Dog Park Tips

Make Playtime All Bark and No Bite

Like any other community, dog parks have their problems. There are always dogs that won’t behave or that attack other dogs, people who either can’t or won’t discipline their dogs, folks who develop a strange blindness when their dog makes a mess, and those who decide they are in charge and have to run the dog park. Notice that the people cause more problems than the dogs?

Take Proactive Steps

Dogs sit together at park

Here are some suggestions gathered from dog park veterans that will make your dog park visits enjoyable:

Post the rules in writing.

If the park you visit doesn’t post rules, ask that this be done to enhance the visits for everyone. That way no one has an excuse for breaking them.

Take dogs at an early age.

If you want your dog to be friendly at the dog park, start taking him there while he’s a pup. Dogs need to socialize, and first visits to a dog park can be intimidating. He'll get used to being around other dogs and people, and will develop confidence quickly.

Keep emergency collars and leashes on hand.

If dogs do get out of hand, it can be very useful to have a stash of collars and leashes to get things under control. Some owners like to take their dogs’ collars off before going to the park, and others don’t even bring leashes. Keep a few leashes and choke collars in a nearby storage box or some other place that’s handy.

Ban treats.

Dogs will compete for treats. That can mean jostling and jumping, but it can also mean snapping, fighting and injury. The safest thing to do is insist that all park users refrain from bringing any dog treats. If they really want to reward their dog for a good session at the park, they can leave the treats in their car.

Dogs playing at a dog park

Discourage aggressive behavior.

Speak up if a dog gets aggressive more than once. Ask the owner to do something about his dog’s behavior. You may find yourself in an argument, but isn’t that better than dog bites, veterinary bills or even lawsuits?

Ask everyone to self-police.

You and your fellow dog park users are your own best friends, and nobody can prevent problems better than all of you. Discuss picking up poop if an owner misses it, separating dogs that get out of hand, reminding other owners of the posted rules, and so on.

Get to know people’s names.

How many of those who come to your dog park do you know by name? Or do you know most of them as “So-and-so’s owner?” It’s very easy to focus on the dogs and never learn about the owners. Keeping peace at the dog park is easier when you’re with friends, and friends know each other’s names. So ask. Write them down if you have to. Learn who your fellow dog park visitors are.