Your dog is giving you that look again, isn’t he? He keeps staring at this leash, then at your car keys, then at the window, back to your car keys, back to his leash, then back to you. It’s clear what he wants: he just wants to go see his friends at the park, mom.
While you’re sympathetic to his want to socialize, you may also be wondering what going to the dog park means for you. Are there certain rules you have to follow? Are there there ways your dog is expected to behave? What does being a good dog park goer entail?
We’ll break all that down and more in the following article. Let’s get started!
Make Sure Your Dog is Vaccinated
Before you even consider bringing your dog to the park, you have to make sure that he’s gotten his shots. This is both for the safety of other dogs in the park as well as their owners. In order to be considered fully up-to-date, your dog will need to have been vaccinated for rabies, kennel cough, leptospirosis, dog flu, hepatitis, parvo and and distemper. Additionally, the American Kennel Club recommends that dogs spending time in dog parks should be treated for fleas, ticks, and heartworms.
This may seem like an exhaustive list, but we can never be too safe when trying to keep our fellow four-legged friends and their pet parents safe from infectious agents. Before taking Sparky to the park, consult with your veterinarian to hash out a treatment plan that’s right for your dog. They may also suggest further steps to keep your dog and everyone else at the park safe.
Leash Your Dog (When Indicated)
This is a no-brainer, but it needs to be said: when you’re at a dog park, your dog and the other pups are all guests that must respect the rules of the park. That means, when you’re in a designated leash area, you must leash your dog. Beyond being compliant, it’s also just a common-sense safety measure. You don’t want your unleashed pup to go up to dogs who don’t feel comfortable enough with that level of friendliness. It can get ugly – fast. Not even mentioning the potential for dog-dog confrontation, an unleashed dog can pose a hazard to themselves by running away from the park and into the street.
To maximize safety, keep your dog on a leash when you first get to a dog park. Let your dog become acquainted with their surrounding area (and other dogs) from afar. Plus, you can stop them from picking up and eating any trash or litter from the ground. However, once you’re in the off-leash area, you should absolutely remove their leash so long as you feel it’s safe to do so. Off-leash dogs can more easily distinguish body language cues in other dogs that indicate their willingness to play than on-leash dogs,
Go In With a Preventative Mindset (but Know How to Take Charge)
While knowing how to take charge in a situation that is spiraling out of control is paramount to guaranteeing your dog’s safety, you should really aim to minimize the chance of such a situation from occurring in the first place. Luckily, there are a variety of ways for you to do this.
The first step is to keep moving. This (hopefully) forces your dog to keep checking your position and follow you. However, it’s also important to be able to recall your dog if they’re too busy smelling the grass. In the event that they don’t come when called, don’t be afraid to go up and grab their collar. Be warned: if you have not trained them to be receptive to having their collar grabbed, this can quickly become a hassle.
That being said, you may want to let Fido go off and play with other dogs without mom and dad right there at his side. We understand. But that doesn’t mean that you can let Fido out of your sight. In fact, it’s imperative that you keep a close eye on your furry friend at all times. You need to moderate your dog’s interactions to ensure that any play remains friendly and to make sure your pup isn’t bothering some dog who just came to enjoy his one day off from.. Being a dog at home.
Speaking of interactions with other dogs: you need to know the signs of when play has turned sour if you’re going to keep your dog safe. It doesn’t matter if your dog is the hap-hap-happiest dog in the whole wide world – chances are, he might just catch another dog when they’re feeling ruff or just not in the mood to socialize. There are a few tell-tale signs that a strange dog is not in the mood to play with your dog: their stature will be tensed up, their head will be held high and lurched forward, their lips may be snarled, and their ears will be pointed up or forward.
If your dog begins to scrap with another pooch, you need to also know how to put a stop to it immediately. One of the most successful methods of breaking up two fighting dogs is known as the “wheelbarrow method”. This method sees two people grab the back legs of their dogs and pull them away from one another in a curving motion; this second part keeps the dogs from biting the person holding their legs.
CHowever, if one of the dogs has latched onto the other, it’s important that you break their grip before pulling them apart as this can harm the injured dog. To break a dog’s grip, slide a break stick into their mouth and towards the back of their throat and then twist. This should make them release their grip and make it safe to separate the dueling parties.
Clean Up After Your Pup
Look, it’s common courtesy: if your dog poops, please clean up after him. Just come prepared to scoop, bag, and dispose of his waste. Not only is leaving his waste everywhere really unpleasant to look at (and smell), but it’s also unsanitary!
