This is a big one. And let’s face it, there are too many people who want to avoid this topic altogether.
“Because why do I need to know this stuff – my dog is an Angel…”
Right. And rightfully so, you can think that. Those that can admit their furry companion is a complete nut, and a disturbance to the peace of this aligning earth – well, salute. Because I have one of those, too.
But, that’s not to say other peoples’ dogs are ‘Angels’ when it comes to dog park ‘rules’ and regulations. And equally, it’s just as much being ‘dog’ rules as it is ‘dog owner’ rules. Some of these rules are generally unspoken because these rules are simply ‘courtesy’ rules. I’ll list and talk about those shortly.
So, let me just start off by saying: dog owners are the first to break these rules. And whether you’re a follower – doesn’t mean the other hundred people with you at the park are. I’m a firm believer that all dogs are perfect Angels – when they’re handled properly by their owner(s). So it’s safe to say everything that happens at the dog park comes down to actual dog owner etiquette – NOT the dogs.
- All dogs are required to be up-to-date on all vaccinations (rabies, dhlpp, canine influenza, etc.) and have proof of vaccinations (rabies collar specific) or you might be asked to leave the park
- Puppies under the age of 8 weeks are not permitted
- Intact males/females are not permitted to enter the park due to such incidents
- Outwardly aggressive dogs are not permitted to enter the park, unless on leash or wearing mouth guard (muzzle)
- Dog owners must pick up after their pets using the supplied doggy bags located throughout the park grounds
- Dog owners must refrain from allowing their pets to dig holes on premises
- Dog owners must be cautious and aware that the area is exposed to snakes, alligators and other wildlife while in the park
- Dog owners are not allowed to bring their dog into the bathroom areas (no exceptions)
- Dog owners must be aware of the gates, keeping them closed and being mindful of other dogs around while entering and exiting the gates
- All dog owners are responsible for their pets’ well being, and if such an incident occurs, it is the responsibility of the pet owners who are involved to take action
And those are just to name a few. And they’re all equally important. That’s why they’re rules. A lot of incidents might be avoided if people just simply followed them. But you know that never happens, right? Never.
Because far too many argue against the rules. Or they simply don’t care to put themselves, or others at risk.
One I hear too often is, “It’s not fair that I can’t bring my intact dog to the dog park – it’s my choosing not to spay or neuter my dog – and they shouldn’t be segregated from playing because of it.”
I’m walking on a very thin line when I say I understand those dog owners’ frustrations. Because many others would beg to differ. It is your choice not to spay/neuter your dog, but that doesn’t mean the dog owners of those who are fixed should suffer the consequences when your dog shows different behaviors at the dog park.
And although most would disagree entirely, with common knowledge and research – intact females and males spell out the fact that they are peaked in hormones (which affect behavior, also) than those who are not intact. Fixing your dog is not just for ridding the reproductive process.
So, first off, you’re highly at risk (for the utmost obvious reason) if you bring your intact female dog to the dog park. Because people break the ‘No Intact Dogs’ rule so often, it’s likely you’ll find other intact dogs at the park as well as yours. And if you aren’t paying attention, well, you know what might happen. I should not have to explain any further.
Secondly, if you bring your intact male dog to the dog park, and he begins to terrorize other dogs by showing constant ‘dominance’ (such as the behavior of trying to mount other dogs; if you’re unsure what dominant behavior in dogs means, please do more research), then you are simply taking the enjoyment out for other dog owners and their dogs.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard dog owners fight with one another over this behavior, and how many times I have heard people blame the ‘humping’ as a way of dogs being ‘attracted’ to each other, whether it be male on male or female on female. That is NOT what it means – it may be in terms through the act itself – but the real behavior is for control.
With all of that said, here are a few general, unspoken courtesy rules dog owners should, and need to follow in terms of proper dog park etiquette.
For many who read through these will be saying hallelujah, but of course, for many others it will cast a shadow out on the dark world of ‘offensiveness’. But we all have to remember, we’re talking about dogs here, not actual human beings.
Proper Dog Park Etiquette For Dog Owners
Be mindful about what you wear and what to expect being at a dog park (this isn’t a fashion show, and not every dog is perfectly trained not to jump all over you)
The last thing people at the dog park want to see is a flailing, screaming woman who is irritated about dogs jumping all over her white pants and getting her cute sandals filthy. Nobody goes to the dog park to be on the cover of Glamour, or expecting to have a high end lunch somewhere afterwards. Dress the part.
Be AWARE of where your dog is and what he/she is doing and who he/she is playing with (you never know IF and WHEN a good situation could turn for the worst)
The most annoying pet peeve is noticing when dog owners are blatantly not watching their dog – especially when they should be. I understand, a lot of people bring their dog to the dog park to release energy, while it might be nice to catch up on some reading, studying or what have you.
