Dog Park Etiquette

Learn the Do’s and Don’ts of dog parks and get the most out of your next visit.

Introduction - Read This First!

Dog parks can be a wonderful way to get outside, exercise your dog, and make new friends. These basic safety and etiquette recommendations will help you be calm and confident at the park, so you can be the best dog parent you can be!

Benefits Of Dog Parks

Socialization For Dogs

Dogs, and especially young dogs, should socialize with all kinds of personalities, breeds, and ages of dogs. This way they will learn how to interact politely and safely in the future, reducing the chances of behavioral or aggression problems towards dogs

Socialization For Humans!

Having a fun and social life is probably why you got a dog in the first place! It’s not all about training and vet visits. Go to the park, make some friends, and relax in a fun and supportive environment.

Exercise

Many annoying behavioral problems with dogs can be solved by simply getting them more exercise! Make sure your dog is happy, healthy, and well stimulated. Before getting too worried about behavior problems, ask yourself “Does my dog just need to get some energy out?”

How To Approach And Enter

Loose Leash, No Pulling

Tension on the leash will cause your dog to get agitated more than they should when entering the dog park. Approach the gate in the same way you would with any other distractions. Use whatever treats, communication, or other tools you need to maintain a smooth and calm approach.

“Wait” At The Door For Calm

Waiting at the door to go into the dog park should be treated the same as any other door. Have your dog sit, tell them “wait”, and make sure to ENFORCE it! Don’t let them run through the door until you give them the OK!

No Barking Or Staring

“Barrier Frustration” is a common issue with dogs when they are annoyed that they can’t interact with the dogs on the other side of a door, fence, etc. When this happened, barking or hard-staring at dogs through the fence can lead to an altercation when your dog gets into the park. This is tough to avoid if the fence surrounding the park is the typical metal wire style.

Allow Good Play And Stop Bad Play

Dogs May Play Rough And Vocalize

Dog play involves practicing behaviors like hunting and fighting, so it makes sense that play might look scary if you don’t know what to look for! However, if the play gets too rough, it may escalate, so being able to recognize the difference is very important!

Stopping Overly Rough Play

Learn to recognize the difference between rough play and play that is escalating to a dangerous level of intensity. If it gets to be too much, you may have to “be the adult in the room” and break up the play session. 

Back And Forth Chasing Is Good!

Dog play involves practicing behaviors like hunting and fighting. Learn to recognize the jumping, mouthing, chasing, and barking that is central to all bouts of play. 

Stop One-Sided Play Or Chasing

When dogs play, the biggest sign that everything is OK is that both dogs continue to COME BACK for more, and keep playing. The ideal situation is when you can see lots of “Role Reversal” where one dog is the chaser, then they switch sometimes to the other dog can be the chaser. If the playing is too unequal, you may need to step in and stop play for a bit. 

Safety

Vaccines

Make sure your dog is fully vaccinated before visiting a dog park, as you never know what other dogs have visited there recently. Viruses and bacteria can be transmitted from other dogs or from the environment as well. Be safe with puppies who aren’t vaccinated yet.

Muzzles

Some dogs may require more help to become more comfortable in the social environment of a dog park. Responsible owners and trainers who are helping a dog build confidence or social skills will often use a muzzle as a safety component in their training. Talk to your trainer if you think your dog would benefit from this helpful tool.

Resource Guarding

You may encounter some tennis balls, sticks, or other toys at a dog park. Be aware if your dog may guard these “resources”, and pay attention to other dogs who may be insecure about guarding toys. If your dog has any issues, check out our introductory lessons on resource guarding, and consider speaking with a professional trainer about improving this behavior.

Leave If Your Dog Is Overwhelmed

Always remember that you should be your dogs biggest advocate. Your job is to care for them and make sure they feel safe and protected. Cutting a visit to the dog park short is totally fine if your dog isn’t having a good time. Maybe there are too many dogs, some rough-housing dogs, or they are just not feeling well.

Pick Up After Yourselves!

This should seem obvious, but CLEAN UP YOUR DOGS POOP! Many dog parks will have poop-bag stations and garbage cans to make it even easier.

Helpful Obedience For Dog Parks

"Useless" Recalls

The secret to getting your dog to come to you when it’s time to leave the park is to do lots of recalls throughout the visit. These are called “useless recalls” because 99% of them will be unnecessary, but the last one will be to leave the park.

Emergency Downs

A reliable “down” may just help your dog stay out of trouble if a fight breaks out, the gate is left open, or something else goes awry at the dog park.

"Leave-It"

A good, positive leave-It is great for dog parks because it gives you the confidence to know that you can steer your dog away from any food, toy, or animal that may put them in a dangerous situation. Just make sure you teach it right: with positivity, clear communication, and slow gradual improvements.

Still Have Questions?

Still Have Questions?

Ask About Anything Not Covered In This Lesson

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