Dog Park Tips

Top 10 Dog Park Tips

Ah, a day at the dog park. Plenty of space for your dog to run, jump, and play off-lead with a variety of other dogs. Great for his socialization. Great for burning off his excess energy. Great for you not having to be on-guard and on-watch every minute.

Wait a minute. That last one’s not true. Even at a dog park – maybe especially at a dog park – you’re still the alpha, you’re still the parent, and you’re still responsible for your dog’s safety, health, and wellbeing.

Here are the top 10 tips to help you make a day at the dog park the marvelous experience it should be for both you and your dog.

1. Never Take a Young Puppy to the Dog Park

Don’t take your puppy to a dog park unless and until he’s received all his puppy shots. The viruses and other bad things his shots immunize him against can run rampant through puppies and affect them far more seriously than they would an older dog. Some of the viruses, like Parvo, are puppy killers. A very high percentage of young puppies die within 48-72 hours of showing their first Parvo symptoms: vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

2. Never take an unspayed or Unneutered Dog to the Dog Park

Dogs who haven’t been “fixed” are dangerous at dog parks. Not only are unspayed females at risk for an unwanted breeding, but an unneutered male of any breed is more aggressive toward both males and females than his neutered counterparts.

3. Always Clean Up After Your Dog

Always take disposable clean-up bags with you to the dog park. Be sure to choose a multi-function bag that is durable waterproof fabric and has separate pockets and compartments for your cell phone and keys; dog toys, treats, and water bottle/bowl; and used waste bags.

4. Avoid Parks with Small Wading Pools or Ponds

Virtually all dogs love the water, but a small pool or pond is no place for your dog to socialize with other dogs. It’s a breeding ground for germs. Even if he’s up to date on all his shots, you have no idea what, if any, infection or disease any other dog has. Besides, dogs tend to use open water for potty break purposes. Do you really want your dog drinking that water? Do you really want him covered with dirty water by wading it or being splashed by other dogs when they shake themselves off?

5. Take Your Dog’s Drinking Water with You

Not all dog parks have dog drinking fountains. Don’t take chances, especially in summer. Take along sufficient drinking water for your dog and a travel bowl to pour it in. This water bottle holds 24 ounces of water and has a detachable bottom that snaps off to become an 8-ounce water bowl.

6. Protect Your Dog from Pests and Sunburn

Even if your dog is on a monthly oral flea and tick preventative, biting insects like flies can be a big problem in the summer. An insect shield bandana will not only repel mosquitos, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers, and midges, but also will make a fashion statement. Your dog likewise can become sunburned as easily as you can, especially if he has a short or practically nonexistent coat. A spray-on sunscreen is just the thing. Don’t forget to spray his tummy area and spray a little on your hand to rub on his face and the tips of his ears.

7. Find a Park with a Designated Small Dog Area

Whether your dog is large or small, he’ll be safest with others of his own size. Even the gentlest, most well-socialized large dog can accidently injure a small dog by playing too roughly. Better safe than sorry.

8. Don’t “Gush” Over Someone Else’s Dog

No matter how cute, how cuddly, how adorable someone else’s dog is, go easy on showing affection and pleasure. Your dog knows he’s your dog and can become upset or even jealous if you give too much attention to an “interloper.” He might try to insert himself between you and the “stranger,” or even nip at him/her if he thinks you’re paying too much attention to someone other than him.

9. Keep Your Dog under Voice Control

A dog park is your dog’s equivalent of a children’s playground and you need to watch him just as closely as you watch your kids. This is where good obedience training is so important. Even though he’s free to run and play at will, he still needs to know that “Come” means “come” and do it immediately if you tell him to. It’s for his own safety, not to mention getting him back when it’s time to go home.

10. Always Be Vigilant

Keep an eye out for potential problems, not just with your dog, but with other dogs as well. If more than two dogs are playing together, satisfy yourself that there’s no ganging-up or bullying going on. If there is, intervene immediately, even if your dog isn’t part of it. Better to have an irritated “oh, leave them alone” owner than an injured or intimidated dog. Likewise, if more than two dogs are engaged in a flat-out chase game, watch closely. Such games can quickly get out of hand as more and more dogs join in. Younger or smaller dogs with higher-toned barks can be at risk, especially if they’re already somewhat overwhelmed at being in the middle, let alone the front, of a large-pack chase. Again, even if other owners are content to be stupid, you’re not. At the very least, get your own dog out of the chase with a “Come” call voiced loudly, but not angrily or worriedly. Don’t make him think he’s done something wrong if he hasn’t, and don’t make him think he should be scared. He just needs to come to you and rest awhile.

11. Stay only as Long as Your Dog is Having Fun

Here’s a bonus tip. You know your dog and how he acts when he’s enjoying himself. If he comes to you without being called and/or seems to be tired or overly hot or a little overwhelmed by all the fun, it’s time to leave. You can always come back next week.


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