Dog Park Etiquette

The temperatures are rising and our furry friends are itching for a long romp in the park. Before you open that double gate and let your pooch run free, freshen up on some proper dog park etiquette.

It’s natural to believe that all dogs enjoy running off leash at the park, but it can actually be a great source of anxiety for both you and your pet if you don’t consider your pet’s personality. Some dogs are naturally shy or easily overwhelmed, and quickly feel threatened when fellow dogs run up to greet them. On the other hand, some dogs have naturally curious tendencies and might be too social for other dogs. Other dogs simply have too much cooped up energy and can become a danger to themselves when running so quickly! Follow these tips before loading up Fido in your car and your trip will be much more relaxed.

  1. Will my dog even enjoy the park? Some dogs may feel overwhelmed or threatened by other dogs sniffing, chasing, and barking at them, and will cling to their owner for dear life. Other dogs may feel stressed and lash out in more violent ways. If you feel that your dog is more anxious than calm in social situations, a dog park may not be the best option for a fun outing. Some dogs need one on one play dates to learn to properly play with other dogs nicely, and some dogs simply enjoy solidary walks more.
  2. Releasing energy before the park. It may seem counter-intuitive, but letting your dog release all their pent up energy inside the gated park may actually lead to more harm than good. One easy way to shake off the excitement is to walk your dog around the perimeter of the dog park, or near the park, allowing them to see and hear the action, but not yet take part. This can help eliminate any “bat out of hell” full force running or overly excited dog greetings.
  3. Picking the right park. There are designated areas for smaller dogs and larger dogs in most parks. These areas are designated for a reason, and keep in mind that although your small dog might play well with larger breeds, it may become prey in the larger dog park and result in a fight.
  4. Good manners. Dogs love to rush to the gate when a newcomer arrives, but this can be overwhelming to the newbie. Recall your dog when you see a new dog, and then allow your dog to greet the new dog when they are not being mobbed. It is also important to keep your dog from chasing other dogs, playing too rough, or pestering humans.
  5. Survey the play. The biggest rule of thumb at the dog park is to always watch your dog. If you notice his behavior changing or don’t like the way another dog is interacting with him, leave. It is never worthwhile to wait and see if a bad behavior escalates. This is never a good time to check your email, become engrossed in a conversation, or listen to music. This is all about your dog.
  6. Good play vs. bad play. It’s important to know the difference between good play and bad play, and watch for the signs carefully. Good play behavior includes a classic play bow, where the dog’s front end lowers while the back end rises, playful growling, small pauses in play, and a loose, bouncy body. If the body language ever becomes stiff and the intensity of play rises, with no play breaks, it is best to intervene and break up the play before a fight ensues.
  7. Know when to call it quits. I usually can tell when my husky mix, Trapper, is done with the park, when he comes near me and sits down. This is my cue to grab his leash and take him home. If you feel like your dog is being chased, ganged up on, or is uncomfortable in any way, it is time to go home.
  8. Reward your dog. Your smelly little fur baby is going to love you for taking him out on a park date, so encourage his good behavior with lots of fresh water, treats, and kisses!

Written by ~ Ashlyn Oswalt