Standard Dog Park Etiquette and Rules

“Sit. Stay. Read. Good Human!” This humorous title for a list of laws outside of a local dog park sends an important message: guidelines need to be followed for a good day at your local off leash playground. The following basic rules and regulation should be observed by every good human owner and pet when visiting a dogs allowed area. 

Before You Go 

It is important that you follow this “pre-visit checklist” before heading off for a day at the dog park with your dog. 

  • Up-to-date Pet Care - You need to visit your veterinarian at Pet Express Animal Hospital to make sure your dog’s vaccinations and flea and tick protections are current, since dogs allowed to socialize with other dogs can easily become infected with a sickness or parasite.

  • Physical Health—Even though your dog may have all its necessary vaccinations, it still does not mean that it won’t experience a health emergency. When that happens, it is a good idea to delay a trip to the dog park. Some signs that indicate your dog may be under the weather are excessive drinking, increased frequency of urination, change in appetite, stiffness, coughing, sneezing, digestive problems.

  • Spay/Neuter - Another vital part of preparation for a dog park visit is to have your dog spayed or neutered. The reason is very evident: an unaltered dog can exhibit or cause aggressive behavior that can endanger other pets and human owners at the park. As one expert writes, “… the majority of dog bites involve dogs that have not been fixed. Spaying and neutering can reduce these types of behaviors and not only make animals easier to manage but also result in far fewer frustrations for the animal.”

  • Well-Trained - Before your dog is ready to enjoy a day of off-leash play with other pets at the park, he should be responsive to basic commands, such as “stay,” “come,” “down,” “leave it,” and “sit.” One obedience professional says, “Just these five simple commands can help keep your dog safer and improve your communication with him. It’s well worth the investment of your time and effort.”

  • Calm - If your dog is over-excited and under-exercised, he may create agitation and aggression when he enters the dog park. This is why it is especially important to make sure he is calm before going to the park. One easy method to accomplish this is to take him for a brisk walk or play fetch beforehand to burn off excess energy.

  • At the Park: Rules of Engagement 

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Once you and your dog arrive at the park, there are many important rules of conduct and etiquette to follow for a good day. 

1. Look Before You Leap – You should read the dog park’s specific rules upon arrival. While the basic guidelines will stay true from park to park, there may be some rules that are unique. It is also prudent to watch the dogs at play before you release your dog. If you think the level of activity may not be a good fit for your dog that day, it would be wise to visit another day. 

2. Remove the Leash – Once you have passed through the gates and entered the inner park area, it is important to remove your dog’s leash, since a leash can lead to aggressive reactions in social settings. 

3. Stay in the Appropriate Section – Most dog parks separate small dogs from large dogs for good reason. In the rough and tumble play of the dog park, a small dog can be inadvertently injured by a large dog. 

4. Keep Watch on Your Dog – While a dog park encourages a dog to unwind and disconnect, it is not a good place for the human owners to do so. You need to keep a close watch on your dog – for his protection as well as other dogs’ safety. 

5. Pick Up the Poop – Bring some plastic bags so you can clean up after your dog if he relieves himself at the park. Not only is this good etiquette, it is also beneficial to your dog’s health. Dog waste can spread parasites and sickness. 

6. Just Say No – There are several items that do not belong in a dog park. These include young children, toddlers, or infants; food or treats; dog toys; puppies under six months; or aggressive dogs. 

To prepare for a great day at the dog park, set up an appointment at the Pet Express Animal Hospital. We can make sure your dog is ready for an enjoyable time with other dogs.