There are few places where dogs are free to roam outside of their backyards, and the local dog park happens to be one of those places. Dog parks provide a place where your furry family members can run, play and socialize in a large, fenced area.
While the dog park may tire out your pup in the best possible way, there are things to consider before going. As a pet owner, it’s important to adhere to basic guidelines and dog park etiquette to make sure the outing is enjoyable and safe for you, your pooch and others delighting in the local hot spot.
What you need to bring to the dog park
First, it’s important to come prepared to the dog park. We recommend packing a bag that’s filled with all the essentials. Common dog park-goers will have a backpack on hand, ready to go whenever the opportunity arises. Here’s what you’ll need when going to a dog park:
A leash is essential to safely escort your dog in and out of the dog park, as well as to restrict your dog should there be any canine misbehavior.
- Poop bags
It’s best practice to pick up after your pet as soon as they defecate to not spread germs and to ensure that other guests don’t step in it. With that being said, it’s crucial to keep an eye on your pet at all times.
- Water and water bowl
With friends to play with and a lot of romping room, your dog will likely become tired and thirsty quicker than usual. Bring water and a bowl so that your pet stays hydrated.
Some dog parks will have a bowl onsite, but it’s best to use your own so you know that the bowl is clean and the water is fresh.
- Dog wipes and shampoo
Since dog parks often have lots of pups running around, the turf tends to get torn up. Because of this, it’s easy for furry guests to get dirty. The weather can also be a factor. If it has recently rained or the ground is soft due to weather conditions, muddy paws and fur are likely to happen.
Because of this, we suggest carrying dog wipes and/ or shampoo to clean your pup before getting back into the car.
If your pet is highly incentivized by treats, feel free to bring some to have on hand. It’s best to carry them in an airtight container or resealable bag so that other dogs will not smell them and flock to you. While giving your dog a treat, do so discreetly so as to not flaunt treats in front of others.
Due to allergies and preferences, it’s important to note that you should not give treats to other people’s pets without asking.
- Pet Sunscreen
This one may seem like an outlier, but pet sunscreen is recommended for pets whose ears and noses are light-colored and have minimal pigment. If it’s sunny, make sure to apply the sunscreen before leaving your home and have some on hand to reapply if needed.
Dog park etiquette
When at the dog park, there are unspoken rules that pets and their owners need to follow. Here are the basics:
Never leave your dog unattended
The local dog park is not synonymous with doggie daycare. You must stay with your pet the entire time and watch over them to ensure they’re on good behavior.
Be aware of other pets and their owners
It’s best to keep a watchful eye on all guests (both human and canine) who are sharing the dog park with you. Not all owners discipline their pets the same way, so it’s important to watch how other dogs interact with yours in case an unfavorable situation arises and you need to step in.
Watch for body language
It’s unfortunate, but not all dogs brought to the park are friendly to both pets and people. Because of this, look for body language cues.
Happy, playful dogs will have a relaxed or curved body, soft ears and flattened coat. They may wiggle, wag their tails and have their mouths open with their tongue out.
Aggressive dogs may growl, have raised hair and erect or flattened ears. They may also showcase a body posture that’s lower to the ground with a tucked tail and drawn lips.
Stressed or anxious dogs have difficulty making eye contact. They may flatten their body, tuck their head and ears, yawn, whine or lick their lips.
Signs of aggression and stress mean your dog and/or others around them are not having fun and could be inclined to fight. In this case, take your dog home and consult your veterinarian or behaviorist before attempting another dog park visit.
Toys are community property
If you or another guest brings a toy into the dog park, know that it’s community property, meaning that any dog has the right to play with it. It’s also good to keep in mind that your toy may not come home with you, so don’t bring one of your pup’s favorites.
While retrieving toys can add an element of fun to your dog park experience, remember that competition can lead to skirmishes. If a dog sees a toy being thrown, they don’t know who that toy belongs to and a battle over resources could ensue. Be ready to stop a game if it leads to inter-dog conflict.
How to know if you shouldn’t bring your dog to the dog park
Although unfortunate, some dogs just aren’t cut out for the dog park due to their personality and/or lack of obedience. In other cases, it might be a matter of not having all the needed vaccinations.
Before going to your local dog park, your dog should be…
- Well-mannered around other humans and pets
- Obedient and know common commands like sit, stay, leave it and come when called
- Vaccinated based on local requirements
- Over four months of age
- Healthy and not showing signs of sickness, such as coughing, eye or nasal discharge, diarrhea and vomiting
As with any outing, it’s best to make sure you and your pet are prepared. When it comes to dog parks, familiarize yourself with what you need to bring, common dog park etiquette and how to know if you should steer clear from the park.
At Pet Butler, we’re here to help you and your furry friend live your best lives. We’ll free up your schedule by doing common chores like poop scooping so you have more time to do the things you love. Learn about our weekly, bi-weekly, monthly and one-time cleanup poop scooping services, as well as our other offers.