Basic etiquette provides the norm for a civil society. We might not like every rule, and there are plenty that could use revision, but rules evolve for a reason. Most people want to go about their daily lives feeling safe and secure, and observing basic etiquette and following the rules helps keep us out of trouble. The same holds true when you take your pet for an outing at the dog park.
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Visit your local dog park on your own before bringing your dog. Get a lay of the land and learn the regulations for that particular park. Look to see if most dog owners are observing the rules. If they're ignoring them that could spell trouble — think twice before taking your dog to that park.
1. No sick dogs
If your dog shows any signs of illness, he should not visit the dog park. Even if your pet seems basically OK, but has an occasional cough or sneeze, keep him home. Even though many dog parks only allow vaccinated animals to use the premises, that rule is widely flouted. You don't want your dog getting sick from germs picked up at the dog park, so make sure he can't spread an illness to other dogs.
2. Stay in your lane
Dog parks generally have separate sections for large and small dogs, and never the twain should meet. If you have a small dog and your local dog park doesn't have a designated area for dogs of different sizes, it's best not to bring your pet. Sure, many small dogs are eager to play with bigger ones, but it's not a good idea. The odds of a small dog getting hurt or killed are just too great.
Keep in mind that some large dogs consider a small dog as prey. Small dogs have a high-pitched bark and often challenge larger dogs. In this case, a large dog may act in kind and attack the small dog — only doing what comes naturally by defending himself.
There's another common error made by small-dog owners that can end badly — picking up their little dog if a larger dog threatens it. As Mother Nature News points out, that may trigger the treeing instinct in some dogs, with the larger dog going into full prey mode and jumping on the person carrying their dog. Both the little dog and her owner can end up requiring medical attention.
3. Bringing unsuitable dogs
"Unsuitable" covers a wide range of dogs, but some candidates are obvious. If your dog is in heat or if she's pregnant, she should never go to a dog park. Puppies under the age of 12 weeks and any dogs that haven't received their vaccinations should stay out of dog parks.
Dogs with certain behavioral traits aren't good dog park contenders. While that's true of animals with a history of aggression, it's also the case for dogs with resource-guarding issues. Resource guarding doesn't just involve food — usually found in the form of treats at a dog park — but also refusing to share toys. You don't want your dog to attack another because of these issues, or go after a person holding treats or toys.
4. No pack running
Dogs love to play with each other, and that's a prime attraction of a dog park. However, as the American Kennel Club warns, it's not a good idea to let your dog run in a pack. If your dog starts playing with more than three dogs, there's a good chance somebody is going to get rough, or worse. Intervene promptly if you sense rough play starting.
5. Pick up your dog’s waste
Dog parks are public places and dogs are going to do what comes naturally anywhere they happen to be. Just as you wouldn't leave dog feces on the street when walking your pet, don't leave them in the dog park. Regarding basic etiquette for other dog-park users, picking up after your dog is the number one rule.