How Do Dog Parks Work? The Rules & Etiquette on Dog Parks

Dogs parks – it’s probably every canine’s best place followed by pet stores. It’s a paradise where doggos can go off-leash and just enjoy bonding with other canines. However, it’s not always fun. Dog fights can happen, your doggo may poo everywhere, and you may piss other dog owners. If you’re a first-time dog owner, you probably have this question: how do dog parks work?

In this post, we will help you with the ‘unwritten’ rules of dog parks. Dogs don’t come with a manual and like parenting, there’s no specific roadmap on how to do things.

What is and how do dog parks work

Imagine a park, but instead of humans strolling around, it would be dogs. It’s a small sanctuary for canines where they can play and socialize safely. Also, dog parks have drinking stations, metal fencing, poop scooper stations, and poop bag dispensers. The garbage cans in dog parks are also well covered to prevent any curious pooch from scavenging.

Also, most dog parks use turf as a ground cover so it would stay cool even on summer days. Dog park owners are also specific with the vegetation that they will plant around so it wouldn’t be toxic to canines.

You can also find water fountains and a stash of used tennis balls. Some dog parks have washing stations and even a memorial.

Basically, you bring your dog here to have fun and get enough exercise. However, you should only bring your pooch here once it’s at least 16 weeks old. This is because younger and smaller pups are at risk of injury and various diseases that they may contract other dogs.

Is a dog park a good idea for your pooch? In this video, dog expert Zak George helps us decide:

Leashed vs. off-leash areas

Most dog parks will be divided into two: leashed vs. off-leash areas. Of course, leashed areas require you to keep your dog in a leash while inside it. This is often done to prevent dog fights, especially if there are dozens of dogs at a time.

Meanwhile, off-leash areas in a dog park are the place where your pooch can run and play freely. Still, you have to keep an eye on your pet so they wouldn’t figure in an accident or hurt anyone.

Also, you have to check if the dog park you’re planning to go to separates dogs by size. This is so dogs won’t be overwhelmed by larger canines and that bigger doggos’ won’t harm smaller ones.

Dog park rules and etiquette

how do dog parks work
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So how do dog parks work? To prepare you and your dog on your first trip to the dog park, here are some rules and etiquette that you should keep in mind:

1.     Your dog must be fully vaccinated

The golden rule of dog parks is you should have your dog vaccinated before bringing it to the park. This is to prevent your canine from contracting any disease and infecting others. Since dogs come and go to these parks, it also becomes a highly infectious place. In fact, many dogs contract ticks, fleas, and Parvovirus during their visits to the dog park.

Also, never bring a young pup to the park. Adult dogs find puppies annoying and the little pooch might be hurt during its interaction with other canines.

2.     Never bring a sick dog to the park

If your dog is sick or has an infectious disease, it’s a mortal sin to bring them to the dog park. It’s like letting your dog spread the infection to other canines. Aside from compromising the health of other dogs, the pet owners will also hate you for it.

Also, watch out for ‘dog dork’. These are dogs that don’t know how to interact with other canines. They can annoy other dogs, which can stir fights. So before you bring your pooch to the park, we recommend training them for basic obedience first. Besides, you wouldn’t want your pooch to look like loose criminal wreaking havoc on other pets.

3.     You always pick up after your dog

Be a responsible dog owner and always pick up after your dog has eliminated. Scoop up your dog’s business so other dogs and pet owners won’t step on it. A lot of diseases spread through contact on dog poo so make sure that you clean it up. Besides, dog parks often have pooper scoopers and poop bag dispensers.

Even if the park doesn’t have any of it, it’s your responsibility to bring one before you head out. There’s no excuse for not doing this courtesy. And if possible, bring an extra bag so you can help out a dog owner who failed to bring any.

4.     Avoid bringing dogs in heat on the park

If you have a female dog that’s currently in heat, you must skip the dog park until your pooch comes out of the phase. A dog in heat will attract male canines and may cause fighting. Also, you wouldn’t want your pooch being followed and licked by many dogs.

When you see a group of male dogs breaking loose, it’s possible that they are fighting for a female dog in heat. You wouldn’t want to be the owner of that dog.

Also, never bring a pregnant dog in the park. It’s a matter of safety for your pooch and the unborn pups.

If your male dog tries to hump other dogs, you must be there to call the pooch back.

5.     Remove your dog’s leash first

Once you arrive at the off-leash part of the dog park, you must take the leash off your dog before letting him play with other canines. This is to prevent the leash from getting tangled with other dogs or choking your canine. Also, you must remove the prong collar if you’re using one on your pet.

