One of the biggest pleasures of owning a dog is going to the dog park! There’s nothing like watching your pup socializing, running around and having fun with other dogs. Most dog parks provide a stress-free environment where owners can let their dogs off-leash to roam freely; however, it is important to stay attentive, because not all dogs do well in these environments.
From my recent dog park outings, I noticed a lot of owners come in, let Fido off-leash, sit down and whip out their cell phone. Every five or so minutes they glance up to make sure their dog is still there and then they go right back to swiping on Tinder. While I love to relax while Zoe gets out her energy, I know it is still my responsibility to monitor her interactions and make sure she’s safe.
I’m sure these pet parents love their dogs very much, but even the best pet parents fail to follow proper dog park etiquette. I know you don’t want to be one of them. I put together a list of do’s and don’ts for you to practice the next time you want to take your hyper hound to the off-leash dog park!
Exercise Your Pup Before the Park
“But, wait – isn’t this the reason we are going to the park in the first place?!”
It might make sense to let your dog release all of it’s energy at the park, but an overly excited dog can be quite dangerous as a bull in a china shop. Not every dog wants to be run up on by a big, slobbery beast – or maybe the big, slobbery beast doesn’t want to be run up on by a fierce and tiny fur-ball. A scared dog might feel the need to protect itself and become aggressive. You can prevent an accident from happening by going for a walk, or a light jog, around the block before setting your hyper hound loose in the dog park.
Where and how you let your dog off the leash matters. A new dog entering the dog park is an exciting new butt to sniff and many curious doggos are going to want to get the first whiff! A crowd of dogs quickly approaching will certainly send your dog into fight or flight mode, especially if restricted by a leash. Where you choose to unleash your dog is up to you but be sure to do it quickly. Being able to roam freely and run will make your dog feel much comfortable and open to socializing.
Enter with Swagger
Entering the dog park is as simple as walking inside, closing the gate and slowly making your way through the park. Let your dog sniff and smell the many different scents to get familiar with its surroundings. Your pup will eventually ease its way over to other dogs. Forcing your dog to play with a pack of dogs by dragging it over (big dog) or picking it up (small dog) and placing it inside a group will not go over well.
Sit down, be humble. JUST KIDDING - Stand Up and Be Present!
That Kendrick Lamar song doesn’t apply here. You didn’t go to the dog park to sit and scroll through Facebook. You came to spend time with your dog! So, get up! Be active! Throw a ball or run around. You find yourself having a much better time than most, and believe me, you won’t be missing out much on social media. You might want to even leave your phone in your car, unless you’re like me, and want to take photos and videos to share on social media.
(Pro Tip for Vloggers: Research the dog park and make sure they allow videotaping before you bring in your gear. Some dog parks have specific rules pertaining to it – take it from me).
Your Cat Doesn’t Belong Here
Yes, this is necessary to say. It may be socially acceptable to walk your cat on a leash but the dog park is still off limits. Cats are like squirrels to most dogs and they love a good game of chase. So, listen to me, leave Whiskers at home.
You’re the Boss
Don’t be afraid to correct a dog (i.e. unknown persons dog humping your dog) or to tell a dog “no” if they are acting out of line. It’s always best to find the owner of the dog and let them know their dog is misbehaving. Also, do not get offended if someone tells your dog “no” or corrects them for misbehaving. We understand - your dog is like your child and they can do no wrong; however, the same goes for the other dog parents. Everyone is looking out for the best interest of their dogs, so be understanding to all
Keep the Treats to Yourself
It’s SO TEMPTING especially when they give you those sad eyes! You feel like the most evil human being for not giving them a treat, but you’re actually doing them a favor. How do you know that this dog doesn’t have food allergies? Or diet restrictions? If the owner isn’t around to ask, then just say no. It’s better to feel bad for denying a pup a treat than to feel terrible for sending the dog to the vet with a stomach issue. You’re not the Treat Fairy.
Your Dog Will Get Sick if You Don't Do This
Does your puppy have all of its vaccinations? Is your dog up to date too? If not, your dog could potentially contract or spread disease among other dogs. Young dogs and puppies already have weakened immune systems. It’s important to get the approval from your veterinarian before letting your puppy play in a public dog park.
Usually there are specific sections for large and small dogs. Some owners might feel comfortable bringing their small dog around big dogs and take them into the big dog park. This is something I’d highly advise against because it’s unknown how the larger dogs might react. A high-energy dog might stress out a large dog and cause it to become aggressive.
When is the BEST time to go to the dog park? GOOGLE IT! Google Maps has an awesome feature that tells you when the dog park is at its busiest. It breaks it down for you hour by hour, every day of the week! It’s great! If you have a dog that has social anxiety but wants to socialize with a few dogs, utilize this feature to find a slow time at the park. If you have a high-energy dog that needs a lot of stimulation, you can use Google Maps to find the busiest parks in the area!
How is your dog park etiquette? Are you following the rules and being a responsible pet parent? We could always do a better job being respectful and safe at the dog park. Following these rules will ensure that everyone’s experience at the dog park is fun, safe and enjoyable!
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