Just be a good steward of your local dog park and help keep it clean. If you wouldn’t want someone to just leave their dog’s feces on your yard, why on Earth would you think it’s okay to leave an entire park infested with your dog’s droppings?
Just pick it up! A blog shouldn’t have to tell you this!
Like any day you might spend at the human park, you should come prepared with the appropriate supplies to ensure a good, safe time can be had by all. That means coming to the park equipped with a travel bowl and water and even some dog treats (just keep them in the car and out of sight of the other dogs, lest you be swarmed by hungry eyes).
Also, bringing along a doggy first aid kit isn’t a bad idea, either – you never know what sorts of shenanigans your pup might get up to that require you to render aid. Finally, given that more and more dog parks are being built with dog wash stations, you might want to bring along some dog shampoo and a towel too if your pup likes to get dirty and play around in the muck with his other four-legged companions.
While socialization is an important part of raising any well-adjusted pooch, the dog park is not the place to do it. Puppies experience a critical socialization period from birth until they’re about four months old. During this time, they gain their first impressions of the world around them and will take these lessons into adulthood. It’s crucial that you expose them to many different kinds of dogs, people, and really as many other new animals as possible during this time so that they’re not afraid or skittish around them when they’re older. However, you must introduce them to these new beings in a controlled setting where he can be comforted and assured that what’s being introduced to him is good.
At a dog park, there’s very little you can control. Sure, most dog parks are filled with responsible pet parents who would know better than to let their hulking Great Dane trample over your fur baby. However, it only takes a handful of bad experiences with dogs who weren’t being watched correctly to transform the dog park into a torturous place for your pup.
Allow Your Dog to Pester or Bully Other Dogs
There’s a whole lot we can say about this, but we think it’s best to keep it simple: if you wouldn’t want your kid to behave a certain way with another kid, chances are you shouldn’t let your dog behave the same way. When you see your dog and a pal ganging up on another, smaller or older dog, stop them immediately! Dogs who bully other dogs kill the vibe of the whole park and ruin the experience for other dogs.
Similarly, if you see your dog about to mount another dog, stop them! While it may be just another behavior in their repertoire, this move isn’t likely to be welcomed by all dogs in the park. If you notice your dog is trying to mount another dog, body-block them to stop the behavior and repeat as many times as it takes them to get the message. You may even have to take your dog outside the park to calm down for a minute if they’re too excited. However, don’t be afraid to do this: the other dogs and their parents will appreciate it greatly!
Take Unneutered Dogs or Dogs Who Are in Heat
Unneutered or intact male dogs who are over the age of one shouldn’t come to the dog park. At this point in their life, dogs are becoming fully mature and may begin displaying more dominant, aggressive behavior rooted in their desires to attract a mate. This same behavior can then begin to show up in unwelcome settings, such as at a dog park with dogs who are just trying to play. If you notice your dog is beginning to act aggressively towards other dogs, consider getting them neutered as soon as you can.
In that same vein, it is extremely ill-advised to take an in-tact (unspayed) female dog who is in season (in heat) to a dog park. For starters, you probably aren’t looking to breed your female with an unknown dog who can’t control himself. Also, if other in-tact males are in the dog park, your female may cause them to stir up trouble and cause fighting. When in doubt, just remember: if your dog has not had their baby making capacities reduced, keep them away from the dog park.
Disobey Size Regulations
We get it. Your little floof got his name, Scrappy, because he’s able to hold his own against your bigger dogs during playtime. Thus, you reason, it makes no sense that he should be partitioned away from his bigger brothers during their visit to the dog park. However, there’s plenty of valid reasons why your small dog shouldn’t mingle with the beefier canines in the park.
For starters, even small dogs who are friendly with all the other big dogs can easily get hurt if they’re in and around a group of much larger dogs who are playing. Not every big dog is agile enough to leap out of the way of a small dog who is bouncing around, and not every small dog is aware enough of their surroundings to get out of the way of inbound big dogs. It’s naive to believe that strange animals will accommodate our pets’ size.
Additionally, and perhaps more crucially, small dogs don’t really stand a chance against larger breeds if a fight were to break out. Bigger dogs are simply stronger and more able to seriously and quickly damage a small dog. This is not to say that big dogs are inherently prone to preying upon and harming small dogs. It simply means that big dogs have numerous advantages in a fight.
Regardless of whether you practically live at the dog park or it’s about to be your first time, we hope that this short explainer of dog park etiquette helps make your experience safer and more joyful.
We know that, as a caring pet parent, you want what’s best for your pup. We hope you found this article helpful and if your dog ever gets any cuts, abrasions, ear infections or hot spots, we hope you keep Banixx Pet Care in mind.