But it should be noted that for every minute you aren’t watching your dog, that’s a minute too late for something to have happen. And if something was to happen to your dog, or your dog starts something with another dog – you’re at fault, entirely, either way.
If your dog is tampering with another dog, while clearly the owner of the other dog is trying to get your dog away from his – do your part, pay attention, run over to your dog and cease the situation. Whether your dog was being too rough with another, having aggressive behavior, or trying to dominate, don’t let someone else be the one to handle your dog in the situation.
If your dog is ‘mounting’ other dogs, please, PLEASE, take action to stop it
This, of all things, has got to be one of the most unspoken complaints among the dog owners who’s dog is the one being ‘mounted’. Not only does this create weakness within the dog being ‘mounted’, but it also means the dog ‘mounting’ is looking for a way to control other dogs.
This behavior could erupt a dog fight, and it enhances attention from other dogs, which can also lead to ongoing dog fights. Many dogs who fall victim to being ‘mounted’ can actually avoid it happening by themselves, which is a great sign that your dog isn’t willing to submit and can basically say “No”.
The worst part are the dog owners who find this kind of behavior ‘natural’ or ‘normal’. No, it isn’t. Because dogs do ‘mount’ in a manner that is sexual, behaviorally the dog is trying to dominate the other, or be the Alpha. Think of it in terms of people, doing those actions.
Yeah, sounds like control and rape to me. And the turn out of that happening for male on male people would end in a fight – you bet. Well, you’re going to find that 1% who doesn’t care when this happens to their dogs or if their dog acts on that, but I guarantee you 99% are annoyed, uncomfortable and appalled by this behavior entirely.
So, if you’re dog is the one ‘mounting’ – physically separate your dog from that dog he/she is mounting, and simply handle the situation so he won’t again. Yes, dogs are dogs, but you won’t be saying that the next time your dog tries to mount another dog who won’t stand for it, snaps back at your dog, and in turn creating and causing an avoidable dog fight.
And if you’re dog is the one submitting to being ‘mounted’, pull off the dog who is ‘mounting’ yours by the collar or scruff. If the owner of that dog comes forward, politely ask that he make sure his dog isn’t allowed to do that to your dog. If no one comes forward, attempt to move your dog to another spot in the park.
This literally happened one time for me, where I had to basically move my dog to the entrance of the park as if to leave, before the owner of the intact dog who kept mounting mine noticed his dog at the gate. I was furious, because that owner hadn’t noticed what his dog was doing until he saw his dog at a probability of ‘escaping the park’. He didn’t notice my attempt of avoiding his dog, moving my dog away from his, and yet that his dog wouldn’t leave mine alone without trying to ‘mount’ him.
And the moment I spoke about keeping his dog from trying to dominate mine, he instantly was thrown off. And as likely as I thought it would, I advised that since he didn’t understand what that kind of behavior meant that he should probably leave the park before aggression occurs (whether from his dog, or others due to his dog’s behavior). Of course, infuriated, he refused to leave. So I left.
But why should I have to? My dog did everything he actually could to avoid that dog, yet my dog couldn’t enjoy himself without having that intact dog constantly trying to ‘mount’ him. And yet, the act is still a lose/lose battle today with dog owners.
Know what to expect when you decide to bring your young CHILDREN to the dog park
A crowded, high energy, unpredictable dog park is simply not the place for children. Especially for those under the age of 5. It creates such frustration when I see people bring toddlers to the park, and parents watch them run around and play like it’s a children’s playground. But then these are the people that play cry wolf when their child gets seriously hurt.
It will only take one unexpected incident to have those parents in a raging fit over dogs trampling their child to the ground, mistaken your child for a chew toy or having your child attempt to reach out to the dog who is NOT child-friendly.
This is not the place where dog owners should have to avoid children, period.
Rough play isn’t always the IDEAL play for everyone
Some dogs like casual play – like chasing, tag, and light wrestle. While other dogs like play biting, growling, shoving and full on impact play like it’s touch football. While all kinds of play is fine, some dogs may not fancy the types of play brought on by other dogs.
It’s important for both sides of the playing field (dog owners) to keep a watch on the activity level, if it’s a positive or negative play, and take action when it does become negative. Everyone is responsible for their own pet in this type of situation.
For God’s sake, PICK UP your dog’s dang poop
For many reasons more than one. Dogs can carry parasites, your dogs can step, lay or roll in it, dog owners could step in it, and hell – your 5 year of child you brought might try to play with it. It’s such an easy step we can all make for a cleaner park, and what’s going to be to blame if your dog ends up with parasites, knowing you one of those who refuses to pick up your dog’s poop at the dog park. No one to blame but yourself there.
