A trip to the dog park is a fun and engaging way to spend time with your dog. The dog park offers your dog lots of mental stimulation and a chance to meet their physical needs as well. It’s a great way to keep your dog exercised and happy, often offering your dog so much more than a leashed-walk around the park.
But before you head to the dog park, you want to make sure you’ve got your dog park etiquette down. Knowing what to expect, when to go, and how to behave (yes, you and Fido!) is going to make your visit a lot safer and more fun.
Here we’ll cover everything you need to know to for your dog park etiquette to be on point.
Have the proper ID, registration, and be up to date on vaccines
First and foremost, it’s essential that your dog is wearing a collar with an identification tag on it when they visit the dog park. While almost all dog parks are fenced in, often with a double-gated entry to prevent escapes, it’s safer for your dog to have your information on them should they manage to bolt while enjoying some time off-leash.
In addition to having their name and your information on their collar, your dog should only be visiting a dog park if they are up to date on all of their shots. This keeps other dogs are the park safe. When your dog receives their rabies shot, you get a tag from your vet. Put this on their collar as well, this way should anyone find your dog, they won’t have any doubts about the safety of interacting with them.
Lastly, as a responsible dog owner, it is important that you register your dog with your town or city. This usually involves sending your dog’s up to date rabies information to your town clerk with a nominal fee each year. This lets the town know that dogs are living at your address should any issues arise.
You and your dog shouldn’t be visiting the local dog park if you haven’t taken the steps to register your dog. Dog parks are often a place where police officers or town animal safety officers will come to check on dog registrations.
Know when to go based on your dog’s temperament
If you are new to the area or new to visiting the dog park, ask around to find out what it’s like and when it’s busy. In general, dog parks tend to be busiest on the weekends and during after-work hours because this is when owners have the most time to get out with their dogs. Dog parks often tend to have a group of "regulars" at certain times which do kind of rule the atmosphere. Some dogs like to play rough while others are more into chasing and running.
If you have a dog that loves to get their play on and socialize to the extreme, going during busy times shouldn’t be a problem at all. However, if your dog is shyer, or likes to use the dog park as an area to play fetch rather than wrestle or socialize, you should consider planning a visit during less busy times.
Obey the posted dog park rules
When it comes to dog park etiquette, I’d hope this would go without saying-- but in general, make sure you’re obeying the posted rules and signage!
One main example of this is being aware of who the dog park is geared for. Some dog parks will have two play areas, one for small dogs and one for large dogs. No matter what your dog’s temperament is, it’s important to obey the weight limits to keep all the dogs safe!
Another big example is if the dog park is an off-leash park (which most are) you don’t keep your dog on-leash. This can cause your dog and the other dogs at the park a lot of stress and potential “leash aggression”. If you don’t feel comfortable having your dog off leash, for whatever reason, then it’s best to skip the dog park.
Other posted dog park rules might include picking up after your dog, sometimes bans the use of toys or treats to avoid dog fights, to have a collar on your dog, and keep a watchful eye.
Come prepared with the necessary supplies
Most dog parks provide poop bags, trashcans, and even watering stations for your furry friend, but it’s always best to come prepared. You don’t want to find yourself without a poop bag, or water to offer after a particularly intense play session or on a hot summer day to keep your dog cool.
Additionally, you may want to bring toys for fetch or treats for training if your dog park allows this. Remember, be tactful about when you pull these items out. A super busy park is probably not the time to start a game of fetch unless you’re okay with 10 other dogs joining in.
Stay alert and engaged with your dog
The dog park is not a place to go to answer emails or catch up on social media. You need to be watchful during your visit and stay engaged with your dog. It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep the dogs at the park safe.
What the park is great for is meeting other dog owners. This can be an especially great way to meet people if you are new to an area or a new dog owner looking for doggy playmates for your dog.
Don’t bring your puppy
A dog park is simply not a safe or appropriate place for a puppy. Most sources recommend waiting until your dog is over 4 months old to bring them to the dog park, but some say 6+ months is a better time. You can always ask your vet to be sure.
The dog park isn’t a place to learn socialization, but rather a place to socialize once your dog understands basic commands and has spent time around other dogs. Where should you socialize your puppy? Puppy training classes, puppy specific meet-ups (often hosted at training centers or pet supply stores) or on on-leash walks are great ways to get practice in around other dogs.
Puppies also may not have all of the vaccinations necessary to make the dog park safe, and too much exercise is not advised for your young puppy’s growing bones.
Enjoy your trip to the dog park!
With these tips in mind, you are ready for your next dog park visit. Your dog will love the chance to run free and play with other dogs! Just keep the dog park etiquette mentioned in this article in mind to ensure the trip is safe for everyone.
Need some other ideas of ways to exercise and stimulate Fido? Check out these 10 exercise ideas for your dog.
Have some more advice to add when it comes to dog park etiquette? Maybe a dog park horror story? Chime in below so we can all keep learning!