As dog owners, bringing our pups to an unfamiliar place can be intimidating for both our dogs and ourselves. With community dog parks popping up all over, there are a lot of new park-goers exploring their local spots. The concept of a dog park is to give dogs the freedom to run around off-leash and play with other dogs. It's also a unique way to meet other dog owners and neighbors. If you're about to embark on the off-leash dog park scene, it helps to get some advice ahead of time to feel more comfortable. Here are some "unwritten rules" or dog park etiquette that many people don't know before their first visit.
Know the dog park rules before you go.
Whether you're visiting your town's newest off-leash park or you've never taken your pup to a dog park before- it's helpful to know the basic do's and don'ts of the park. Read the sign displayed on the gate of the dog park. Most cities require that all dogs visiting the dog park must be up to date on vaccinations. Another precaution is to avoid bringing dogs who are in heat.
Don't bring a puppy.
It's recommended that you wait until your puppy is at least 6 months old before bringing him/her to the dog park. Most importantly, your puppy needs to be fully vaccinated. Become familiar with your puppy’s level of social skills before em"bark"ing on the dog park scene.
Avoid bringing children.
An off-leash dog park is a chance for your pup to interact with their fur-friends. Although your own dog may be comfortable around kids, not every dog is kid-friendly. Excited dogs can easily knock children over too. For the safety of both the kiddos and the dogs, avoid bringing small kids to the dog park.
Don’t give treats to other dogs.
It's typically best to avoid bringing food into the park, as treats can trigger aggression and guarding in the presence of unfamiliar dogs. If the park allows treats, only give them to your dog since other pups may have food allergies.
Leave your dog's favorite toys at home.
Similar to treats in the park- bringing your dog's personal toys may start fights among dogs. Your dog may get protective over her favorite toy and not feel comfortable sharing. Also, chances are high that the toy will never leave the park with you, so bring a new toy that your dog won't mind leaving behind with the other doggos.
Don't be 💩-y person. Always pick up your dog’s poop.
Don’t keep your pup on a leash.
Use the double gate entrance or "lobby" to unleash your dog before entering the off-leash park. Often times the gate is crowded by dogs who are excited to greet a newcomer and a leash can become a tangled mess in a pack of pups. An off-leash park provides a safe environment for dogs to explore new smells, exercise and play. If you're not comfortable releasing your pup into an off-leash park, it's okay to start slow. Try going to a park with a separate fenced-in area to gradually introduce him to the idea.
Teach your dog to come to you when called (also known as recall) in distracting environments before going to a park. This basic command is beneficial in many situations, especially in a dog park.
Keep an eye on your dog.
Put the phone down and pay attention to your dog. Although your dog has freedom to run around and you have a chance to hangout too; you are responsible for your dog. If you're talking on the phone or distracted, you may miss important clues that your pup is about to engage in a fight. Keep a close eye on how your dog interacts with the other park-goers -- people and pups. If your dog seems uncomfortable or troublesome, be ready to leave before something bad happens. Plus, if you're watching your dog, you'll know when it's your turn to borrow the pooper scooper.
Familiarize yourself with your dog's body language.
At a park, you'll know your dog's personality more than anyone. Recognizing whether your dog is fighting or playing is crucial. This helps you identify if your dog is excited, stressed, or causing trouble so you can intervene when necessary. If your dog enjoys playing with other dogs, be encouraging of this positive behavior. Be prepared to leave the dog park if you notice that your dog isn't having a good time, because that's what really matters.
The dog park isn’t for everyone.
Acknowledge that every pup is different, some love the dog park more than others. Maybe your dog prefers one-on-one hikes with you instead and that's just fine.
Know that there's a 99.9999% chance that anything you sit on at the dog park has been peed on.
What you do with that information is up to you...
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