Dog parks or off leash hours in a dog friendly park can be amazingly fun and entertaining places for pet parents and their pooches. It's great to bring your dog to a communal park for playtime and to possibly meet their next best doggy friend. But let's face it, sometimes dog parks can be filled with more frustration and worry than the fun and the wrong kind of excitement. It's easy for humans and canines alike to get overwhelmed with all the different dog behavior, and personalities of other dogs and their people. To help tone down all of the chaos that can ensue, here are some basic guidelines that every pet parent should follow when visiting a dog park.
1- Pick up after your dog
First of all, it is important for everyone to pick up their dog's poop. I think we've all had that horrific moment of walking happily along when -squish- our nice clean sneakers are suddenly caked with brown stinky poop. It's never fun, and it's very easily avoided if everyone would take the time to clean up after their pet. If you are at a dog park or off leash and you notice someone's dog is taking a bathroom break and the owner doesn't react, it is perfetly ok to go over and say something neutral such as, "Is that your beagle over there? I think he just made a poop."
2 - Current on Vaccinations
It is important to make sure that every dog you bring to the park is current on all vaccinations. It is important to take into consideration the health and well-being of every dog at the dog park, and letting a dog that is not vaccinated out to play can be a serious health risk. Of course, if your pup has anything contageous from kennel cough to pink eye you should keep him home until the vet gives him the green light to return to pooch park civilization.
3 - Plays well with others
A good tip is to make sure your dog is comfortable around other dogs and people. Don't try to force a 'fraidy fido' into doing something he will not enjoy. It won't be fun for him and if his fear gets out of control he could act out and become dangerous. Also, if your dog doesn't have good doggy social skills, or can't be trusted to obey verbal commands, it would be better to keep him on a leash to avoid any conflicts with other dogs or people. Conversely, if your dog is agressive, work on behavior modification before you bring him to prime time.
4 - Supervise
As far as human etiquette goes, it is important to keep a close eye on your dog and what's going on around you in the park. It may be easy to get distracted talking to a friend or watching other dogs, but if a problem arises your dog will need you there and aware as soon as possible, not off to the side, distracted, chatting about your child's kindergarten teacher.
5 - Know the Rules
Check if there are rules in the park you are visiting against bringing treats, balls or toys. Many parks prohibit these to prevent canine "misunderstandings". Even if you are in a park that does not prohibit these objects of intense desire, be very, very careful and if you see any posessive behavior from your own dog or another, make the toy or the treat disappear, at least temporarily.
There are many things a pet parent can do to make time at a dog park an easy and fun social outing. Doing the basics is an easy way to help everything go smoothly and everyone to have a good, safe, and enjoyable time.
If you are in Brooklyn and are looking for new dog parks and dog friendly parks to explore, download our free eBook "Dog Friendly Brooklyn". It is a guide to 21 dog parks and off leash parks where you and your pup can have fun.