The Good Dog Guide: Dog Park Etiquette

The dog park is a magical place for pups and their people. A place to let dogs be dogs. We love our dog parks, but they’re not a lawless free-for-all. For one, there are official dog park rules and regulations. But almost as important are the unwritten rules of dog parks. Track these tips for off-leash success.

9 Essential Dog Park Rules

Whether it’s indoor or outdoor, dog park behavior is something to think about before visiting a dog park. Follow these tips to help your dog be a well-mannered rockstar! 

1. Make Sure Pup Is Up-To-Date On Vaccines

As dog parents, our pup’s health and safety is top priority. If a puppy is under 4 months old and not yet vaccinated, steer clear of the dog park. The key vaccinations pup’ll need before heading to the dog park are bordetella, leptospirosis, and canine influenza. And if your dog is showing any signs of being sick, try again for another day. 

2. Clean Up Messes

It’s nearly impossible to stop your dog from relieving themselves at the dog park. But responsible pet parents clean it up as soon as pup is done takin’ care of business. And eyes on your dog–not your phone–so you don’t miss any poop-and-runs.

3. Leave Food and Treats at Home

While it’s great to be able to reward your dog for good behavior, bringing food and treats to the dog park can cause territory beefs between the floofs. Instead, bring a treat to give pup in the car when you leave so they can still be rewarded, but avoid the aggression.

4. Be Aware of Hormones 

Dog parks rules clearly state that you should NOT bring gals in heat. This doesn’t necessarily mean all dogs MUST be spayed/neutered; it does mean you should know thy intact dog, watch them ultra-carefully, and intercede if hormone-driven situations occur.

5. Watch Your Pup

As tempting as it may be to let your pup have run of the place, he’s your primary responsibility at the park. Keep your eyes off your phone and on your pooch for his safety and enjoyment, and that of your fellow park-goers. Size matters, too. Big or small, any pup can get out of line with jumping, barking, and aggressive behavior. Pay attention to yours, and react quickly and accordingly!

6. Pay Attention to Pup’s Body Language 

Staying vigilant of your pup’s body language is really important for your outing. When your dog is in “play-mode,” they will have wagging tails, high energy, and relaxed ears. If your dog is upset or on edge, their ears will be pricked up, and they might lunge, show their teeth, or have hackles raised. Dog hackles are the hair on the back of their neck and spine that raise when dogs are showing signs of aggression toward another dog.

7. Know When to Leave

If your pooch is getting overexcited or overwhelmed and you can’t easily resolve their mood, leash up and leave. Similarly, a too-pooped pup can become agitated, so consider it a cue to go when your pooch has reached dog-tired status. 

I got it, I got it! | Anthony Duran 

8. Listen to Other Pawrents

Even though sometimes we think our dogs are the golden ones, other parents might not appreciate some of their behaviors. Things like jumping or biting are great examples of behaviors that might be frowned upon by others. If another pet parent tells you that your pup has done something they don’t like, listen and respond with respect.

9. Leave the Kiddos Home

Not alone, of course. But it’s hard enough to keep a close eye on your dog during a dog park play session. Add a rambunctious two-year-old human, and your attention is sure to be divided. It’s also safest for your kiddo. Just because your pooch is great with your child doesn’t mean every pup at the park will act the same way.

Dog Park Alternatives

Dog parks are not for everyone. If your dog doesn’t love the vibe of the park, is easily overwhelmed, or likes to keep to themselves, there’s no need to force them into going to the dog park. There are a lot of other ways to get your fluff some exercise and social time. 

All leashed up and ready to roll! | Sen Lee

Visit a Dog-Friendly Restaurant Patio

Grabbing a bite to eat while being able to hang out with your pup is a great way to get outside and enjoy each other’s company. If you’re looking for a new place to kick it on a dog-lovin patio, check out our dog-friendly restaurant directory!

Take a Hike 

If you want to get them some steppies in, head out to a hiking or walking trail to get a move on! Here are some of our faves in Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington.

Grab a Beer

Chillin’ with your dog is always a great option for you to spend time together. You don’t always have to be on the go to keep them happy. Grab a beer and hang out at a dog-friendly brewery where you both can unwind!

Do you love taking your pup to the dog park? What are some of your best tips for good park manners? 

Featured photo: Roberto Lopez

Sidewalk Dog’s mission is to help dog parents spend more time with their puppers by discovering and sharing activities they can do and places they can go—together! Sniff out our award-winning newsletter and Instagramthen check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

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