dog-park-manners-1 Dog parks are lively, bouncy environments that to the outside eye look chaotic, intense and perhaps even a little bit scary. Fortunately, however, they are more often than not very welcoming places — a friendly subculture of pet parenthood that allows dogs and their people to socialize and enjoy some rejuvenating fresh air.

Like any culture though there is a certain etiquette that comes with going to an off-leash dog park. Here are six important dog park manners to mind (assuming that your pupster already has great recall)…
Dogs sometimes like to great new arrivals to the park boisterously and will run up wildly to say hello. If this happens while you are arriving in the off-leash area and your dog is still on leash, keep calm to help your dog keep calm. This sort of greeting is completely different from a strange dog charging up to you on a street; although it may still be a bit nerve-wracking.

Do not yell, stiffen or try to shoo the greeters away. Allow all the dogs to sniff each other (that is their way of saying hi officially) and let your dog off to join in on the fun. Ideally you will want to let your dog off leash as soon as you pass an off-leash sign to avoid being in the middle of the park with lots of dogs running up while your dog is still not free.

If your dog is fearful of having other dogs run up to them both on and off leash, an off-leash dog park may not be the best environment for them. Consider instead a small doggie daycare group or dog-walker or go to your local dog park during less busy times of the day.

dog-park-manners-32. IT’S NOT ALL FUN & GAMES
While it is true that dogs will be dogs and play roughly with one another — they’ll chase around wildly, wrestle like there is no tomorrow and happily bark until they lose their voices — it isn’t always all fun and games at the park. Keep an eye on your dog’s body language and behaviour to avoid any undesirable incidents.

If your dog is being hounded relentlessly by another, despite trying to get away, growling or giving usual signs to back off, it is perhaps wise to intervene. Similarly, if your dog is the over-excited one who fails to recognize another’s signs to call it quits, direct them away to another area of the park.

Likewise if your dog is jumping all over other people or poking noisily around other people’s belongings, step in to correct their behaviour. Remember that a dog park is a public space and that you are responsible for your dog’s behaviour. Do not allow your dog to do whatever they please just because it is the dog

You may be outside in a large grassy field, but that doesn’t mean you should let your dog do their business just anywhere and then leave it be. Imagine how horrid dog parks would become if every four-legged visitor did that? Pe-eww! Keep a mindful eye on your pup as they frolic and bag their ‘doo.’ Forget your doggie bags? Just ask a fellow dog park visitor for one (or two so you’re covered on the walk home as well!)

Lots of dogs like to play fetch at the park, so bringing balls and Frisbees is a lot of fun. Squeaky toys, however, are widely regarded as a dog park faux-pas. Squeaky toys are designed to speak to a dog’s natural hunting instincts and are very much loved by dogs of all shapes and sizes. Bringing such an item — a high-value item — to a raucous dog park can mean disaster. Dogs may fight over the squeaky toy, so air on the side of caution and leave the high-pitched noises at home.

Treats are a no-brainer at the dog park and practically every pet parent will have them tucked away in their pockets. But don’t treat a dog other than your own without their person’s permission. While you may want to spoil the adorable new fluffball at the park with lots of goodies, a lot of dogs have allergies or are on special diets. Or sometimes dogs are being trained without food and treating unexpectedly can disrupt their progress.

You wouldn’t want a total stranger giving your kid candy, would you? The same principle applies to kiddies of the four-legged variety. Similarly, don’t assume you can pick up any dog you like — even if they are a squishy puppy. Respect the dog’s space and presence as well as their person’s and always ask before you treat.

Don’t be that person — the person who lets their dog off-leash and is then completely engrossed in their smart phone and oblivious to their dog’s whereabouts or antics. Your dog is your responsibility at the park. Make sure they are behaving in a dog polite manner (tip #2 above) and make sure you know where they are at all times so they don’t get lost.

Follow these tips and you’re dog will have a wonderful — and polite – park experience!

{Huge thanks to my incredible friend and talented artist Tonya Pet Photography for photographing this special “Pet Wellness” column.}


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