5 Things You Should Never Do at the Dog Park
by Jessi Larson
The dog park has been a big part of my life ever since we got our dog Toby in the summer of 2013. We are very fortunate to live in a city that has not one but three really awesome dog parks, including one right by my work, so I had to check them out.
After all, Toby, as I’ve said many times before, was an oversized puppy. Likes 50 pounds at five months, no joke. He had lots of energy to burn, and our regular walks weren’t cutting it.
Timidly, I approached the dog park by my work for the first time, not sure what to expect. Lucky for me, the people there were incredibly kind and taught me the ropes. I remember Toby playfully wrestled with a Husky mix named Harper. At the time, she was the same size as Toby but totally schooled him. We still see her around. Toby is now much, much bigger, but since he’s a gentleman, he doesn’t put her in her place, although he surely could.
Ever since that fateful first day, we go to the dog park at least four times a week. (When Toby was a crazy puppy, it was at least 5-6 times.) The dog park is a big part of our routine.
In all the years of going to the dog park, I’ve picked up a thing or two about what to do and what definitely NOT to do.
If you’re a dog park beginner like I was all those years ago, you’ll definitely want to know these five things you should never do at the dog park.
1. Keep your dog on a leash
This is my biggest pet peeve. Dog parks all have big giant signs that say you need to remove your dog from their leash and let them move freely. Yet so many people ignore this.
Why aren’t leashed dogs allowed? A dog park is a place for pups to run and play, so it’s really confusing to a dog why the others get to frolic freely and they don’t.
And if another dog does engage your dog, the leash adds an element of danger since they could get tangled up and trip you or one of the dogs. Not to mention the fact being tied up while other dogs run around them is a recipe for anxiety and fear.
The other day a lovely couple brought a boxer they had just rescued. The boxer had come from a bad home and didn’t return when called, so the well-meaning pair said they were keeping him on a leash to let him get acclimated to other dogs and prevent him from running (even though this dog park was all of 30 yards).
You guys, I wanted to scream. The poor dog was so anxious and confused why he didn’t get to run around and play. And when other dogs engaged him, the result was a tangled mess that left him compromised since he couldn’t move. This was not “helping” the dog.
2. Forget the poop bags
Picking up poop is probably the least fun part of pet ownership. And with dogs, it feels like a constant endeavor.
Some dog parks offer poop bags. Others require you to bring your own. Either way, don’t get caught without one.
There’s a high chance your dog will take a two somewhere at the park and you’ll have to pick it up. Leaving it there is not only messy but also unsanitary, so always have poop bags on hand.
3. Bring toys you don’t want to share
This is my #2 biggest pet peeve. (Am I starting to sound like a crab? I hope not!)
I’ve seen dog owners throughout the year bring a toy to the park that they only want their dog to play with. But at a dog park, it doesn’t work that way.
When you bring a toy out in an open play environment, dogs see this as being fair game. You can’t get mad when another dog grabs your toy. Or even if they damage it.
A few months ago we were at the park, and Toby was playing with a very fast Aussie. The owner whipped out a fancy frisbee and launched it in their direction. The Aussie overran the frisbee and slow-poke Toby grabbed it and started to run playfully in circles. The owner was quite irked. That was his dog’s toy! I couldn’t believe it.
After wrestling the frisbee away from Toby, I returned it to the owner and hightailed it out there. That just wasn’t fair to Toby or me.
As a rule of thumb, don’t bring a toy you wouldn’t mind parting with.
4. Bring a dog who isn’t ready
As a rule of them, veterinarians recommend a dog meets the following criteria before their first trip to the park:
- At least 12 weeks old
- Up to date on all vaccinations
- No females in heat or pregnant
- Has basic recall skills and will come when called
- Plays well with others and isn’t aggressive
5. Forget to watch your dog at all times
This one is easier said than done. It is so easy to get talking to another person. Or to get distracted by the other dogs. Or to sneak a peek at your phone.
Also, in my case, I’m a little bit klutzy, so in the winter or on hilly trails, I’m always looking down to see where I’m going.
But, it’s oh-so important to keep an eye on your dog at all times so you’re always aware of what’s going on.
The dog park has been an amazing place for Toby and me. I get good exercise and fresh air and he lets out a bunch of energy and enjoys the socialization. It’s a win-win.
With these five tips, you’re sure to have a positive experience as well!