Dog park etiquette in 10 easy tips

Most of these etiquette tips are no-brainers, but you’d be surprised at how often basic dog park rules are violated — if not ignored. Here they are for your consideration:

  1. No aggressive dogs! Don’t bring an aggressive, dominant dog to the park. Dogs who continually challenge everyone, hackles and all, don’t need to be there. Please.
  2. No toys! Toys can be a big trigger for fights. Leave them for more solo play or when you absolutely know none of the dogs interacting is a toy freak. And keep the treats to yourself until after the park. You don’t want your dog running with a rawhide in his mouth, anyway.
  3. No kids! Keep children out of the enclosure. Not all dogs respond well to high-pitched kid squeals and others fight over their attention. Dog parks are for dogs. Children should stay on the sidelines.
  4. Pay attention! Don’t hang on the cell phone, for example. It’s important to be able to correct your dog or respond in an emergency.
  5. Room to maneuver! Make sure the dogs aren’t packed in like sardines — especially if you have a little one. It only leads to the potential for adverse interactions and small dog tramplings.
  6. Pick up after your own! No one should have to remind you of that.
  7. Train and socialize before you go! The dog park is a place to refine skills, not to expose dogs to discipline and social encounters for the first time. Respect others and do your basic socializing and training before you expose others to your dogs’ not-quite-existent skills.
  8. Bring a dog…not a pack! If you’re bringing a dog or two, that’s cool. If you’ve got more than that, you should really be seeking help with them, just in case the unthinkable happens and a pack brawl breaks out.
  9. For the love of dog…don’t bring one that’s in heat! That should be obvious. Even neutered males and spayed females will react — many times adversely — to bitches in heat.
  10. Healthy dogs only, please! Yes, I’ve seen snifflers and coughers at dog parks. I’ve also seen just-purchased pups or just-adopted shelter dogs — a bad idea due to their recent exposure to high volumes of other potentially ill animals. Even if your dog has just been at the boarding kennel for a week, it’s only commonsensical — not to mention courteous — to keep your dog home for a few days (to make sure he didn’t pick something up) before exposing him to the world.
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