The dog park is a great place to take your pup if you are looking for a way to give him a little extra exercise and some play time with other dogs. Dog parks can also be dangerous, however, if your dog is ill-prepared for the experience. There are certain cases in which you should not take your dog and there are rules and etiquette that you need to learn before you do. The more you learn about dog parks and the more you prepare your dog before you go, the better the experience will be for you, your pet, and other dog owners.
Before You Go
The first time is a lot like taking your child to daycare or school for the first time. It can be exciting for your dog to go someplace new and to meet potential new friends, but it can also be scary and overwhelming for them. Some dogs simply do not get along well with others and some are actually afraid of other dogs. Before you take your dog to the dog park there are a few things you need to do in order to prepare him for the experience.
- Take your dog in for a check-up. You should never take your dog to the dog park without first checking with your vet that he is healthy enough for the experience. Your dog needs to be fully up to date on his vaccinations and he should not be carrying any disease that he might pass on to other dogs.
- Make sure your pup is old enough. It is not recommended that you take puppies under six months of age to the dog park because not only are they unlikely to be fully vaccinated, but their immune systems have not fully developed yet.
- Train your dog to follow basic commands. If you cannot control your dog at home or in the backyard, you definitely will not be able to control him at the dog park. If your dog does not respond to your commands in and around other dogs, he could find himself in a dangerous situation.
- Test your dog’s reaction to other dogs in a safe environment. Before exposing your pup to a big group of dogs at the dog park, you may want to test his reaction to a smaller number of dogs. If you have friends or family members with dogs, set up a playdate in a neutral location and see how they get along. If your dog is aggressive towards the other dogs or if he is extremely scared, taking him to the dog park is not a good idea.
If your dog passes all of the above then you are all set to go. Before you do, however, you should also familiarize yourself with some dog park Dos and Don’ts.
Dog Park Dos and Don’ts
Keep the following list of Dos and Don’ts in mind when you go:
- Do clean up after your dog. This is the most basic (and one of the most important) aspects of dog park etiquette. No one wants to step in dog poop and cleaning up after your dog will keep the area clean and safe for others to enjoy.
- Do not get distracted by your phone or by talking to other dog owners. You need to supervise your dog at all times to ensure he is safe.
- Do not let your dog bully or be bullied by other dogs. This is a common problem at dog parks and it can be very dangerous. If your dog does not play well with others, do not bring him to the dog park.
- Do let your dog off the leash in off-leash areas. If the dog park you choose is safely fenced and it is intended as an off-leash area, take your dog off the leash. Keeping your dog on the leash could pose a tripping hazard.
- Do not bring a female dog to the park when she is in heat. A female in heat releases pheromones which intact male dogs can detect from great distances and they will try to get to her in any way possible. Taking a female in heat to the dog park could put her at risk of pregnancy and it could incite other dogs to become aggressive with each other.
- Do follow all posted rules. Each dog park will have its own set of rules, so make sure you read the rules before you go in and follow them while you are there.
As long as you prepare your dog before going to a dog park and you follow the basic rules and etiquette, both of you should have an enjoyable experience.