Off-leash dog parks give dogs an opportunity to run, play, exercise and interact with their owners and with other dogs without restraint. For this type of environment to be a pleasant place for everyone, rules of common courtesy and safety should be observed by everyone.
Train Your Dog
For his own safety and the safety of other pet owners and dogs, your dog should be well-trained (especially with re-call) before you take him to an off-leash dog park. Either train your dog on basic obedience commands yourself (e.g. sit, stay, come, let go, etc.) or enroll him in a behavior education class at a pet store or community center. Having a dog who obeys your verbal commands or hand signals will ensure you have control over your pup in what can be the hectic environment of a dog park.
Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all necessary immunizations before taking him to an off-leash dog park. A dog who is not properly inoculated has the potential of spreading disease to other dogs, or contracting something from a sick or infected animal. Try to steer your dog away from other dog droppings, and pick up your own dog's poop and dispose of it in appropriate receptacles to guard against spreading germs and disease.
Spay or Neuter
To guard against unintentional breeding between unleashed dogs in an off-leash dog park, neuter your dog before he reaches breeding age. If your dog is at a borderline age, or if you plan to breed your pup, you'll have to keep a sharp eye on your dog to ensure there is no unintentional mating taking place. If you have a female dog in heat, avoid the off-leash dog park completely.
Teach Socialization Skills
Your dog should be well socialized to people and to other animals before he goes to an off-leash dog park. Ideally, you will have socialized your dog from a young age so he understands proper manners when it comes to interacting with others. If you have a newly rehomed dog or a pup from a shelter, going to an off-leash dog park may not be the most safe or effective way to teach basic socialization. Consider a leashed dog park or low profile public venue to start.
Leave When Necessary
If your dog gets into a fight with another dog, doesn't obey your commands or exhibits inappropriate dog park behavior, leave immediately. Sticking around or allowing bad behavior to continue can anger other dog owners, making it difficult if not impossible to be welcomed back to the park at a later date. Show responsible pet ownership and remove your dog when necessary. This is for his safety, your peace of mind and the goodwill of other pet owners.
By Lisa McQuerrey
About the Author
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.