You can look for the holding pen where you can remove the leash from your dog before you can set them free in the off-leash area. You wouldn’t want your dog to keep pulling even before you get the chance to remove the leash.

6.     Know how to break dog fights

This is very important if you’re planning to take your dog to the park regularly. Dog fights will happen at some point and you have to know how to diffuse it properly. Never get in the middle of the dog fight as you may get injured in the process.

You can douse water on the dogs as a distraction. This way, you can borrow a few seconds to retrieve your dog and have it leashed. The other dog owners should also do the same. If water isn’t available, you can throw a large hanky over the dogs to disorient them.

7.     Eye on the dog

Once you’re in the dog park, you should never spend the entire time looking down on your phone. Also, don’t gossip too much that you’re already missing out on what your dog is doing. You must always take charge so your dog won’t get in trouble.

Besides, dog parks are meant for you and your dog to bond. Never let dogs figure it out on their own. It would be a recipe for dog fights.

If you don’t keep watch of your dog, it could bolt down through the entrance if someone happens to open the gate.

8.     Dog parks aren’t for aggressive dogs

Sure, dog parks are excellent places to socialize your dog. However, if you have an aggressive dog that isn’t disciplined, you must get it trained first before making the trip to the park. An aggressive dog will only harm other dogs and even the people around them.

Dog parks don’t fix aggression issues, let alone instill discipline on a canine. It can only lead to sensory overload, which will trigger more aggression on your pooch.

What you need to do is seek professional guidance on how to deal with dog aggression.

9.     Exercise your dog before bringing it to the park

A hyper and overzealous canine will be a big problem in the dog park. An under-exercised dog will interact rudely with other dogs and even cause excitability among other canines.

Aren’t dog parks meant for dog exercise? Yes and no. Yes, you can use dog parks for added exercise, but not as the only means of physical stimulation for your dog. You may want to burn some of the extra energy so your dog won’t go neurotic once it sees other canines.

If you live near a dog park, consider walking your dog to it. If not, give your dog a head start at home with some physical and mental stimulation. A walk around the neighborhood also works.

10.  Watch out for resource-guarding

One of the most common problems among canines in the dog park is resource guarding. This happens when a dog becomes aggressive when other dogs try to get its toy, food, or water. So if your pooch has resource guarding behavior, we recommend training it first or sticking to the leashed area of the park.

A resource guarding canine isn’t only annoying, but also potential harm for other dogs. They can become aggressive even against humans.

11.  Don’t bring food

Although parks make a great picnic place for humans, it’s not true with dogs. Avoid bringing food or treats inside the dog park if you don’t want to be followed and crowded by other canines. Since dogs have a strong sense of smell, hiding the kibble on your pocket isn’t enough to mask its scent.

If you want to reward your dog for good behavior, use affection and praise instead. You should explore other means of rewards aside from food.

12.  Leave small kids at home

Small kids and infants have no place in the dog park. Young children don’t know the harm that awaits them in the park. And if a dog fight breaks near a child, it would be very disastrous. So no matter how much your kid begs to go, just leave them home instead of compromising their safety.

Large dogs can easily knock out a small kid. It’s possible that your child will get beaten by a dog, especially if you’re not watching over. 

13.  Ask permission before petting another dog

Dog parks might be filled with dogs, but you should always ask for permission before petting any of them. Take note that each dog responds differently to strangers. If a dog owner refuses for you to pet their dog, don’t take it personally. It’s possible that the dog is aggressive on other people or is scared of strangers. It’s for the dog and your safety.

14.  Know your dog’s signals

Like humans, dogs have various reactions to certain situations. And as the pet owner, you must know how to pick it up so you can rescue your dog from the situation.

For example, if your dog’s tail is tuck and the pooch is looking on the ground while surrounded with other dogs, it’s usually a call for help. Also, dogs with bared teeth and high heads are ready to fight. You must distract your pooch before anything happens. You can use a toy or just call the dog’s name to get its attention.

15.  Know the right time to leave

Lastly, you should know when to leave. The problem with some pet owners is they let their dog go loose and then carry them when it’s time to go. This is wrong and your doggo would surely fight back. Instead, play with your dog while you’re in the park. This way, your pooch will not find it hard to leave because they associate fun with you.

And once you’ve exited the dog park, give your pooch a nice treat.

Final words

How do dog parks work? It can be a daunting place for newbie dog owners, but once you know what to do, you and your dog can have fun. Just make sure that you follow the rules and keep the etiquette in mind.

Do you have something to add to this post? Let us know in the comment section!