Not everyone has a backyard where their pets can frolic freely and play. Thankfully, most urban areas have dog parks to make up for a lack of green space at home. However, dog parks are governed by certain social rules and norms, just like any other public space. Click through for 10 do's and don’ts that you should abide by when you take your canine friend out to the dog park. If you have any tips of your own, share them in the comments!
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DO GET YOUR DOG VACCINATED
There are likely uncountable numbers of parasites and bacteria in any given dog park, no matter how well-kept. Just think about it: Hundreds of dogs are let loose to romp and play with each other every day at your local dog park. It might sound like fun and games, but dogs can carry diseases and pass them on to other dogs if their owners aren’t diligent. Make sure your dog is up to date with its shots. Not only will you prevent your dog from getting another dog sick, you’ll prevent your own dog from picking something up. Get approval from your veterinarian before visiting the dog park with your pooch.
DO CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DOG
There’s nothing more maddening for a responsible dog owner than seeing someone else not pick up after his or her pet. A major responsibility that comes with owning a dog is cleaning up its defecation. A dog’s stool can carry parasites that are hazardous to other dogs. Also, a fellow dog owner might step in the mess and track it around. Bring enough doggy bags to pick up after your dog. It’s really a matter of respect for your fellow human and canine friends.
DO TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE CORRECT PARK
Many dog parks will have a yard for larger dogs and one for smaller dogs. This isn’t just because larger dogs need more space. Little dogs are vulnerable to being bullied or hurt by larger dogs. Even if that Great Dane is the sweetest thing and just wants to play, your little Chinese Crested is in danger of being hurt by accident. Avoid any unnecessary pain or awkwardness by keeping your smaller dog in a smaller park and vice versa.
DO EXERCISE YOUR DOG BEFORE THE PARK
But won’t the dog park give Rover all the exercise the pooch needs? Keeping your dog home all day then letting it loose at the dog park might seem like a good idea, but it can be a recipe for disaster. A dog park is highly stimulating and can be overwhelming, depending on your dog’s personality. Best practice is to take your dog on a walk and get some of that energy out before letting it loose in the dog park.
DO SUPERVISE YOUR DOG AT THE PARK
When you walk into a dog park, you don’t know the histories and temperaments of all the other dogs. Fights or conflicts can escalate quickly if you’re not paying attention. Put away your smartphone and don’t get mired in small talk with other owners. Make sure you have your dog in your line sight the whole time, so you can supervise and intervene if need be.
DON’T FORCE IT
Sure, we’d all love to see our dogs get a kick out of the dog park and play with all the other dogs. However, not every pup has an outgoing personality. If your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy the park, it’s better to accept that it's just not meant to be and instead spend your time doing something it enjoys. Forcing it to play in the park can be distressing and could cause your dog to lash out if it feels threatened.
DON’T BRING A FEMALE DOG IN HEAT OR INTACT MALE
We don’t need to get into specifics as to why this is a bad idea — we’re sure you can imagine. Just know that a surefire way to cause an unnecessary ruckus in the dog park is to bring a female who’s emanating the scent that she’s ready to mate, or a male who has not yet been fixed. It’s also good practice to keep pregnant dogs away from the park.
DON’T BRING AN UNTRAINED DOG
Your best friend doesn’t need to have 100 fancy tricks up its collar, but it should know basic commands like "come" and "sit." Having a good grasp of a recall command is necessary to keep both your dog and those around it safe. This is especially poignant if your dog park is not enclosed.
DON’T BRING A DOG THAT DOESN'T SHARE
Dog parks often have an abundance of toys, and owners will bring their own. Don’t bring a dog to the park if it has possession issues or if sharing with others causes aggression. The same advice goes for dogs who get very possessive about food. Only dogs who are well behaved and who can be fair with other dogs should be allowed to enter the park.
Next: Mistakes Dog Owners Make
DON’T LEAVE YOUR DOG'S LEASH ON IN THE PARK
It’s true that leaving your dog’s leash on in the dog park will allow you to have more control over where it goes and how it interacts with others. However, keeping the leash on can be a tripping hazard for both dog and human alike. Plus, if you distrust your dog enough to feel the urge to keep the leash on, maybe its not quite ready for the dog park scene.