Off Leash Dog Park Etiquette
Dog parks can be an excellent place to let your dog get in some exercise while meeting other dogs. Many towns have fenced in dog parks for residents to enjoy while meeting other dog lovers. Letting a dog roam off leash is illegal in many townships, so these fenced in parks provide a place for dogs to run free without the fear of them taking off or being hit by a car.
Some basic etiquette rules apply to make off leash dog parks fun for everyone. Not only are these rules polite, but they keep the parks safe for both dogs and owners. Following these rules will make you a welcome guest in any dog park.
Make sure your dog is up-to-date on shots
Dog parks require that all animals be up-to-date on vaccinations for good reason. You don't want your dog spreading diseases to other pets, and you don't want him catching diseases either. Rabies tags should be kept on your dog's collar, in your car, or on your person. That way if anything unfortunate should happen, you have proof of your dog's vaccination readily available.
Don't bring an aggressive dog into the park
Letting a dog with poor socialization skills meet other dogs in neutral territory sounds like a good idea, but an off leash dog park is not the place for aggressive animals. Any attempt to socialize an aggressive dog needs to be done in a controlled setting with the permission of all parties involved and the help of a professional. For the safety of everyone, off leash dog parks are meant for friendly dogs only.
Only bring spayed or neutered dogs
Dogs that have not been spayed or neutered may bring the wrong kind of action into the park. Most dog parks have a rule that all dogs must be fixed to prevent unplanned breedings. The only exception to this is if your dog is still a young puppy. Most dogs reach sexual maturity at around 5 months old. For some dogs it can happen even earlier (toy breeds sooner than large breeds), so monitor your puppy closely in the park. Keep him on a leash if there is any question and get him fixed as soon as your vet recommends.
Don't let your dog harass others
Your dog is likely to find an off leash dog park very exciting. Don't let his unbridled excitement give others a negative experience. Keep a constant eye on your pup (even while chatting with other dog owners) to make sure he is not harassing anyone. A fair amount of sniffing and rough housing with other dogs is acceptable if all dogs involved are enjoying it. However, if your dog is obsessively up in another dog's space, frightening smaller dogs, mounting, or jumping on people, you need to step in and get him under control. If you find you have trouble managing your dog, spend time training him obedience before attempting the off leash park again.
Understand that toys will be shared
Off leash dog parks are a great, safe place to play fetch. Just know that any toy you bring into the park is fair game to all dogs present. Other dogs may jump in when you begin playing fetch. In the dog world, there is no such thing as asking permission. So leave your pup's favorite toys at home and come to the park with a fun, sharing mindset. For some more one-on-one fetch time with your dog, try visiting the park at non-peak hours when fewer dogs may be there.
Don't bring anything contagious into the park
While toys should be shared at the dog park, illnesses and unwanted conditions should not. If your dog has something contagious like mites, fleas, mange, kennel cough, worms, or parasites, keep him out of the park until your vet gives the all-clear.
Don't hand out treats without asking
Similar to giving snacks to children, asking permission before handing out dog treats is more than just a courtesy. Some dogs have dietary restrictions due to health problems or allergies. Always check with the dog's owner before feeding any dog. Food can also quickly become a source of aggression when dogs are in groups. For this reason, it is usually best to skip the treats altogether in off leash dog parks. Your dog will be thoroughly enjoying himself without them anyway.
More dog park tips:
Scoop your poop
Nobody likes looking at or stepping in poop, so keep the park clean and pick up after your dog. Not only will doing so make the park more pleasant, but it will also reduce the risk of worms and other parasites. Most dog parks provide bags and trash cans for waste disposal. You don't want other people leaving their dog's waste, so set the example and don't leave your dog's either.