Dog parks allow unleashed animals to romp and play in the open air not only with their owners but also with other dogs. Visiting the dog park can be a fun experience as long as it is filled with well-socialized dogs and dog-savvy owners. The best parks are large enough to allow unlimited running but are also strongly fenced to prevent overexcited dogs from dashing away, even if previously recall-perfect. However, the park can be dangerous (and unhealthy) if owners do not supervise their charges or pick up after them carefully. (Fortunately, many do provide poop bags!) For a partial list of parks around the country, visit the Nylabone dog park locator.
Your dog’s first few experiences at a dog park are extremely important. If he’s attacked or even hit accidentally by another dog, he won’t easily forget it. This means that you must be very careful. A popular dog park can be like a popular playground or soccer field—the fun can get out of control quickly, and someone could get hurt. It needs “yard monitors,” and often dog owners don’t see themselves as such. Many people tend to stand in one area, letting the dogs play with abandon. However, it’s our responsibility to watch our dogs, to learn to recognize canine body language, and to stop problems before they become serous.
The following are some additional pointers on dog park etiquette:
- Make sure that your dog is healthy and current on all vaccinations and has any licenses required.
- Don’t bring more dogs than you can handle.
- Don’t allow your dog to engage in inappropriate behaviors, such as bullying/aggressive play, jumping on people, or excessive barking. If you are unable to control these behaviors, you and your dog should leave.
- Use your best judgment when it comes to other dogs. If you or your dog feels uncomfortable with another dog in the park, leave.
- Do not bring a female dog in heat. If you have an intact male, be sure that he is social and nonaggressive before bringing him to the park.
- Always clean up after your dog.
- Although it may sound like a good idea, leave your dog’s toys at home. Dogs can be very possessive over their toys, which could start a fight.
Adapted from Top Tips from Top Trainers (© TFH Publications, Inc. 2010) and Parenting Your Dog (© TFH Publications, Inc. and Trish King, 2004, 2010). Used by permission.