In Part 1 of this series, we covered the ways you will need to prepare your dog for going to a dog park. These steps are important for you and your dog to be good dog park citizens. Now, let's look at how pet parents are expected to be excellent dog park participants.
1. Take your dog off the leash when you enter a dog park
Dog parks are leash-free areas. Leashes tend to create problems at a dog park because keeping your dog in tow, restricts his movement and other dogs see this as an advantage to them. Do not use leashes when inside the enclosed area unless you absolutely have to in order to remove your dog from the park.
An 'anteroom' to unleash your dog before entering the park. (Image)
When a new dog enters an enclosed dog park area, he will generally be checked out at the entrance by other dogs. Let your dog off leash as soon as possible, preferably before he gets the once-over by the others. There is often a little 'anteroom,' like the one in the photo above, a separate gated area where dogs can be released from their leashes before coming into the actual dog park. It is the same area where dogs should be put on their leads before leaving the park.
2. Don't bring toys.
Unless you are going to the park off-hours when other dogs are not around, don’t bring them. They can start dog fights.
3. Watch your dog.
a ... For dangerous situations: You are responsible for your dog’s behavior and for making sure your dog is safe from more aggressive dogs. Know the signs of aggression in other dogs and the signs of fear in your own dog. Remove your dog from the area if she is afraid or being aggressive.
Watch for signs of aggression or submission in your dog and other dogs. Submission can make aggressive dogs more aggressive. (image)
b... To prevent your dog from eating anything off the ground or drinking from a communal bowl. Whatever he’s eating, he should not be eating. Bring your own water for your dog and let him drink it from a bottle or his own bowl. Don't allow other persons to feed your dog anything!
c... For poop patrol! When your dog poops you’re responsible for picking it up, immediately.
4. Don’t bring young children with you. A dog park is not a petting zoo.
I'll tell you a secret that no one else will tell you at the dog park. Pet owners may smile at your kid and say, "Oh, how cute," but they don't want your kid or any other kid there. Pet parents have monitoring to do without adding a child to the mix. Focus on your dog and the dogs around her.
5. Stay off your phone.
There's nothing that incurs more anger at a dog park than people who talk or text incessantly on their cell phones while their dogs are making a nuisance of themselves. Either your dog's just pooped and you haven's noticed, or he's trying to catch another dog's tail, or barking like crazy, or whatever... The reason you are at the dog park is to supervise your dog, not to make your business or personal calls.
6. Keep your dog with other same size dogs, if possible.
I reserved this advice for last as, believe it or not, there can be some controversy about it. It's generally true that dogs will interact better at a dog park with dogs of his size, and most dog park parents will remind you of that if you 'cross a line.' But, honestly, personality has a lot to do with how dogs get along. If you have a small dog that intimidates other small dogs, try bringing him in with the medium or large dogs and see how he does. Just be prepared to remove him if he's intimidated by them.
Likewise, if you larger dog is timid or just not up to racing around, try her out in the small or medium section of the dog park.
There are usually more ‘rules’ or expectations posted at the park, which I'll share in Part 3, tomorrow. If rules are not posted by the management of the dog park, it will be the job of pet parents to enforce unwritten rules, and, believe me, that’s a job you don’t want.
Tomorrow's dog park post will cover what you should look for to find the best dog park for you and your dog to enjoy.