Dog Park Do's and Don'ts

By Faith McCloy
January 10, 2024

Dog parks are an amazing resource for those without a large backyard, but do you know the proper etiquette? Many dog parks will have rules posted on the outside, but there’s a good chance that some pet owners won’t follow them. The best thing you can do for your dog is learn how to navigate the dog park correctly and safely. 

Do

  • Exercise before the park: You shouldn’t rely on the dog park to exercise your dog. You should use it as a tool to socialize them. An overly excited dog can be dangerous in a dog park as they might annoy another animal and a fight could occur.
  • Unleash your dog the correct way: All the other dogs in the park are going to be very excited to see a new friend come in. It is best if you unleash your dog quickly and in a separate area from the fenced play area if your park has one. This will prevent the possibility of your dog being mobbed by other dogs without being able to get away. 
  • Train your dog’s recall: Training your dog is imperative for any and all circumstances. Recall is one of the best things your dog can learn, as it can give you control over an unruly situation. 
  • Have poop bags ready: No one wants to step in a pile of dog poop; help keep your local park clean by picking up after your dog. 
  • Learn dog body language: All dog owners should learn how to read their dog’s body language to help be an advocate for them. You can read more about learning their body language here!
  • Know how to safely break up fights: When a fight between dogs happens, you need to stay calm so as not to escalate the situation. Never put yourself between the dogs because you could end up hurt. Ask another person for help and both of you should approach and grab the dogs from behind. When their back legs are off the ground, pull them apart and walk them to separate areas. 
  • Limit toy usage: Using a toy in a dog park can lead to bad situations as some dogs guard their resources. Fights can break out over toys if a dog feels like it's theirs. 
  • Stand up and be present: Not all owners will monitor their dogs, so you need to watch your and any others interacting with them. You should never sit down and ignore your dog, instead, you should engage with them.

Don’t

  • Go at the busiest times: Lots of dogs can spell trouble at dog parks because there’s a higher likelihood of issues occurring. Google can tell you when your local dog park is at peak or low occupancy levels. If your dog gets overwhelmed easily around large groups of dogs, go when it’s slower. 
  • Bring your young puppy: Your dog should be vaccinated for rabies, distemper, canine flu, bordetella, and parvovirus before going to the dog park. Young puppies under the age of 4 months likely don’t have the necessary shots and therefore are at risk and are risking infecting others.
  • Bring an intact dog: All dogs should be neutered or spayed before going to the dog park. A female dog in heat or an intact male dog could cause fights.
  • Put a small dog in a large dog group: Most dog parks will have two areas–one for small dogs and one for large dogs. This is a safety measure and you should never put a small dog in a large dog area and vice versa. 
  • Allow your dog to mount others: Some dogs do not know boundaries and will not recognize warning signs that other dogs are sending them. It’s possible that other dogs in the situation could get uncomfortable and become aggressive. 
  • Bring food or treats: Food and treats can cause unwanted attention and lead to dogs following you around for a bite. Fights could break out if one dog is feeling possessive. 

Our Advice To You

It is hard to predict what could happen at a dog park–especially a crowded one. One of the best things you can do for your dog is to scope out any potential dog parks before taking your pup. It is important for pet owners to know their surroundings and be prepared for any situations that could occur. 


Not all dogs are made for the dog park and it is your responsibility as their owner to recognize what their needs are. If your dog is hanging around you rather than playing with the other dogs there, they might not enjoy playing with dogs and would benefit from other activities. 


It is best to put your dog in situations that you both are ready for and feel comfortable in. 



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