Proper Etiquette for a Dog Park Visit
According to the Trust for Public Land, dog parks are the fastest-growing and most popular urban parks. It is hard to find any major city that doesn’t have a dog park these days. As more people choose to share their lives with their dogs, the demand for dog parks is projected to grow. Every day, owners and their dogs visit a dog park for the very first time. Newcomers may not know proper dog park etiquette and rely on experienced dogs and their owners for guidance. These dog park etiquette tips can ensure each visit is friendly, fun and safe for all.
Dog Park Etiquette: How to Prepare to Visit
Taking the right steps gets every park visit off on the right foot, or paw. For frequent and occasional visitors, it can help to pack a special park bag that is ready for the next visit. Re-stocking this bag after each park visit ensures the right supplies are always on hand. The timing of the first park visit is more than a simple matter of etiquette. For every dog’s safety, the American Kennel Club suggests waiting to visit the dog park until a puppy is at least four months old. This permits a young puppy’s immune system to strengthen before socializing.
Dog Park Etiquette: What to Bring
Having the right supplies during a park visit is the best way to ensure each visit is friendly and safe for everyone. When visiting a dog park, dog owners should bring a leash, collar and ID tags, portable water bowl and fresh water, and waste bags.
Leash – It is recommended that a dog is leashed at a park until the dog is safely inside the dog park area. Then leashes should come off so there is no risk of entanglement during play.
Collar and ID Tags – A collar with ID tags is a must for all park visitors!
Portable Water Bowl and Fresh Water – The safest and most hygienic way to keep a dog hydrated is with a personal water bowl and fresh water.
Waste Bags – Every dog owner is responsible for their dog’s waste and proper disposal. This etiquette keeps everything sanitary during each visit.
Dog Park Etiquette: What Not to Bring
Knowing what not to bring is as vital as knowing what to bring on a park visit. Dog owners should not bring food, distracting devices, children, unsocialized dogs, valuables, dog toys, or an unwell dog to dog parks.
Food – Avoid bringing food (human or canine) to a park as this may attract unwelcome attention or jealousy from other dogs.
Distracting Devices – Bringing a smart phone to a park is inevitable. Make sure that your screen time doesn’t interfere with dog supervision. Small troubles can escalate quickly among unsupervised dogs.
Kids or Babies – Exercise caution when bringing kids and dogs to a park. Both need undivided attention and supervision, which can be taxing on a single adult.
Unsocialized Dogs – Don’t ever bring a dog to a park as a way to practice socialization. Only already well-socialized dogs belong in a dog park for everyone’s safety and enjoyment.
Valuables – Leave valuables in the car or at home while visiting a dog park.
Dog Toys – Odd as it may sound, dog parks are generally not the right place for toys. Dogs may transfer bacteria or become possessive of their toys.
An Unwell Dog – Dogs that are not feeling well may not act like their normal selves. If a dog is recovering from injury, illness or a medical procedure you should stay home. You may return to the dog park when your pet is feeling well.
Dog Park Etiquette: How to Act
Basic etiquette suggests that the best way to behave at a park is to make no assumptions when it comes to other dogs and their owners. Proceeding with caution and courtesy will go a long way towards defusing any potential issues before they even have a chance to arise.
Waste Pickup and Disposal
While it is not the most pleasant dog etiquette topic, tackling the issue of dog waste is simply a must when visiting a park. The National Institutes of Health points out that exposure to animal waste is one primary way that zoonotic (animal to people) illnesses get transmitted. No dog owner can control whether other dog owners pick up after their dogs. But every dog owner can do their part to keep parks clean for all visitors.
Handling Dog Aggression
Not all people naturally get along, so it is also true that some dogs simply not take to other dogs. As the Animal Humane Society points out, dogs can also become more or less aggressive at certain stages of life. Regardless of the reason (provoked, unprovoked) it is important to take prompt action when dog aggression arises while also attending to personal safety. The short-term goal is to quickly separate the dogs and end the visit. Once out of harm’s way, be sure there is no injury and take any necessary steps to ensure safer future visits (more training, a different park, or avoiding certain dogs).
General Dog Park Safety Tips
These safety tips are essential to keep every park visitor, whether canine or human, out of harm’s way.
Tip #1 – Pregnant or Un-Fixed Female Dogs
Avoid bringing an un-fixed female dog or a pregnant female dog to the park if she is in heat as this may provoke aggression from other dogs.
Tip #2 – Small and Large Dog Areas
Pay close attention to posted signs regarding areas reserved for small dogs and large dogs only. Only visit the appropriate area for the size of your dog.
Tip #3 – Vaccinations and Medications
Be sure all required vaccinations, heartworm and flea medications and other routine preventative health needs are current before visiting a park. Fleas, ticks, worms and other health dangers are always a possible safety risk in a place where many dogs are gathered. A post-park flea and tick check is always a great idea to nip potential issues in the bud.
Tip #4 – Food and Toys
Don’t offer any food or toys to another person’s dog. Like people, dogs can have food allergies or toy-guarding issues and even the most well-meaning gesture can end in trouble.
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