Going to the dog park is a great way to get your dog outdoors, socialized, and exercised. Not to mention, a romp at the dog park will definitely tire out your pup for the rest of the day. However, before you leash up your pup and take a ride to your local dog park, there are a few things you should know. 

Basic training

This should be pretty obvious, but before you take your dog around other animals or people, he should know his basic commands. This will help prepare you and your dog for any off-leash situations that you may encounter at the park which may require you to quickly get your dog’s attention. There may be a time that you need to keep your dog away from another dog, or dogs, or let him know that it’s time to leave. Focus on the basic commands, such as sit, stay, come, and remember to reward your pup with treats. You may want to practice on leash on daily walks just as a refresher and then start using the commands while off-leash.

Routine vet care

Another obvious topic for most pet owners, but proper etiquette for the dog park is making sure your dog is healthy!  Make sure your dog is up to date on all vaccines, is spayed or neutered, and doesn’t have any kind of illness that can be contagious to other animals. If you don’t have your dog spayed, you may want to avoid taking your dog to the park while she is in heat, otherwise, you could be faced with an unwanted litter. 

Bring necessities

Most dog parks require you to bring what you may need. Some things you may want to consider bringing include: 

  • Water
  • A water bowl
  • Treats
  • A leash & collar with your dog’s identification
  • An air horn (in case you need to break up any alterations that may arise between your dog and others)
  • Poop bags

Another item you may want to consider is to keep an old towel or blanket in your car in case you need to wipe down or dry off your pup. You never know if the dog park will be muddy or full of puddles!

Bringing toys is entirely up to you. Your dog may love having his favorite toy with him; however, he may not be so keen on sharing. You also run the risk of having that favorite toy getting destroyed or taken home by another dog. It may be best to keep toys at home, but that is your decision. You may consider just bringing a tennis ball if you feel like your dog may need something to play with. 

Watch your dog

People spend way too much time on their phones. Don’t do this at the dog park. If you go to the park to let your pup run around, make sure you watch him and pay close attention to dog behavior. If you notice your dog or another dog’s behavior isn’t playful, is being a little overly affectionate (we all know those dogs who try to mount anything!), or is on the verge of aggressiveness, you will need to separate your pooch from the others immediately. 

Limit your time

Whether we are having a blast or not, we all reach our breaking limits. The same goes for dogs, they will get overly tired. Try to limit your time at the parks to an hour to avoid having your dog become tired and moody. You’ll start to notice signs that your dog is ready to go. He may slow down, start hanging around you a little more, or even lay down. In some cases, some dogs become grouchy and may show some aggressive behavior to let the other dogs know he has had enough. Remember to keep an eye on your pup and watch for his signals. 

Be responsible

Clean up after your dog. You should be doing this anyway whenever you are in a public place but don’t just assume that because you’re in a dog park that you don’t have to clean up after your dog. No one wants to walk in fecal matter and track that around on their shoes or paws! Do your part to keep the park clean and sanitary for all animals to enjoy. If you see other dogs going to the bathroom and owners not cleaning up after them, offer them some of your bags to use. Most dog parks have trash cans to dispose of poop bags. 

There you have it! Important things to know before you go. Remember to have fun and be the responsible dog owner you are! Your dog will greatly thank you for the time he got to spend running around off-leash with his friends and following the rules will ensure that you are welcomed back to the dog park again and again!