Taking your pup to the dog park can be a fun, great way to socialize and drain your dog’s energy! The dog park isn’t always all fun and games, many times dog fights break out in the dog park simply because owners fail to practice proper dog park etiquette!
In this guide, we will be giving you a complete guide to proper dog park etiquette! Everything from what to do, to what to look out for and avoid!
What we'll cover
Dog Park Best Practices
Do parks can be exciting but some common rules should be followed to ensure that the fun continues, below we have played out the best dog park etiquette practices to ensure the fun never stops!
Exercise Your Dog Before Going Into The Dog Park
Dog parks are a good form of exercise for our pup but it shouldn’t be the only exercise your dog receives.
Having a dog that has pent up energy and only releasing it inside of a dog park can cause problems simply because your dog will come across as overly pushy which doesn’t fall too great with other dogs.
You may want to take your dog for a brisk walk and then allow your dog to go play at the dog park.
Draining some of your dog’s energy before allowing your dog to run wild with other dogs will ensure that your pup is a lot calmer and isn’t overly excited and pushy with other dogs.
Not to mention you want your dog to view you as relevant and not choose other dogs over you!
Have Your Dog Off-Leash
one dog park etiquette that you want to follow is ensuring that you take the leash off of your dog, some dogs are reactive on leash if other dogs are off-leash because your dog is restricted
Close The Gate Behind You
One of the first rules for dog park etiquette is a simple one that often gets overlooked!
When entering or exiting the dog park its essential that you close the gate behind you, if you fail to do this you risk having your dog or someone else’s pup run out unintentionally!
Aside from closing the gate behind you another best practice that goes hand in hand with closing the gate behind you is allowing only one owner with their dogs in the holding gate at a time.
Following this simple practice will ensure that owners can leash and unleash their dogs without having their dogs try to play with another dog in the holding area making the transition as smooth as possible without owners having to compete with another dog for their pups attention.
Read Your Dogs Body Language
At dog parks, dogs are constantly communicating with each other whether you realize it or not!
Dogs communicate primarily with their body than with vocals the way we do, although that’s not to say that dogs won’t bark to communicate.
The reason you want to be able to read your dog’s body language is to determine if and when your dog is feeling uncomfortable.
A dog who is uncomfortable in a situation may behave differently and display behaviors such as low tucked tail, flat ears, “whale” eyes, stiff body, showing teeth, raised hackles and more!
Another reason to be able to read your dog’s body language is to understand what healthy play looks like.
This brings us to our next best practice advocate for your dog.
Advocate For Your Dog
In our last section, you learn that you want to be able to read your dog’s body language to be able to determine when your dog is feeling uncomfortable and uneasy.
If you notice that your dog is getting stressed and uncomfortable in a given situation it is not only proper dog park etiquette but your job as your dog’s owner to advocate for your dog!
The last thing you want is to see is your dog feeling uncomfortable in a situation and allow your dog to take matters into his paws.
Allowing your dog to leave it to himself will only put your dog in a worse position and make your dog feel as if he has to solve the problem on his own, this will usually lead your dog to aggress towards something your dog seems fit.
For instance, if you go to a dog park and notice your dog giving warning signs such as showing teeth because he’s getting humped by another dog its best to intervene and speak to the owner of the antagonizing dog.
You want to have your dog’s best interest eventually your dog won’t feel the need to aggress the situation because your pup knows you will advocate for him when things get hard.
Now that’s proper dog park etiquette!
Clean Up After Your Dog
This should be common sense when it comes to proper dog park etiquette.
Everyone loves a clean park, the only way to keep it that way is to clean up after your pup!
That way when your dog is out and about playing he doesn’t get dirty by running into a smelly surprise.
Keep Your Dog In The Proper Section
Let’s face it, most dog parks have specific sections for bigger dogs and specific sections for smaller dogs for good reason.
The reason dog parks have different sections is simply that small dogs play better with… you guessed it small dogs!
The same is true for bigger dogs, although some big dogs can play with smaller dogs and vise versa.
Big dogs and small dogs should be separated because some bigger dogs may get a little carried away when playing with a smaller dog and view them as prey!
Chasing in dog is naturally reinforcing and is a “prey driven” behavior, some prey driven behaviors are stronger in some dog breeds over others thus is the importance of using the appropriate section in the dog park.
What To Avoid When In The Dog Park
Avoid Creating Competition
When in a dog park it’s usually chaotic with dogs out and about everywhere one of the number one reasons dog fights occur in dog paresis simply due to competition!
Dog fights due to competition occur when one or more dogs are interested in something they view “high value”
For instance, if your dog is obsessed with dogs and is competing with another dog that is obsessed with balls it’s not a good idea to have those two pups compete for the only ball in the whole park.
More often than not 2 ball obsessed dogs competing for the only resource they love will cause a dog fight so its proper dog park etiquette to avoid the whole situation by not creating competition between dogs.
