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20 Tips for the Ultimate Dog-Park Experience

Whether you’re an urban or rural dog owner, it’s likely you’re familiar with the local dog park. It’s a canine oasis, where your leash-less pet is free to sniff, run and socialize with other dogs. But like any social activity, it’s important to know basic rules of etiquette.  

20 Tips for the Ultimate Dog-Park Experience

  1. If your pet displays signs of illness or a contagious disease, don’t bring him/her to the park.

  2. Don’t bring a puppy less than 4 months old or a female dog in heat. Older puppies and adult dogs who have been immunized can usually handle the diseases inherent at a dog park.  

  3. Keep an eye on your dog! Stay alert for signs of aggression on the part of your dog. Some breeds just don’t get along.

  4. Pick up after your dog. Many parks provide bags. If you’re not sure, bring your own supply.

  5. Don’t bring food—for yourself or your dog. It’s the easiest way to start a fight.

  6. Bring a portable water bowl for your dog—water bowls at dog parks can carry the risk of communicable illnesses.

  7. Bring a tennis ball, but be prepared to lose it. Playing throw and catch is one of the fun activities at a dog park.   

  8. Intervene when play starts to get too rough. By reading your pet’s body language and paying attention to some simple rules of behavior you can end potential fights before they go too far.

  9. Exercise your dog before taking her into a park. Dog parks are a supplement to a dog's daily activity, not the sole source of exercise or socialization. A dog that has been inside or alone for hours has pent-up energy, and may be overly exuberant, resulting in a fight.

  10. Teach your dog polite greeting skills. Introductions are important and make a difference in how dogs will get along. Allowing your dog to go charging up to a dog that has just entered the park is rude.

  11. Remove special training devices while in dog parks. A simple nylon or leather collar that can be quickly removed is safe and okay to leave on.

  12. Take off leashes. A dog on-leash is a tripping hazard, especially if the leashed dog begins to play. Dogs on-leash can feel more insecure because they know they can’t escape if they need to. This can actually trigger fights.

  13. Avoid the urge to pick up and carry a small dog. The act of lifting up a small dog triggers a prey-drive instinct in many dogs, exciting them into jumping on you to get at the small dog.

  14. Make sure your dog will come to you when called. It’s particularly useful in disengaging your dog from an activity that is escalating.

  15. Don’t allow your dog to bully other dogs. Learn when play gestures are cute and engaging—and socially appropriate—and when they’re just flat out obnoxious and rude. It’s your job to call your dog back to you.

  16. Resist the urge to let dogs ‘work it out.’ If a dog is being picked on, or there are signs of dislike between two dogs, it’s up to the humans to intervene.

  17. Don’t bring dogs with resource-guarding problems. Dogs who don’t like to share toys, or who like to steal toys and hoard them, are not going to have fun in a dog park.

  18. Don’t chat with other humans rather than supervise your dog. Your number one priority at a dog park is your dog.

  19. Don’t spend more time looking at a smartphone screen than at your dog. Dogs know when you’re mentally disengaged and often take advantage of it.

  20. Don’t force your dog to play. If your dog is telling you she doesn’t want to play—by continually going to the gate, sitting or standing by you to watch the action and not participate, ignoring or warning off other dogs who try to initiate play—listen to your pooch and leave.  

Check out the Best Central PA Dog Parks Here

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