What should you and your dog

know about visiting a dog park?





Dog park etiquette and dog park rules are different.  Rules have to be followed to create a safe and fun environment for all creatures visiting the park, both human and canine.  Knowing basic dog park etiquette will simply help all dog park patrons be courteous to one another. Think of it as a canine Miss Manners.


Let's start there...

Dog Park Etiquette 101
  • Know your dog.  Humans at the park need to be able to recognize your dogs’ nonverbal behaviors to ensure that you know when your dogs are having fun or are feeling stressed, uncomfortable, defensive, or afraid.

  • Clean up after your dog.  Remember, as noted previously,  contrary to popular belief, there is no poop fairy.






  • Be present and vigilant.  A trip to the dog park means that the humans are paying attention to the interactions among the dogs at the park.  Dog parks are not dog day care.  Your job is to ensure that the dogs have fun and are safe.  That means putting away your electronic equipment and being present.

  • Don’t bring treats or toys. Dog parks are about canine interaction, not dog training.  Some pups are food-focused so the presence of treats can take their attention off their playmates and put it on your pocket or treat bag.  Some dogs are possessive of their toys so leave those in the car or at home as well.  Let the pups focus on one another.

  • At the first sign of unwanted behaviors, remove your dog from the park.  This will help to avoid uncomfortable or unsafe interactions.

  • Talk to the other humans at the park.  Get to know the park patrons.  You may find a whole new circle of friends who use the park at the same time on a regular basis. 

  • If you see a problem with a dog, approach the human, not the dog.

  • Parks are for dogs, not puppies.  Just as you wouldn’t take a toddler to a high school dance, you shouldn’t take puppies to a dog park.  The youngest age for a puppy to be at a park is 4 months.  Remember, however, that there are developmental differences between puppies and full grown dogs.  Explore the possibility of having a daily Puppy Time at the Park in order to socialize puppies early to the dog park and one another and to ensure their safety while playing with others of similar ages.   

  • Make sure you have water for your pup.  Explore the possibility of creating a communal drinking fountain at your park.


  Dog Park Rules


  • Make sure your dog is healthy enough to play.  If in doubt, ask your vet.

  • Avoid dog park babies.  Spayed or neutered dogs help to ensure that the dog park is about healthy play, not procreation.

  • Two dogs per human is the maximum.  This helps to avoid overuse of the park, provides an environment in which your companion gets to meet new friends, and makes it possible for you to closely monitor your dogs in their interactions with others.

  • Never bring a female dog in heat to the park.  (See Avoid dog park babies above.)

  • Keep your dog on-leash until your reach the off-leash area. Have your dog on-leash from the car to the dog park.  Enter the first gate, close it behind you, and unleash your dog prior to opening the gate to the play area.

  • Ensure all gates to the park are secured as you enter and exit.

  • Unruly dogs need to be removed immediately.

  • Please do not allow children in the dog play area.  It is safer for them and for the dogs.

  • Leave human food in the car or at home.

  • Please refrain from smoking in or near the park.

  • Refrain from touching or disciplining any dog but your own.

  • If you see any behaviors that do not seem healthy to you, immediately talk to the dog’s human. If necessary, remove your dog.

Your first visit...
  • Health:  Make your dog is healthy and is current on all vaccinations.

  • Voice control:  All dogs need to able to come on command.

  • Friendly dogs:  Only well-socialized, friendly dogs should be taken to a dog park.

  • Unleash:  Dogs on and off-leash respond differently to other dogs.  Take your dog off-leash in the unleashing area, then open the gate to the dog play area to allow your dog to enter.

  • Put small dogs on the ground:  Similarly, if you have a small dog, place the dog on the ground before opening the gate to the play area.

  • Size:  Dog parks usually have areas for larger and smaller dogs. Choose the area most appropriate for the size of your dog.

  • Pay attention:  You are your dog’s guardian at the park so watch your canine companion carefully to ensure your dog is enjoying the dog park.

  • Small steps:  Socialize your dog to the park slowly.  The first visit may be only 10 minutes long, allowing your pup to get a feel for the interactions with other dogs.

  • Timing:  Your first trip should be at a time when the park is not crowded.  Ask around to find out times when the park is less heavily used.

  • Read etiquette and rules above:  They will help to ensure your first trip and all subsequent trips to the dog park are fun, healthy, and happy experiences for your dog  and for you.

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