Every environment has its own social code, even those not reserved for humans. Dog parks, whether we’re aware of it or not, have their own set of rules. And although we might not have four paws, we still have to abide by certain rules to make the dog park enjoyable for everyone.
1. Do be attentive.
It’s tempting to snap a thousand pictures of your pup being cute at the park, but cell phones can be a real distraction in an open play environment. We say save the ‘gramming for when you’re back at home.
Additionally, you want to remain attentive to make sure your dog is behaving well, and that other dogs are playing nicely around the park. Things happen, but being vigilant can prevent altercations, escapes, and undesirable snacking.
2. Don’t be surprised when other dogs want to play with your toys.
Ah, the highly coveted tennis ball. Remember, all kinds of dogs go to the park, and some are more toy possessive than others. Bringing toys can be a fun way to interact with your pup (who doesn’t love a good game of fetch?) but be aware that a lot of dogs love toys, and they don’t usually care who’s slobbered on it. The moral here is: if you bring something to the park, expect to share it.
3. Do bring your own water.
Some parks have water bowls out, but from our experience, they are usually pretty nasty. After all, would you drink straight from a communal punch bowl at a party? Also, sharing water can increase your dog’s chance of contracting a disease. Bring a collapsible water bowl to ensure your dog is well hydrated and healthy.
4. Don’t judge a dog’s sociability by their breed.
You may assume all Golden Retrievers are friendly, or that all Daschunds will roll over for a chance at a belly rub. And lest we forget the horribly appointed stigmas pointed at Pit Bulls. The truth is, all dogs have unique personalities. The best gauge for whether or not a dog is friendly and sociable is all in their demeanor. The breed does not make the dog, the owner’s training makes the dog. Ask yourself: does this dog look calm? Friendly? Is their tail stiff (usually meaning apprehensive and alert) or wagging (happy and curious)? You never know who your dog will become friends with!
5. Do bring tags.
Some dog parks will fine you if your dog does not have proper identification. Plus, if your dog should make an escape from the park, you want to ensure you’ll be reunited again. Bringing a leash, collar, and tags is a foolproof way to see that your dog gets in and out of the park safely without any fines.
6. Don’t let your dog jump on others.
While some people will happily get pummeled to the ground by the exciting force of a dog hug, others find it rude and frightening. Remember: not all people are dog people, and even if they are, it doesn’t warrant your dog’s intrusive behavior.
7. Do clean up after your dog.
Usually, parks rely on owners to clean up after their dogs. Everyone is responsible for cleaning up after their dog at the park, so make sure you bring poop bags and pack out all of your trash when exiting the park.
8. Don’t be afraid to make friends!
If your dog is really clicking with another furball, you can always exchange contact information with their owner to arrange for future playdates. Who knows, you could make a new friend as well!
On the contrary, if an owner seems disinterested in arranging playdates for your pets, don’t take it personally– you never know where they’re coming from.
9. Do take responsibility for your dog’s actions.
By entering the dog park as your pet’s chaperone, you are essentially agreeing to take responsibility for your dog’s actions. In the event of an altercation, you are obligated to exchange information with the other owner. Likewise, if your dog is hurt in a park incident, you have the right to request the other owner’s information.
10. Do allow butt sniffing.
It may seem weird to us, but for dogs, this is how they get to know each other. Nose-to-nose contact can be intimidating to some dogs, but butt-sniffing is totally normal to them. If your dog goes around meeting friends in this way, just know it’s normal. Now, if your dog goes up sniffing human butts, that’s when you curb them.
All in all, the dog park should be a happy place for everyone. By following these simple codes of conduct, along with our dog park safety guide, you can make the dog park a peaceful experience for everyone!
If you’re in the West Los Angeles area, check out our list for best dog parks in the area. And if you want your dog to have some with other dogs while you do your own thing, sign up for one of our pack adventures!