you wouldn’t want your pup stomping through and playing in another dog’s poop pile, make sure to clean up his messes. One of the most important elements of pet care is to take responsibility for your animal, and their actions. It is always better to admit fault and see pardon than to make excuses and offend people. Do your job, be respectful, and everything should go well!