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Dog Park Etiquette: 7 Rules

How to keep your dog out of trouble at the dog park.

5. Know the difference between playing and fighting.

Well-socialized dogs will display a relaxed posture, take turns chasing each other, and pause frequently to calm themselves down, says Cheryl S. Smith, certified dog behavior consultant and author of Visiting the Dog Park: Having Fun, Staying Safe.

“Part of play is that the one that would normally win a fight is not out to win, they’re just out to have a good time. So they take turns being on the bottom when they’re wrestling, and who’s the quote ‘aggressor’ and who’s the one being chased,” Smith says.

Although a little humping, butt sniffing, or even growling is typical, incessant pestering from another dog can trigger conflicts. Dogs generally do a good job of telling each other to back off by showing their teeth or growling. But some dogs don’t get the message.

6. Take responsibility.

If your dog is the one humping or stalking the others, call him off and move to another area of the park - or leave.

“Anything that makes another dog or their owner uncomfortable is inappropriate,” Yin says.

That approach works for Atlanta dog owner Nick Carpentieri, whose boxer mix, Elliot, always gets in a standoff with one particular dog.

“If I see the dog here, I don’t even come in,” Carpentieri says. The other dog’s owner does the same.

7. Act quickly if a fight breaks out.

If you have access to a garden hose or spray bottle, spray the dogs until they back away. If that doesn’t work, the owners should grab the dogs’ back legs and pick them up like a wheelbarrow, backing up slowly, Smith says.

“Most people grab for the head, and you’re likely to get bit unintentionally,” Smith says.

If your dog causes an injury or you suspect it might be injured, exchange names and phone numbers with the other dog owner before leaving the park.

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