Off-Leash Dog Park Etiquette

The dog park is a happy place for people and pets alike—canines get physical and mental stimulation, socialization opportunities and the chance to make new friends, while humans get to tire their dogs out and interact with other dog owners.

But along with all the positive things, there can be some downsides. An uncouth hound can ruin a beautiful day at the dog park and can cause embarrassment or even physical injury to others depending on their antics. To avoid having your dog be “that dog,” pay attention to these tips below for dog park success.

Be in Control

Make sure your dog knows that you’re the alpha. This is especially important when there are many other dogs around. Take time to train your dog to come to you when called. Try using a word they don’t normally hear, and make sure to reward them with yummy treats during the training process.

Be a Mindful Dog Owner

Once you get to the park, pay attention to not just your dog, but other dogs and pet owners, too. Make sure your canine is always in sight and if you anticipate any kind of trouble, keep them close and away from any scuffles. And of course, if your dog has business to do, keep bags handy.

Be Aware of Pet Signals

It’s important to be able to read canine behavior traits—dogs when playing have wagging tails and relaxed ears, and many do the “play bow” where they place their front end down to the ground. When dogs are upset, their tails stay at half-mast or between their legs, their ears are pinned back and some even snarl with their lips curled. When you see these latter signals, try redirecting dogs with treats or a toy, but only do so when needed.

Know the Steps to Take When a Fight Breaks Out

Dog fights can and do happen sometimes. When a fight breaks out, give it a moment, as most doggie duels can end very quickly. If they keep fighting, try using a spurt of water from a hose or water pistol—a long stick to push them apart can work too. Just be careful to not use your hands or body.

If fighting persists after around three seconds, you and the other dog’s owner should approach the canine from the rear and gently grab their back legs and left them up like a wheelbarrow while moving back.

Leave the Puppies at Home

Puppies under six months of age are too young for the park, especially ones who haven’t had all their shots. Plus, pups can be hard to control, and it’s easier and better for everyone to wait until these dogs have more life experience before taking them on a big adventure to the dog park.

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