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June 18, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 3 Faves: 0

Top 5 Rules for Dog Park Etiquette

By Victoria Swanson More Blogs by This AuthorFrom the Paws & Awws Blog Series

Taking our dogs to a dog-park offers valuable doggy socialization, as they romp around with their doggy friends, not to mention that it is a fantastic way to burn off their energy! Summer is the busiest time of year for dog parks, so are there unwritten rules for how pet-parents and dogs should behave at a public dog park? What is the difference between private and public dog parks?

Private Dog Parks

These are members only clubs. Yes, even Fido can join the elite group! Private dog parks offer rules and will not put up with unruly dogs or pet-parents. They temperament test all dogs (to make sure they are friendly), proof of vaccinations need to be shown, and a stool sample showing negative parasites is also required. This helps to keep dogs safe and healthy while frolicking around together.

An annual fee is applied at private dog parks. Check your local area for listings and pricing.

Public Dog Parks

Anyone, and I mean anyone, can bring their dog. As a trainer, I have heard horror stories how pet-parents bring a dog, which has dog-to-dog aggression issues, to a public dog park to "work" with them. Um... NO! This is the worse idea ever and, unfortunately, is more common than not.

Sadly, many irresponsible pet-parents that don't provide the proper training and socializing may bring an unaltered male or female to the park. Others don't keep their dog up-to-date on their vaccinations or aren't providing their pet with a flea/tick preventative.

There are no fees or regulations at a public dog park.

Etiquette Rules for Dog Park Goers

#1 - Do not even think about going to a dog park unless your dog is fully vaccinated and on their monthly flea/tick preventative.

#2 - Never bring an unaltered male or female to a dog park. Hormones are raging, and if you miscalculate when your female may be in heat... DOG FIGHT! Please spay and neuter your fur kids!

#3 - If your dog has dog-to-dog aggression issues, a dog park is not the place to help them work through this. Contact a professional dog behaviorist to work with you and your dog one-on-one in a secure environment.

#4 - Pick up after your dog. This is common courtesy. If your dog has the need to do their "business" while at the dog park, pick up after them. This will help keep the park clean and prevent parasites from spreading.

#5 - Leave children under 10 and dog treats at home. This is never a good mix. Kids are just being kids, and will run, scream, and try to play in a mix of dogs, all which is a recipe for disaster at a dog park. Young children lack the know-how of when to leave dogs alone and sit still. Dogs tend to think children are on the same level as them, so kids may get jumped on, scratched, or nipped at.

Dog treats? I think not. You will have 20 dogs swarming around you like bees to honey, which creates a dangerous situation for everyone. Some dogs may have food aggression issues and redirect this towards other dogs or you. Please leave the treats at home or in your car.

I hope these tips help make all your visits enjoyable and safe! One final note: If you are feeling uneasy about a dog or pet-parent's behavior at the park, go with your gut, pack up your fur kid, and leave. It is better to be safe than put your dog, or yourself, at risk.

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  • great ideas and common sense - thanks Victoria. Do you have any tips for dogs walking down the road? I mean if my dog is out and someone is walking their dog down the road my dog doesn't like letting them walk by our property without freaking out! She doesn't like any other dogs walking in our yard either.

  • Hi Nancy~ This behavior will take time to modify. When I work with behavioral issues, like "protecting the property," there are certain factors that play into this to help get the best results. Modifying a behavior isn't about training the behavior away. "Protecting the property," from a dog's perspective means they are running the "show." In other words, they think they are the boss. So a case like this would require a professional dog behaviorist to visit with you and focus on your dog's living environment. Meaning; where does the dog sleep, how is the dog fed, what type of rules and boundaries does the person have set up for their dog, what commands does the dog know? This is just the start of it. I work with my clients by putting the dog and the pet-parent on a 3-week Doggy Bootcamp program to help reshape and redefine the relationship that the pet-parent and dog have. If the dog believes they are running the show, working on the actual issue is not enough. The pet-parent has to gain back control of leadership and then work on the issue to get the best results and modified "attitude" from their dog.

  • good advise - you're right we need professional help in this matter, I don't doubt that, and you're right Elli thinks she running the show! It's funny though our neighbors (at our cottage) have a dog and when both the dogs are out walking around and the dog comes over Elli just gets so nervous and hides behind me or wants to go in the cottage. You know how dogs like to sniff each other? Well Elli's not like that. She's more like don't come near me! Did I mention she's great around her sister, no problems if it's just the two of them. And her sister Grace loves everyone, if you're talking to her she's walking to you. Most likely she thinks you have a snack.

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