Dog parks are designated enclosed areas where dogs can be permitted to run safely off the lead and socialise with other dogs, and these are hugely popular in cities where green spaces for safe dog walking are few and far between.
Even in suburban and rural areas there tend to be set areas where dog walking is permitted on private or council-owned land, and that soon become popular spots to allow dogs to meet and play with each other and stretch their legs.
Not only is meeting other dogs out and about on walks virtually unavoidable, but it is also desirable-socialisation with other dogs on an ongoing basis is vitally important for all dogs, regardless of their breed or age, and dog parks or similar green spaces are a great place to enable this. However, as is the case within any social situation involving either dogs, people or both, there are several unspoken “rules,” as it were, regarding courtesy and etiquette in the dog park, and that is what we will look at within this article.
Read on to learn the ten commandments of dog park courtesy for owners and dogs alike!
It should go without saying, but if your dog is ill, under the weather or appears to be coming down with something, you should try to keep them away from other dogs as much as possible. This is both to ensure that your dog does not pass on any communicable condition they may have, and also because a dog that is not feeling 100% will be less tolerant with others, and this can lead to problems.
Even if your dog is totally reliable off the lead and you only use the dog park for off the lead play, always take a lead with you. Another dog owner may ask you to restrain your dog-and it is important that you always do this first (even if you are not sure why) and ask questions later, and you may need it in other situations too, such as if you need to split up two dogs fighting, or get your dog out of a tense situation.
You should never take a bitch in heat, or that you think is about to come into heat, to a dog park-this can cause endless problems for both yourself and other dog owners. Unneutered male dogs will essentially lose their minds and quite possibly fight each other around your bitch, and of course, she may potentially get pregnant too.
Dog parks are not a free for all, and picking up after your dog is even more important in a dog park than it is in most other places, in order to protect the people and dogs that use it.
The fastest way to become the dog park pariah is to neglect to pick up after your dog, even if this is only because you didn’t notice it!
Taking treats will always make you popular in the dog park, but treats and food (canine or human) can cause problems with a group of dogs, and some dogs may not be allowed to have treats and so, will feel left out. Keep treats out of sight when lots of dogs are around, and never offer a treat to someone else’s dog without asking their owner first.
Toys and balls are always popular in the dog park, but your dog must be happy to share with others- if they are not, leave the toys at home.
Other dogs will expect to play with your own dog’s toys too, so only take toys that you would not be too sad about losing.
Never lose sight of your dog, even for a few minutes at a time-a lot can happen when your dog is excitable and having fun with others, and it is important to keep them in sight to ensure that they are not causing problems, or getting into it!
Communication with other owners is important, and you should always respect requests made by others regarding their own dogs, or your dog’s interaction with them-such as keeping away if asked, calming your dog down, or any other reasonable request.
Some people use the dog park to work on their dog’s training and other skills, so if you can see someone is working with their dog, don’t let your dog go bowling in to disrupt them!
Unneutered male dogs that are well socialised usually get on well with others-but be prepared to keep a close eye on your dog, as they may not get on with another unneutered male, and may tend to be dominant with other dogs. Also, if there is a bitch in heat within scenting range, flashpoints and problems can soon arise so stay alert.
Finally, it is your responsibility to keep your dog under control and safe at all times-the dog park is not the place to take a dog that has a problem with others, or that you are working through issues with unless you are confident that you can keep your dog under control, and that the dog park is an appropriate environment to use.