Dog Park Etiquette Tips

by Trevor Page

Do you ever consider bringing your dog to the local off-leash park? Your pup needs activity, and parks are a great way for them to get it! High fences, other dogs, and lots of space to run freely make it a great option for people who live in apartments or homes without large yards to exercise their dogs in. But it's not all fun and games. There are things that are dog-park appropriate and others that are not, and I'm not just talking about the posted rules.

For instance, most dog parks will have a sign that dictates acceptable practices, like having your pet spayed or neutered, having them up to date on mandatory vaccines, and cleaning up your dog's waste. It's important to follow ALL of the posted rules about the dog park, including age or size limits, never leaving your pet (keep an eye on them), number of dogs per handler, licensing and tag requirements, and anything else that is posted at the park itself or on the park's website.

The unwritten rules come more from my experience in dog parks. On your next trip to the park, keep these unwritten etiquette rules in mind:

  1. Don't bring food! Don't bring your lunch, even on the most beautiful day, to have a picnic in an off-leash park. It can create a mob scene, cause fights, and even lead to some dogs getting ill.
  2. Don't feed treats to other dogs! If you bring treats for your own dog, make sure they're in a sealed bag, and don't offer them to other dogs without asking permission. Some people will bring treats because they're trying to train their dogs in the park, and that's okay, as long as you don't interfere with the diet and training of other pets. (Remember, some pets may be on a diet, have food allergies, etc.)
  3. Don't discipline another owner's dog! You don't want someone telling your dog or your child what to do any more than someone else does! Please be respectful. If you disagree with something another dog is doing, kindly and politely approach the dog's owner with your concerns.
  4. Consider optional vaccines! Sure the sign at the front says required vaccines (which typically are just one or two depending on the state/county you live in), but you might want to consider vaccinating your dog against kennel cough and the dog flu if you're making frequent trips to the dog park. The canine influenza outbreak in the Chicago area is a good example of why! Giving optional vaccines that are for viruses that are common in "communal environments" is a wise idea.
  5. Don't bring aggressive dogs! If your dog is aggressive toward other dogs or other people, don't bring them to the park at all. You can consider bringing them if they wear a muzzle or head lead, but please be aware that many dogs are more aggressive when they're on a leash and/or can become easy targets for hyper dogs at the park, which just adds to your dog's fear and aggression issues.
  6. Don't bring young kids, or if you do, make sure that they leave other dogs alone! Don't expect other owners to stop their dogs from accidentally knocking your young child over, accidentally hurting them, or growling or snapping if your kid grabs the dog's tail. You bring your child at your own risk and have to assume responsibility for that.
  7. Clean up trash and debris! If you see partial tennis balls, fabric off of toys, plastic, cigarette butts (please don't leave these lying around at the park), sunglasses, or any other debris, please chip in and pick it up. You wouldn't want your dog grabbing any of that stuff, and if Joe saw it lying there and just ignored it, you would be annoyed. You'll help everyone's dog stay safe!

If you follow these simple unwritten rules on dog park etiquette, you and Fido will be loved and cherished members of the dog park!