Don’t Allow Your Dog To “Bully” Other Dogs
When it comes to dog park etiquette you have to be responsible for your dog, which means not allowing your dog to display inappropriate behavior.
What is considered inappropriate behavior in a dog park?
Some inappropriate behavior you should stop and look to prevent in your dog are:
- Your dog displaying sexual behavior such as humping.
- Your dog showing teeth
- Your dog growling
- Your dog mounting
- Your dog being overly pushy
- Your dog nipping and barking at a submissive dog (avoiding your dog, low tucked tail, looking for an escape, stiff)
These are some of the behaviors you want to be aware of when in a dog park if your dog is displaying any of these behaviors sure to stop it as soon as you can.
Don’t Bring a Female Dog In “Heat”
Being that dog parks are full of different dogs you must be aware when your female pup is in heat.
It is proper dog park etiquette to not bring your female dog in heat to the dog park.
Having a female dog that’s in heat at a dog park is a recipe for disaster potentially putting your dogs and other dogs in danger.
Intact male dogs that smell a female dog in heat will start to compete for the female which can start dog fights and put not only your dog at risk but every dog in the dog park!
Don’t Expect Your Dog To Work It Out
When in a dog park one thing you don’t want to do is assume that dogs will “Work it out”, Some dogs that are well socialized can communicate when another dog is doing “too much” but that is not always the case.
More often than not if a dog gets his/her buttons pushed too many times the last resort will be to aggress.
To prevent your dog from escalating the situation to a dog fight its best to intervene.
Remember not all dogs are happy to go lucky, and not all dogs understand how to read other dog body language.
Some dogs may not have been properly socialized as a puppy and may have never learned the social skills to read other dogs body language. That where you come in to help guide your dog.
Don’t Bring Your Dog To The Dog park If Your Dog is Sick
If your Dog is sick it isn’t fair to bring your dog to the dog park for various obvious reasons, to begin you might get other dogs sick if the sickness your dog has is contagious.
The second reason is that you’re probably hindering your dog’s health by not allowing your dog to rest and recover!
Don’t Bring Your Puppy To Socialize
Although dog parks are great because dogs get the opportunity to play and interact directly dog parks shouldn’t be used as a way to socialize your puppy.
Puppy socialization is much more than having your puppy play with dogs, direct socialization is a form o socialization but it isn’t the best way to socialize your puppy.
Early on you want to provide your puppy with positive experiences with what you’re trying to socialize your puppy to.
The best way to socialize your puppy is through indirect socialization where your puppy has positive experiences in proximity to what you want to socialize your puppy to.
Doing this ensures that you start building a solid relationship with your puppy so that your puppy looks to you for direction while also providing your puppy positive experiences.
The reality is a dog park is too much for a puppy early on to read more on proper ways to socialize your dog or puppy read our “Socialization article”
Bonus: Trainers Tip
Dog parks are great but before deciding whether you and your pup should enter one consider this.
How is the energy of the dogs in the dog park? Will it clash with the energy of your dog? Do you have a dog that is obsessed with toys? Are there balls all over the dog park?
These are some of the questions you should ask yourself before entering a dog park.
The dog park is fun and exciting for dogs but aside from your pups playing the dog park provides you an opportunity to reward your dog for listening to you around all the distractions a dog park comes with.
Some great way to use a dog park as a training opportunity is:
Leaving The Dog Park
We see this time and time again at every dog park you go to, the owner that wants to leave but their dog just keeps playing “keep away”.
Nobody likes this scenario and makes leaving the dog make more of a “mission” and a simple exit.
The best way to start teaching your dog that its time to leave is simply to have a word that lets your dog know that your “done” with the current activity.
You can say “all done” or “that’s it” and then rewarding your dog with a treat and walking toward the exit.
Doing this every time you finish playing at the dog park, playing fetch, or simply done with an activity you and your dog were doing will teach your dog that the activity is over.
Coming When Called
This training tip also goes hand in hand with our last tip of leaving the dog park.
Many times you may tell your dog to come but find that your dog may ignore you or even avoid you.
This is common and occurs for a variety of reasons such ass only calling your dog to “come” to end the fun.
If the only time you call your dog to “come” is to end something your pup enjoys its no wonder why your dog is ignoring or avoiding you!
To combat this issue you want to randomly call your dog to “come”, then reward your dog for successfully coming, after you reward your dog for coming you want to signal to your dog to “go play again”.
Doing this will start teaching your dog that coming to you is fun, rewarding and you don’t just call your pup to end the “fun.”
Pair this training tip with our last tip “teaching your dog a word when your done” that way your dog comes when called and understands when you’re done with the dog park.
Dog parks can be great if you follow proper dog park etiquette! Whether you have a young pup or older dog be sure to survey the park and determine if the energy inside the park is appropriate for your dog.
Dog parks provide dogs with not only the chance to let out energy and play but also allows you to reward behaviors you want your dog to continue to practice!
Receive your free dog training consultation and set your pup up for success!