And for those who do, THANK YOU. I don’t want to say ‘be nice, and pick it up if you see another dog going and no owner who’s cleaning it up’, but if you know who the owner of the dog is… speak up!
If your dog is showing aggression towards a dog or group of dogs, do yourself and others a favor and restrain your dog, remove them from the situation, put your dog on a leash and/or leave the park if it continues.
It’s as simple as that. If your dog is the one bringing on the aggression (and I’m talking to a point where you’ve had to break up your dog from another), it’s not everyone else who needs to leave the dog park. It’s come to a point where you and the other dog need to separate, possibly be put on their leashes for the rest of the time being, or leave the park entirely.
People don’t understand that it literally can take .5 seconds for a fight to break out, without warning. And if you’re not paying attention while it is happening, you could end up with a large vet bill, and possibly the other dog’s bill.
If you KNOW your dog is aggressive, has shown aggression toward other dogs, or has the history of aggression – I just have one question: WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO EVEN POSSIBLY PUT OTHER DOGS AT RISK?
Don’t lose your marbles over the toy you brought to the park possibly being stolen or broken
I’ve seen this far too many times. And all I can do is laugh about it. The person who is beside themselves in the midst of another dog who has stolen their dog’s tennis ball or favorite frisbee. It’s uncanny to watch, as if they honestly thought every dog out of the fifty located throughout the park weren’t going to have the same interest as his dog.
Therefore, I shouldn’t need to go deeper into this. Don’t bring a toy you don’t expect to have back. Know there’s a chance you’ll forever never see it, or it be broken by another dog. Dog owners are generally nice when they notice their dog has stolen someone else’s toy, but don’t expect that every time.
Dog owner to dog owner: help each other out from time to time
I’ll watch dog owners who are trying to leave the park race around catching their dog for hours on end. It’s the one place dogs will lose all moral and just be dogs while they can. Help someone out when you can, if you can get a hold of their dog for them. It will make their day so much easier.
And that among other things. Just think about if you would want help from someone in any given situation where you needed it.
Know when it’s time to call it quits
Unfortunately, when you’re involved in a sticky situation (which happens at least once each time I go to the dog park), there comes a point when you might have to be the bigger person and simply leave the dog park. Like I have stated, there will be dog owners who find their dog’s behavior acceptable (whether this means their dog is constantly picking fights with your dog, or is mounting your dog) and refuses to do anything about it.
In the back of your mind you will be thinking, “He should be the one to leave. My dog isn’t sabotaging everyone else and the other dogs’ good time.” And while I totally agree, the question is how to go about telling another dog owner they need to leave the park (without it having law enforcement involved or creating a scene for yourself)? Sometimes it’s best to understand that its not a good day for the dog park and leave the situation altogether.
They make small dog parks/yards for a reason
I’m completely tickled when smaller dog owners make a scene about other dogs harassing and basically mortifying their poor, innocent dog, for no reason. First of all, there’s not ‘no reason’, especially if your already fearful, small dog is creating a scene to bring about the attention from every other dog in the park, and that isn’t the fault of the other dogs in the park.
That’s why parks nowadays have ‘smaller dog areas’, and nobody likes to abide by them, because not many use them. If your dog is small, easily fearful, or overly submissive to other dogs – it might be a good idea to move them to a less dense area, the smaller dog area, or consider not bringing them to the dog park period. How your dog reacts to the attention of other dogs isn’t everyone else’s fault, and nobody else should have to leave.
If it’s not your dog, it could be others’ dogs
Just think about this the next time you take the leash off your dog at the dog park. It’s just like driving. You may know you’re an EXCELLENT driver – superb, in fact, without ever having an accident – but that doesn’t mean you’re not likely to be in one. If it’s not you, it’s everyone else out there you have to watch out for.
Same in the dog world. Your dog may be a Saint, but there could always be that one dog looking for a fight, who tries to dominate yours, or the one who simply sets your dog off without reason. It’s best to pay close attention either way.
Going to the dog park IS supposed to be an easy and fun activity for both you and your dog. But you’re bringing your dog (who you should already trust being around other dogs) into a very loose environment where ANYTHING can happen. All it takes is the wrong place at the wrong time.
Dogs are dogs, and will be dogs, remember that
And the last thing to remember is this: ALL dogs are dogs, they’re forever be dogs, and you can’t predict what your dog will and won’t do. But you can know signs of bad behavior, whether it coming from your own dog, or from another. You can know how to best handle the situation, avoid a horrible outcome by taking action, and paying attention to your dog at all times.
The next time you take your dog to the dog park, keep a watchful eye out for this etiquette. I guarantee you won’t see but 3 out of 10 people respecting all of them. And while others are breaking the rules, they’re the ones feeling the hurt and reaping the consequences of breaking them at some point – this I promise you. If you abide by this etiquette, you should have a delightful dog park experience each time.