Dog parks can be wonderful places, but they can also pose some dangers to your dog. We are huge fan of dog parks (some days its the only way we ALL stay sane!), but there are some people that ruin it for the rest of us. So, here are some things to know so you aren’t “that jerk”
Do NOT bring your cat
You may laugh and say, WHAT? But Qwerty and I were at the dog park one night and a couple brought their 2 dogs and 2 KITTENS to the dog park. Yes, their kittens. Now, they thought they had good intentions, they had recently gotten the kittens and they wanted to kittens to be well socialized around dogs. As you should know I am a HUGE advocate of socialization (in kids, dogs, cats and all animals really), BUT there are appropriate places to socialize your cats and the dog park is NOT ONE OF THEM! You NEVER know if there is a dog who is aggressive towards cats, and even if your cat is on a leash, you are OUTSIDE away from home and if your cat gets away from you, its probably not going to come back. If a dog were to get a hold of your cat, they could EASILY kill it, or at the very least seriously injure it. Please find other ways to introduce your kitten to dogs.
Do NOT bring your sick dog
I, personally, would think this is common sense. If your dog is coughing, sneezing, has nose and/or eye discharge, please make sure they are seen by a veterinarian for proper care and DO NOT bring them to places where other dogs are, i.e. the DOG PARK! If your dog is sick, they should be resting and working on getting better. And its nice not to pass your dog’s illness on to some one else’s dog.
If your dog shows ANY signs of aggression, LEAVE
I get it, we go to the dog park to let our dogs run off some steam. You want to stay there until your dog is tired, but if your dog starts becoming aggressive for any reason, it is YOUR responsibility to leave. I do not care if your dog has never been aggressive before, they are acting aggressive now and you need to leave before a mistake happens. If your dog were to harm another dog, how would you feel? If your dog bites a person? You have a HUGE legal issue on your hand and can be held accountable by law. Any dog has the potential to become aggressive, it does not mean your dog is a bad dog, it means your dog is having a bad day, leave the dog park and try again later. If your dog continues to show aggression, then you need to contact a trainer and work with them, and until the aggression issue is under control, keep your dog leashed. If your dog does bite somebody, be the responsible party and pay for what ever treatment is needed, or at least offer. And be forth coming on your dogs rabies vaccination status (especially if it was a person that was bit), you may then find the owner less likely to press charges.
Pay Attention to your dog
Its hard, half the time I am not 100% certain where Qwerty is because he loves taking off and running in the tall grass, but I usually do have some idea of where he is and what other dogs and people are near him. This way I know if there is another dog that he doesn’t like, or the other way around. I know he isn’t going to just run into that older gentleman with the cane walking his older dog. I also know he didn’t just pick up a dead bird and eat it. Its important for many reasons to occasionally look up from your phone, or get up off the picnic table and just make sure you know where your dog is and at least make an attempt to monitor their activity. If you want a place to send your dog where you don’t have to be responsible, try doggy daycare.
Try to clean up after your dog (AND YOURSELF)
Now, here is one I stress the word try. I cannot always catch when Qwerty poops at the park, I do my best and when I do see him go, I will always pick it up. This helps prevent spread of intestinal parasites and other disease, but can also mean somebody else doesn’t step in your dogs poop. Nobody wants poop on their shoes! Another part of this is clean up after yourself. If you bring pop (yes, its POP, not soda), bottles with you, bring them out and recycle them, don’t leave cigarette butts laying around (better yet please don’t smoke in the dog park), and make sure you bring ANY trash you bring in OUT. Please try to leave the park the way you found it. (Better yet, leave the park, better, than you found it!)
Close the Gates!
Dog parks usually have double gates to get into the dog park. There is a very specific reason for this, it is so there is less of a chance for an unleashed dog to get loose. I have seen many times a person leave a gate open as they leave. It does not matter if there is a person close behind you, the gates are a safety feature and are deigned that you close them behind you EVERY TIME! Also do not get offended if somebody doesn’t hold the gate open for you, be happy that every one is closing the gate so no dogs get loose. If another dog gets loose, offer to help the owner get their dog back, but don’t just jump in because some dogs get scared if a stranger chases them. Make sure you communicate with the owner of the loose dog to make sure that your help will actually be helpful.
Do not get upset if another dog steals your dog’s toy
If you bring a dog to the dog park, it is like a child bringing a toy to their school, other kids are going to want to play with it. If you brought a tennis ball and another dog steals the ball, just take a deep breath. Most likely the dog will end up dropping it at some point and your dog will get it back. If you do want to bring toys to the dog park I recommend bringing inexpensive toys that you are willing to lose. We typically bring Qwerty’s dirtiest, most well loved Frisbee because we know there is a good chance he will get distracted by a bird and lose it in the tall grass. If another dog wants to play with it, go for it, the more the merrier! The dog park should be a fun place to interact, let’s all keep it fun!
Little Dog in big dog section
Many dog parks we go to have a large dog and a small dog section, this is for the safety of the smaller dogs, it give them a safe place to go where they are less likely to get injured by a bigger dog accidentally running into them. Some families have a big dog and a small dog and sometimes go into the large dog section with their little dog, this is understandable, BUT if you do this please do not get offended if a big dog is playing near your little dog, the big dog area is designed for that, big dogs.
Dog parks can be such great places for dogs to socialize and people to socialize as well, but it’s important to make sure that we are being considerate of other dogs and other people so we make sure that everyone can enjoy their time.
What bad behaviors have you seen at the dog park? Have you seen anyone go above and beyond to be a good dog park citizen?