Good Dog Park Etiquette

Dog parks have become very popular.  They offer your pet the opportunity to bond and socialize with other dogs, which is an important step in his training process.  But they also open up a whole new set of rules of etiquette that were never addressed by Emily Post.

Degree of Training

Before going to the dog park, your dog should already be trained in the basics, i.e., come, sit, stay.  The dog park is an unleashed environment.  That means less control by pet owners if their dog gets into a fight with another dog or is irritating the other park visitors.

Your dog should know how to properly respond to your correction and direction. That way if there is a problem, you can count on his responding to your “come,” “sit” or “no” command before the problem escalates into a fully fledged fight.

Doggy Body Language and Communication

Dogs have a special way of communicating with each other.  In the dog park they need to be allowed to use their communication skills in getting acquainted and establishing parameters with the other dogs.  Over-interference by you prevents that natural interaction that is so necessary.

So, unless you see a problem developing, allow the dogs time for sniffing and exploring each other.  Sometimes there may even be a growl.  If so, let the dogs communicate their wishes with no interference by you.

A growl indicates a warning to the other dog: “Don’t go there. This is off-limits.” Chances are the other dog will get the message and know the ground rules.  This is important in establishing their relationship.  Only interfere if one or the other is becoming overly aggressive.

Aggressive Behavior

If your dog tends to be overly aggressive with other dogs, the dog park is NOT the place to try to break that habit.  You may feel it’s simply a matter of more socialization, but it’s not fair to the other dogs or owners to expect them to play guinea pig to your aggressive dog.  You need to be realistic in assessing your dog’s character and if aggression is a problem, he needs a trainer specializing in that problem.

Health Issues

Your dog should not be at the dog park if he is not up to date in his vaccinations. In addition, if you are aware of other undesirable conditions that are communicable to the other dogs, keep him at home until these are resolved.  This includes  fleas or scabies (mange) or anything else that can be spread.  In addition, your dog should be spayed or neutered before going to the dog park.

One other thing worth mentioning is that dog owners need to understand the various breeds.  This will prevent a lot of clashes between owners.  What you may think is aggressive behavior may be no more than a natural instinct.  For instance, a herding dog herds.  He is not being aggressive; he is simply doing what he is born to do: herd.  If it is interfering with your dog’s enjoyment of the park, have a friendly talk with the owner. Don’t assume it’s an aggression issue.

The dog park can be a lot of fun for pets and owners alike.  But this is true only when proper etiquette is observed.  If you are dog-friendly and understand the dog park rules of etiquette, you will have a far more enjoyable experience.

Mark Mansfield
 

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