Rules of etiquette should be followed in almost every social setting — family dinners, birthday parties, concerts and even dog park gatherings.
Forgetting that you aren’t the only one enjoying the park could end up making you look rude or dumb.
To get the most out of your and your pup’s visit, avoid making these 5 mistakes.
1. Not Cleaning Up After Your Dog
This should never happen for a few reasons:
- If you’re going to a dog park, bring poop bags.
- If you don’t have bags, other people there will happily spare a couple.
- If you don’t want to ask for a bag, you can likely find a bag dispenser — most parks have them.
Not picking up waste can put other pets at risk. Many parasites and illnesses are spread through feces, so it’s important to keep other dogs from walking through it or even eating it (gross). Not to mention, someone could step in your dog’s mess, and trust me — no one likes stepping in dog poo.
2. Bringing a Female Dog in Heat
Almost all dog parks include in their list of rules a few visitors who are not welcome:
- Aggressive dogs
- Sick dogs
- Dogs in heat
While keeping aggressive and sick dogs at home is a no-brainer, not everyone knows about the dangers of of taking a dog in heat to the dog park.
Even if your dog is the only unaltered pet, she can still draw lots of unwanted attention from other dogs. This can lead to fights and, if she comes across an intact male dog, your girl could wind up pregnant.
Aside from the obvious solution of avoiding the dog park when your female is in heat, perhaps consider getting her spayed so you can both enjoy the dog park whenever you want.
3. Not Paying Attention to Your Dog
For those of us without a fenced-in yard, a dog park can be a liberating place where Shadow can run without a leash and socialize at the same time.
Even though the gated fence means you don’t have to worry about Shadow running away, it doesn’t mean that you can start an intense game of Candy Crush and ignore Shadow completely. Interact with him — throw the ball and take some pictures. You can even get in some human socialization with other folks there.
But always check on Shadow from time to time. It’s your responsibility to clean up after him — or lasso him when he tries to slip out of the gate as another dog enters the enclosure (this happens a lot).
Enjoy the freedom of the park, but always be responsible.
4. Being Unnecessarily Overprotective
People with newly adopted dogs or puppies who aren’t entirely used to the dog park dynamic often overreact to their pet’s new playmates.
If you’re not familiar with how dogs behave in social environments, then don’t be surprised when dogs at the park are:
- Loud: Barking and even some growling is common.
- Rough: They will run and tumble and come out covered in mud.
- Tireless: Those play sessions can go on and on.
Before becoming the overbearing parent who shoos away the other playful dogs, sit back and take cues from the other humans. Your dog will benefit from the social time, and you might learn a thing or 2 about dog play.
Here are a few more tips that’ll make the dog park a happy place for you and your pet:
5. Picnicking Next to the Dogs
Recently, I watched a couple of women walk into a busy dog park, unleash their dog and sit down on the bench to eat fast food. Predictably, the smell attracted all of the park’s furry guests.
The women chatted and ate, oddly oblivious to the pack of dogs sitting around them, begging for a scrap. They finally finished eating, but not before half the dogs were leashed and removed from the park after the distraction ruined the fun for everyone. The purpose of a dog park is not for you to eat lunch — it’s to give pups a place to run safely and play with other dogs.
The simplest way to avoid making a mistake is to be courteous and consider your actions when you’re in the dog park. It’s there for everyone to enjoy.