10 Steps to Dog Park Etiquette

I love the dog park! Seeing other dogs running around having fun, chasing toys and rolling everywhere possible, and mine walking beside me trying not to get in the way of the other dogs fun like the grumpy old man that he is…
While arriving at the park and letting your dog go and run amuck might sound like normal park etiquette, there are a few things we should consider for the safety of everyone at the park. Respecting the rules prevents dogfights and uncomfortable situations from arising.

The following list is what I believe should be followed by everyone at the dog park. These rules help to protect the people who visit and their dogs. Because let’s face it, not every dog at the dog park is happy-go-lucky!

  1. Don’t feed your dog around other dogs.
    You don’t know if all the dogs around you are OK with food being given to just your dog. If a dog is food aggressive, they may just run over and attack your dog to get to the food!
    *If your training out at a park, make sure the treats are secured on you, you’re away from others and no dogs are trying to join in on your session and your treats are bite-sized.

  2. Do not be afraid of big dogs.
    Most people with small dogs will assume large dogs will play too roughly and hurt their precious fluffy, but that’s not true at all. You should be looking at the demeanour and play style of ALL the dogs rather than their size. If your dog looks like they’re spending most of their time being trampled on and getting bowled over, find another group of dogs to play with. That’s not to say they’re not still having fun! But it is safest to at least limit this activity. They should get to play a little rough 😉

  3. Always, ALWAYS, ask to pet or approach someone’s dog – off leash or not!
    Just because they’re out running around with other dogs and zipping past you does not mean you can bend down and ruffle their fur. Not all dogs are comfortable with strangers.

  4. Pick up after your dog.
    There are free bags at most parks or at least bins, so no excuses. I’d hate to step in dog poo so I wouldn’t leave it for anyone else. I’ve picked up rubbish before and used it to scoop up poop! It’s a win win for the environment and the park 😀

  5. Do not pick up your dog when a situation is getting heated.
    Ever thought, “ooo that dog is being too ruff (haha sorry couldn’t help it!) with Fluffles… I’ll go pick him up out of the way.” NEVER. EVER. Do that. The second you attempt to pick up your dog in this situation, the other dog just might attack. This is part of the fight or flight instinct, you’re forcing your dog to flee which initiates the other dog to fight. Instead, ask the owner of the other dog to distract or call them away and you can call away your dog.

  6. Pay attention to your dog.
    Never not know where your dog is. We all get stuck into a doggy conversations from time to time. Guilty! But I always know where my dog is. Most dog fights happen when owners aren’t paying attention.

  7. Don’t let your dog get their freak on!
    Haha! But seriously no humping! It’s rude and dominating in the dog world and another thing that could cause a fight. Clap your hands or call your dog away if they’re the serial humper!

  8. Take off all walking tools!
    Don’t leave walking tools on your dog other than their collar. Harnesses, halters and choke chains can end up getting caught on feet and plants and could even injure your dog if they roll over and land on a buckle or strap, so it’s best to remove them so your dog can have a proper play.

  9. Read the atmosphere of the park before entering.
    You know your dog better than anyone else. Have a look around, which dogs match your dog’s energy level and play style? If the park is big enough you can stay with the compatible dogs or ask another owner if your dogs can play away from a particular dog or group. If the park is smaller, you may just have to wait for a better day or if you think you can handle it, try entering with your dog on a leash and try to meet just one dog. But remember to stay calm!

  10. Never enter the park if the dogs are rushing the gate!
    Fights happen in small spaces. Wait for the other dogs to move away so your dog can enter freely. You want it to be a positive experience for your dog and they shouldn’t be bombarded when entering. On that note, enter the park calmly, don’t allow them to drag you in and pull on the lead till you release them. They’ll charge around the park trying to release all that tension they just built up. Ask for

 

Not all dogs are perfect candidates for the dog park but I believe all dogs should be able to experience the dog park without worrying about any negative interactions. If your dog is still learning I’d encourage you to visit the largest dog park you can find. This will allow your dog to not feel entrapped or overwhelmed with the number of dogs in their space and it also allows you to move away from any dogs your dog isn’t comfortable with.

Need some space at the dog park? Follow the yellow dog project’s idea by tying a yellow ribbon to your dogs lead.

Remember to stay calm, dogs pick up on body language and feelings. If they feel you are tense as it might be your first time at the park with your dog, your dog might also start to feel tense. Relax, be respectful and have fun!