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Dog Park Etiquette: 11 Rules for the Dog Park

dog park etiquette

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.

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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!

12 thoughts on “Dog Park Etiquette: 11 Rules for the Dog Park”

  1. Marilyn Pasekoff

    Shouldn’t bring non neutered males to dog park even if they are sweet tempered. A lot of males smell that testosterone and aggress on those dogs. And some of those non neutered dogs aren’t sweet tempered and start fights.

  2. Be aware of aggressive dogs.
    When they enter the park just leave.
    Chatting with other dog owners can distract your attention from activities that may endanger the dogs.
    Owners are fully responsible for their dogs behaviour . Vet bills arising from your dogs attack are your responsibility.
    Rescue dogs should be carefully introduced to a new dog or park. You may not be aware of their fears,phobias or need for solitude.

  3. If an altercation does happen, be responsible. Control your dog & whether or not you feel your dog was not to blame, check with the owner of the other dog to be sure they are OK. NOTHING more frustrating when an owner takes an “Oh well” attitude or worse yet, implies your dog is to blame, especially when your dog is much smaller.

  4. Having a dog on a lead in an off lead park starts fights as the on lead dog feels vulnerable and acts aggressively quite often.
    You can walk an on lead dog anywhere. Don’t spoil it for the off lead dogs and their owners

  5. I seem to have issues with the dog park I go to. Everyone brings their dogs special toy for their dog and my dog chases after it, gets it and chews on it. Everyone gets upset because my dog won’t give the ball up and I won’t try to get it from my dog. Instead I inform people to leave my dog along and she’ll leave the ball and they can’t bring a special ball for their dog and not expect others digs to chase it. If that’s what they’re expecting then they can go somewhere else

    1. Had this JUST happen to me!!
      After the 2nd time digging out the ball from my dog’s mouth and handing it over, I decided I was done trying to return it, and it was on the other person should they continue to toss it out.
      Eventually, that owner tries to leave but my dog has the ball, and they won’t leave without it.
      I try for a while to get it…get frustrated while doing so, so I tell the lady she shouldn’t bring in her own toys and expect other dogs to play with them, AND also expect others to retrieve them for her.
      It ended in a screaming match because neither of us saw the other’s point of view.

      I think toys are fine in an empty dog park, but once others are present…it just doesn’t seem logical to me.

      1. I am a guilty party in this situation! My dog has one ball, the only type she will chase. We always go to the furthest corner of the dog park to play, and if/when another dog gets her ball, I never say anything except that it is okay and no worries, it’s her favorite, but we can get it back later or will get another one. I figure the other dog will lose interest, and it will find its way back to us. If it doesn’t, when it’s time to go, we just go to the pet store and get another just like it, and she is fine.

  6. Do NOT bring bacon balls into the dog park then get angry when my food possessive dog tries to snap at yours to keep the ball!

  7. We just had to leave our favorite dog park because a lady became really aggressive with me. She had a big waist pouch full of dog treats. My dog sat in front of her, staring and occasionally nudging the pouch. I noticed this as I walked over to get him away from her because I didn’t want her to give him a treat. She told me I needed to teach my dog how not to bother people with treats. I replied that might well be true and that it would help if she would not bring food into the dog park as the giant sign on the gate says. She informed me that the No Food Inside means no people food, not no dog treats. I got to my dog, and we walked away, and she just wouldn’t let it go, so we ended up leaving.

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