Dog Park Etiquette
Dog parks can be a wonderful way to let your dogs have an open space to run as well as socialize with other dogs. We are very fortunate to have several dog parks here in the desert provided by cities as well as private country clubs. Most cities post basic rules to be followed, however there are rules we owners should follow that are not necessarily posted. The number one rule should be is to keep your eyes on your dog at all times. Owners can get distracted by socializing with other owners especially when you attend a certain park regularly. It is important to observe your dog and make sure they are behaving at all times. I’m sure if you were taking your child to the play ground you would not let idol conversation distract you from your child’s safety. Your dog is no different; it only takes a second for a good time to turn bad. If your dog is not socialized with other dogs, depending on the age and demeanor, the dog park may not be the place to begin. If you have a scared or shy dog that you would like to socialize it is better to find a couple quiet dogs to start with. Working with lower energy dogs in smaller groups will help build your pets confidence and prepare him for larger more stressful situations. When it is time to explore the dog park, start during quieter times and not at peak hours. A dog that is shy or scared will be overwhelmed if you give him too much too soon. Never take an aggressive dog to a dog park.
A dog park is not the appropriate way to work on your dog’s aggressive behavior with other dogs. Contact a professional trainer and behaviorist to help you with dog aggression. Other safety concerns are dogs without updated vaccines; it is every owner’s responsibility to vaccinate your dog. Un-altered dogs should not be taken to the dog park. An un-altered male may mount other dogs in a more dominate manner which is socially unacceptable and will cause fights, never allow your dog to mount others. Un-altered females in season should never ever be allowed in a dog parks.
Always adhere to the small dog and large dog rules. Even if your large dog plays well with small dogs, not all small dogs will be comfortable with a large dog running around. This will also reduce the chance of accidental injuries.
Human food and dog treats should not be taken to the park. It is common for people to want to give treats to their dogs for good behavior; however food has a very high value to dogs and can cause dogs to become aggressive with each other. Save the treat for later. The park is a place to play not to eat.
It is not recommended for small children to attend the parks as they can get hurt with dogs running and jumping. Even older children should not be allowed to run around the park with the dogs, you should keep them close by so they do not get in the way of hard play by dogs.
Always remove training collars and halters before dog enters the park . Dogs can play rough at times and this will alleviate the chance of broken teeth and or a mouth caught on the collar.
Most dog parks have an airlock door system (two doors) this system was set in place to keep dogs from getting out accidentally. This is the area to remove training collars and halters. This is also a great place to calm your dog before entering the park. As you may know when you get to the park your dog is extremely excited to be there, however this excitement can cause over stimulation and dog fights. Keeping your dog controlled in the car until it is on leash and waiting calmly to get out of the car will help to dissipate some high energy. Walk your dog to the park in the heel command is best. If you have not taught your dog the heel command, walk it around the outside of the park until it shows you a calmer state of mind. When you get to the airlock system unleash and remove training items and wait again for your dog to calm down. You will also notice that by waiting for your dog to clam down the dogs inside the park loose interest and start to walk away from the door when in turn, is much better for dogs to enter. When a dog has to walk through a pack of excited dogs it can be overwhelming causing a dog to lash out at others. If you are already in the park, make your dog move away from the doors when new dogs enter.
When you enter with your dog, wait there for a couple minutes until your dog is calm and the others start walking away. Be courteous and wait until the airlock area is clear before you enter the area.
Another problem at dog parks is the running back and fourth barking at the fence line. When your dog starts this behavior usually others jump into the game. The problem lies once again with dogs getting over stimulated leading to one biting at another. This can cause the dog to displace aggression towards the other dog. This should be stopped immediately.
Unfortunately when a dog fight does break out most people are afraid to approach. Learning how to read your dogs body language for the pre-cursor signs will help you to control situations before they arise. If other dogs are bothersome to yours, ask the other dogs owner to please stop it’s dog’s behavior. If the owner does not behave appropriately, leave the park and report the actions of the dog and owner to what ever department is specified on the dog park rules sign. If a fight breaks out and your dog is not apart of it get a hold of your dog as the fight itself causes some dogs to become over stimulated and jump in. This will keep your dog safe and help the owners of the fighting dogs stop it faster. It is important for owners to be courteous to each other, respect the rules, and work together as a community to help others understand proper dog park etiquette.