Manners at the Dog Park – Yes Please!

dog park etiquette

“Stick” to these rules for a happy, healthy dog park experience!
photo source: aspca.org

Are you thinking of visiting the dog park? A canine gathering is wonderful if everyone remembers their manners. Polite behavior, alongside personal respect, is essential when a group of people and dogs get together. Read on to learn great dog park etiquette and how to achieve it.

When you visit the dog park the first thing to remember is that you are responsible for the behavior of your dog. No matter how he/she chooses to interact, the overall responsibility is yours. Just as if he were a child in the playground – because after all, for many of us, our dogs are like our children, right?

Dog Park Manners – Etiquette Explained

  • When entering the dog park, open the gate carefully. There are usually many dogs running around – leaving the gate open too long may encourage an escape!
  • Take caution when nearing a dog that is on leash. The dog may be experiencing barrier frustration or fear and if any dog bounds up to him while he is one of these emotional states, it may trigger an aggressive reaction.
  • Watch the behavior of other dogs carefully – look out for bullying by your dog or others. You can see this when one dog doesn’t want to continue the interaction and the other just keeps coming. Some basic research on canine behavior will prepare you to read dog-to-dog communication and we highly recommend it for both fascination and safety.
  • It’s okay to bring along a toy if there is ample space in the park or you are alone with your dog.  But, be very selective in whether or not it’s a good time to play. Toys create natural competition between dogs (so does food in the dog park, sometimes even water). Don’t expect other dogs to leave your toy alone just because you were the one who brought it!
  • Always pick up after your dog, no-one wants to step in a stinky mess.
  • Don’t feed treats to someone else’s dog without their permission, the dog could be allergic or dieting. You could also be ruining their recall.
  • A little roughness and growling is normal – but keep an eye out for escalating intensity in physical contact or vocalizations, chest bumping while standing on the hind legs, and chasing or pinning a dog that doesn’t want to play anymore. You want to let your dog be a dog, but you also don’t want to be naïve. Learn the difference between play and conflict that can turn serious. Group fights can be very dangerous.
  • Match your dog up with a playmate that seems to have the same style. How do you know? If both dogs keep coming back to each other to play, they are probably a great match.

A properly socialized and well-managed dog can make it fun everyone in the dog park, including of course himself. A doggy diplomat knows to greet newcomers with a little space, and how to have fun with the “regulars” in the park who want to play.

The added bonus of the dog park is that you get to hang with like-minded dog lovers whilst your four-legger plays his paws off. Ideally, your dog gets in enough exercise and social time to ensure he comes home truly happy and exhausted. A tired dog is better behaved – and that will make you happy, too.

Interested in taking your love for dogs to another level? Check out our professional dog trainer courses and become a dog trainer today!

5 Responses to Manners at the Dog Park – Yes Please!

  1. Iyer says:

    Hi,

    My dog often eats poop of other dogs in the park and when i ask her to leave it or even if i step close to her to correct her, she just runs away. She is a good dog and in the park, if i ask her to sit, wait or even a leave it when playing roughly with other dogs, she listens to me, but this is the only thing that she just refuses to listen. How do i correct this bad behavior when she is off leash. The way i’ve been correcting her now is, i just run away from her and not make any eye contact with her and ignore her for a brief period. Is there a better way to stop this?

  2. Iyer says:

    Hi,

    My dog often eats poop of other dogs in the park and when i ask her to leave it or even if i step close to her to correct her, she just runs away. She is a good dog and in the park, if i ask her to sit, wait or even a leave it when playing roughly with other dogs, she listens to me, but this is the only thing that she just refuses to listen. How do i correct this bad behavior when she is off leash. The way i’ve been correcting her now is, i just run away from her and not make any eye contact with her and ignore her for a brief period. Is there a better way to stop this?

    Thanks
    Rajani

  3. David Muriello says:

    Hi Rajani, Keep in mind the biggest motivator in the environment always wins (in other words, it will always drive behavior). So, your dog is only doing what she finds rewarding (as gross as it is to us – and as unhealthy as it can be in the case of pets – eating feces is actually normal for a lot of animals, including dogs). Simply put, when off-leash with no one to interrupt her – eating stool is a lot more fun than not eating stool. Therefore, the only ways to change the behavior in a dog-friendly way would be to stay close enough to interrupt (often impossible, I know) or to train an alternate behavior that is MORE rewarding. For example, you could teach her a signal word that means to come to you for outrageously good food rewards. In training this is essentially a recall (see other posts in this blog about good recalls) and it is best taught at first in low-distraction environments with high value rewards. Once your dog is great at it, you can only use this signal when you see her sniffing around for poop. Executed well and frequently, you could even reach the point where when she smells poop, she automatically runs to you for a reward instead of eating the stool. It would take practice, but is definitely achievable. The only thing you have to watch out for is having high-value rewards in the dog park. Other dogs will smell/see them and it can cause conflicts if you’re not careful.

    • Iyer says:

      Thanks David. This is very helpful. We are so used to correcting our dogs the human way, that it never strikes us we can try some alternate ways that will be fun, motivating and rewarding. She knows the “touch” recall command, which always earns her high value treats. Will try that out. Thanks for your help!

  4. Pingback: Dog Park Etiquette: The Do's and Don'ts - Dog ON It Parks Blog

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