Dog Park Etiquette

From real world experience and my involvement in dog online communities, dog parks are ALWAYS a very controversial topic.
However, living in New York City and much of surrounding areas, many of us do not have the luxury of a yard. So we have to bring our dogs to dog parks for them to run and socialize.

Here are a few unwritten dog park laws. If people followed them, dog parks would be a lot less controversial. And never, ever the setting for anything more serious than the occasional well-meaning leg hump.

DON’T

  • Bring a dog on a leash into the dog park. There is a reason dog parks have double gates. 1. So dogs are less likely to get out. 2. To give you a chance to take your dog off the leash before you come in. Dogs are more likely to start fighting when one is on a leash. It’s a territorial thing. This is my BIGGEST peeve. About 80% of issues that I’ve seen at the park started because of a dog on a leash. For more on this, see DO: Study dog behavior before enter the dog park.

 

  • Bring a tiny dog into the big dog park or visa versa. I have seen a Borzoi “take care” of a Yorkie. I still have nightmares about it. There is a reason why the two are separated.

 

  • Bring a dog aggressive/reactive or bowl/toy possessive dog to the park. Please, if you know your dog has these issues, just DON’T!
    If you do and you see who makes others uncomfortable, leave. Knowing your dog’s triggers will always make for a safer environment.

 

  • Bring small children. Sure, your toddler loves his awesome yellow lab. Sadly, that doesn’t mean every dog at the park is going to love him (kid not lab). A dog park is a dog zone, not a kid zone. It also doesn’t mean that your kid won’t get stuck in a dog stampede.

 

  • Bring treats to the park. Training at the park is a great idea, but treats at the park, especially at peak hours, are not. You’re likely to get mobbed and it will not at all help your training.

 

  • Wear nice clothes to the dog park. And if you do, DON’T complain about getting them dirty. It’s inevitable.

 

  • Steal toys and water bowls. I mean really people? You are going to steal a chewed up soccer ball from the dog park?

 

  • Bring very young puppies (under 6 months) to the park. Yes. Your puppy is VERY cute. I’ll be the first one to fawn over him. But bringing him to the dog park is not the best idea. Puppies don’t have all their shots. Puppies are fragile. Puppies do not have all their social skills yet. Look up a puppy playgroup in your area instead to socialize your pup (after your pup had all his shots of course!) A playgroup is a much better alternative to the dog park at this early stage.

 

DO

  • Study dog behavior before you go to the dog park. Too many times have I seen people freak out over nothing. Not all barking, growling, teeth showing and rough play means a potential problem. Also, not all tail wagging, bowing and sniffing mean a friendship. Learn a bit about dog body language before you go.

 

  • Go regularly. After a few visits you will make friends and so will your dog. You’ll worry a lot less how your dog is going to react when he’s with a pack s/he is used to.

 

  • Bring extra poop bags. Even if your park has them… sometimes they run out. I am not a fan of stepping in dog crap, are you?

 

  • Tell an owner when their dog is taking a dump. No, it’s not rude. There are times when you just don’t notice your dog go. If I don’t notice the squat, I always appreciate it when someone nudges me.

 

  • Pay attention to your dog. Yes, you make friends at the park and you want to chat. That doesn’t mean you should forget the main reason you’re there. Keep an eye on your dog at all times.  It’s your dog’s time–not your time to scroll FB/IG, answer emails, work on your phone, socializing.

 

  • Know when to leave. If a dog shows up that makes you uncomfortable, corral your dog and go for a walk instead. Trust me, if you are having a bad feeling, it is better to just go than to wait and see what happens.

 

  • Bring water with you. Some dog parks don’t have a water supply. If yours is like ours and does not have water – bring your own. And bring enough for other dogs too. If you leave your personal bowl out and a strange dog drinks from it, that’s on you. Let them.

 

  • Be careful entering and leaving. I still can’t believe how many people don’t close the gate behind them!
    THESE THINGS HAPPEN

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  • Humping. Your dog WILL hump or GET humped. Boys will hump boys and girls. Don’t sweat it. Humping is more often about dominance than a sexual thing. Just pull off your dog and redirect her/his attention.

 

  • NEVER bring a bitch in heat to the dog park.

 

  • Getting peed on. This is no doubt absolutely MORTIFYING. But it happens. Make sure you don’t stand around motionless for too long.

 

  • Your dog getting peed on. When you have a smaller dog that likes to run with the big guys (not too small, see rule above but like a stocky short medium sized dog) – like mine – at some point, he WILL get peed on. It’s gross. Give him a bath when you get home.

What are your dog park pet peeves?