Dog Park Etiquette: 7 Rules for a Well-Behaved Pet
Dogs at play have relaxed ears, wagging tails, and may "play bow" with their front end down to the ground. Upset hounds hold their tails at half-mast or between their legs, ears pinned back, and pupils dilated to show the whites of the eyes. Aggressive dogs will be tense, hold their heads high, and lean forward. Their ears will point up or forward, too. While growls are common in play, snarling with lips curled back isn’t.
If you see these danger signs, redirect the dog with treats or a toy, Ruch-Gallie says. You can also clap or make a loud noise. Use treats and toys sparingly in a dog park, in case they spark trouble.
5. Know what to do if a fight breaks out. Despite your best efforts, fights sometimes happen. Make sure you're ready:
- Give it a moment. Most doggie duels end as quickly as they started.
- If they go at it for more than a few seconds, try to separate them with a hose, water pistol, or long stick. Don't step in with your hands or body.
- If they’re still fighting after about 3 seconds, you and the other owner should approach the dogs from the rear. Gently grab their back legs at the top of the leg and lift them up like a wheelbarrow then start moving back. Don't reach for the collar. Your dog could reflexively bite you.
6. Don't take puppies to the park. They can be hard to control. People find them cute, but older dogs often think they’re a pain. Plus, those who haven’t yet had all their shots can be exposed to a wealth of diseases.
Wait until your pup is 6 months old before introducing him to a dog park. "[The dog park] is not a place to learn socialization, but it's a good place to be social once they've learned," Ruch-Gallie says.
7. Know when to go. Basic good manners should help you avoid most problems. A little extra effort on your part will help. But don't go to the dog park if your furry pal:
- Isn’t vaccinated or doesn't have flea and tick protection
- Isn't spayed or neutered
- Is what the ASPCA calls a "dog dork." These are dogs that just don't know how to interact, no matter how hard they try. Other canines may find them just as annoying as puppies.