Dog parks are a special place. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a large fenced in yard, it’s the one place your dog can be themselves off leash to their heart’s content.
That being said, a dog park is only as great as the dogs and dog owners inside of it! There are many ways that we as dog owners need to behave and responsibilities we need to uphold while we enjoy dog parks if we want them to be happy, fun spaces. Whether you’re completely new to dog parks or a veteran, the following list of dog park etiquette rules will ensure you’re being a responsible dog parent.
But first, a quick note about dog food –
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Now on to our 11 rules for the dog park!
Do Watch Your Dog
While your dog will likely be having a ton of fun doing their own thing, you still need to watch them to ensure they don’t get in to trouble. Whether it’s aggressive behavior with another dog, digging where they shouldn’t be, trying to jump a fence, or any other sneaky behavior, you need to keep an eye on your dog for everyone’s safety.
As you’ll see, most of the other rules here rely on you keeping an eye on your dog.
Do Clean Up Poop
Nothing is worse than a dog park full of poop. You don’t want to be stepping in dog poop and you don’t want your dog’s paws to be covered in poop, so do your part and clean up after your dog every time! This is another reason why you need to be watching your dog.
Do Police Your Dog
You need to be mindful of how your dog is making others feel and stop any unwanted behaviors. You shouldn’t let your dogs do things like constantly bark at other people, play rough with smaller dogs that are frightened, pee on seats for humans or in the water bowls, etc.
Don’t Bring Treats or Special Toys
I’ve seen this dozens of times – someone means well by bringing a baggie of treats to the dog park only to find themselves swarmed by dogs jumping up at them or worse, dogs start fighting with each other in competition for the food. A dog park isn’t a place to bring treats or human food/snacks. The more dogs, the more chaos that ensues.
You also shouldn’t bring any special toys or favorite toys of your dog’s to the park. Every toy in the dog park should be considered community property. I’ve seen some owners get mad about another dog touching their dog’s dog toy. In a dog park there’s no sense of property between dogs, you can’t expect that only your own dog gets to play with their toys.
Also if your dog is really possessive about a toy, it’s a horrible idea to bring that to the park. I’ve seen possessive dogs get into fights over toys, there’s just no need to bring that kind of drama to the dog park. You aren’t doing your dog any favors, you’re just putting more stress on them.
Don’t Bring Anything That Could Be Dangerous to Dogs
This seems obvious but should be stated, don’t bring things like glass bottles that could break and be hazard to dogs. Don’t bring drones that could cut a dog with the propeller. Don’t bring small dog toys that could be a choking hazard to larger dogs. If you bring a purse or backpack, ensure that it can shut securely so a dog can’t sneak into it.
Do Bring Water
Some dog parks provide water fountains on premise which is great, but for those that don’t (or if the water fountain is turned off for whatever reason), plan on bringing water. Gallon jugs are perfect for this.
When you bring water, bring enough to share. Just like toys and treats, water at the dog park is community property so don’t expect that other dogs aren’t going to also drink the water you bring.
Don’t Bring Dogs in Heat, Contagious Dogs, or Unvaccinated Dogs
Female dogs that are in heat should be left at home. Primal instincts will kick in and cause a lot of fights, headaches, and unwanted canine pregnancies!
If your dog has had an illness recently that could be spread to others like kennel cough, they shouldn’t be in contact with other dogs until approved by your vet. Also if your dog is unvaccinated, you shouldn’t bring them to a dog park for their own safety. They could catch a disease from other dogs or other wildlife in the dog park.
Don’t Bring Kids (Unless They Can Handle Dogs)
A dog park is meant for dogs to be able to run around and play freely. It’s not meant to be another playground for your children. Many dog parks have rules like no children under 13 permitted.
If you do bring a child, they should be able to handle being around large dogs and shouldn’t do things like run around screaming which could cause dogs to chase it.
Do Be Mindful When Entering/Exiting the Park
Most dog parks have a double-gate system to control the flow of dogs into and out of the park. The rules are pretty easy to follow, yet I’ve still seen people mess it up and let a dog loose from the dog park.
- Only one gate should ever be open at a time.
- The exit gate should never be opened while a dog is off leash in the holding area.
- Ensure all unleashed dogs move back into the dog park, then be sure to shut the entrance gate behind you.
It’s not uncommon to have an entire “welcoming committee” of dogs to greet you and your dog on the way in. The best thing to do is to try to keep moving into open space so no dogs feel confined or cornered. You can often help in this by walking into the dog park in front of your dog. Usually some of the dogs will walk with you to greet you and it’s less attention focused on your dog all at once.
Do Know When to Leave
Dog parks can be wonderful but they can also be a nightmare depending on what the mix of dogs and dog owners are in the park at any given time. If your dog starts acting strangely with aggression, fear, or some other emotion it’s best to head out before anything escalates. Being able to read the energy in the park is a good skill to build up over time and can prevent you from being in the middle of some bad situations.
Do Help Out Around the Park
Dog parks are typically free parks that rely on volunteer groups to keep them operating nicely. Usually these groups will need volunteers to do things like mow grass, pick up poop, rake leaves, and other general maintenance tasks. Be on the look out for flyers around the park announcing “community days” or check to see if the dog park has a Facebook group that organizes these events.
Share Your Tips With Us!
Have another dog park rules or etiquette tips you’d like to share with our readers? Leave a comment below!