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Liz Langham, MS, CPDT-KA
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Etiquette in the (Dog) Park

Heading to the park with the dog for a walk after work or on a weekend with the family has long been a favorite pastime and great way to meet others with a like mind—for you and the dog. These days, however, some of those who bring their dogs to public gathering places are not cleaning up after their dogs, the dogs are sometimes allowed to jump on people or they are out of control, attack other dogs and invade picnics.

Because of this irresponsible and unsociable behavior, parks and beaches are beginning to be closed to off-leash dogs nationwide. The result of the banishment is under-socialized dogs, overweight dogs and dogs with excess energy. These conditions may result in redirected energy release expressed as digging, excessive chewing and in severe cases separation anxiety.

The following is a list of dog park etiquette, which is meant as an addition to the rules posted at the park. Always read any postings at the site you visit.
  • If you forget your poop bags, stop at the local dispenser and grab two. Exercise and excitement elicit elimination. Be prepared to pick up your dog’s poop or offer a bag to a park user who may have missed her dog’s elimination.
  • Always come prepared with a leash and collar, with tags.
  • Your dog should be able to be called off any distraction before it considered to be secure off leash at a multi-use park. If your dog is not reliable, tie a 50-foot laundry cord to its collar so you can step on the cord if you need to get his attention or reel him in.
  • Your dog should get along well with other dogs if she is to be off-leash at a park. A park is no place for her to practice aggression or other anti-social behaviors. If she has aggression issues, find another outlet for off-leash energy release, such as swimming, running through the woods or fetching.
  • Put your dog on leash if you are walking down a trail or path and you come across another dog that is on-leash. It is safe to assume that if a dog is on-leash it is not ready to engage with a dog running up to it. Keep the on-leash dog safe and your dog, too.
  • If dog on dog engagement makes you feel uneasy—trust your intuition—break it up. Give the dogs about a minute of time out and then let them play again. If they get “over the top” again, it is time to leave or go for a walk.
  • Always keep an eye on your dog. He is your responsibility. Follow social cues—no humping, predatory chasing, such as nipping another dog’s back or legs or uneven play, such as one dog trying to get away because of fear and the others persistently chasing, or one dog constantly being rolled-over.

  • Dog parks are social places for dogs and humans. However, do remember that many populations also use the places we bring our dogs to exercise. Dog owners should be ready to accept that their dog may not be a good candidate for sites with human traffic and/or a high dog volume. Be kind, courteous and respectful. We want to keep the parks and beaches open to all public users.

    Written by Liz Harrison
    Tree Frog Farm Personalized Dog Training and Agility Farm
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