- Pets and Animals
Dog Park Etiquette
Let's Go to the Dog Park
Dog Parks may be about the best invention ever. A fenced dog park means the chance to run off the leash and meet other dogs. The humans get a chance to socialize, too. And, any patch of land that actually labels itself as place for dogs has to be the happiest place on earth! But, before we get carried away at the doggy equivalent to Disneyland, there are things to keep in mind.
How often do you go to the dog park?
Can We Dress You Up and Take You Out?
All dog parks have rules. Some parks have them posted and some rely on users' common sense (the wisdom of which is open to debate). To be a welcomed guest at your local dog park, make sure you mind your manners.
All dogs visiting dog parks need to be healthy and current on required vaccinations, including rabies. If you frequent dog parks, you may want to ask your veterinarian about a Bordatella (Kennel Cough) shot. Like the flu shot, the Bordatella vaccine may not protect your dog from all strains of Kennel Cough, but will help prevent the illness. Many dog parks feature natural vegetation -- along with the creepy crawlers who live among the grasses. Keep up to date on flea and tick treatments.
While dog parks are a great place to socialize your dog, it's your responsibility to know how your dog reacts around other dogs and people. On a first visit, you may want to keep your dog on a leash to maintain more control, but keep in mind other dogs will still run up to your dog. If you've any doubts at all about your dog's aggressive tendencies, the dog park is no place for your dog.
Intact dogs (those who haven't been spayed or neutered) may not be permitted in some parks at any time. And, naturally, dogs in heat do not belong in a dog park.
Never leave your dog unattended. Your dog should always be within your sight, for her safety and for the safety of others in the park.
Dog Park Essentials
Collar with ID tag
Permit (if required)
Pick up bags
Tennis balls (optional)
Dog Park Amenities
Not All Dog Parks are Created Equal
Dog park features vary. Some parks are enclosed while others are only partially fenced. Some parks include ponds or border a lake and you'll want to control your dog unless you've prepared for a wet ride home.
There may be an area exclusively for small breeds and puppies, or a training ring. Some parks even offer agility courses.
Not all parks have water available, so be prepared with your own jug and a bowl to help your dog cool off and rehydrate. Even if you research the park before your visit, it's best to come prepared for any circumstance.
Dog Park Permits
Is the Welcome Mat Really Out?
Many dog parks are open to the public and ask only that you use common sense when using the park. But there are parks that require permits or limit use to local residents. Typically, such restrictions are clearly posted, but if in doubt, call the local village hall and inquire about the dog park's accessibility.
Violators may be subject to fines, so it's worth it to check before you unsnap that leash.
Dog Park Fees
The Price of (Unleashed) Freedom
Many dog parks are free for locals and visitors alike. But there are parks that charge fees to use the park. In most cases, the fee is in the form of an annual membership which can make it difficult for visitors to take advantage of dog parks while traveling. (Wisconsin is one exception. Many county and state parks offer visitors the option to purchase a permit for the day by leaving payment in a lock box and taking a receipt.) In some communities, fees for non-residents may be considerably higher than what residents pay. If a fee is required, park personnel may patrol the park and evict and fine offenders. In some communities, local users may report unauthorized visitors as well, so it's best to play by the dog park's rules.
Before you start growling about the whole fee issue, keep in mind that dog parks require maintenance. While tax dollars may pay for some or all of the costs associated with keeping the park usable, fees may help defray the expense. Requiring payment may also serve to deter abuse. Sadly, it's not unheard of for irresponsible owners to drop their dogs at a fenced park and leave them unsupervised in lieu of securing doggie daycare. Requiring a fee and a permit with proof of vaccinations and a signed use agreement attach a value to the privilege of using the park.
What Do You Think of Dog Park Fees? - Should We Pay for the Privilege?
Fees help pay for dog park maintenance, making them sustainable and encouraging more communities to provide these wonderful pooch playgrounds. But, some memberships can be cost prohibitive and exclusionary.
What do you think? Should dog parks charge fees?
Yes. A reasonable fee isn't a problem.
Looking for a Dog Park Near You? - ParkGrades.com is Your Great Park Resource
- ParkGrades.com The Place to Find Great Parks
ParkGrades.com is a terrific resource for finding parks in your area or when you travel. Search by amenity (including dog friendliness) and location and read reviews written by people who have visited the parks. If you've found a great park (or want
Good Times at the Dog Park - Don't Forget to Take Your Camera to the Dog Park!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Leave Only Pawprints
If You (or Someone You Know) Drops It, Pick It Up
There is just no delicate way to say this. A dog park is not one big pooch potty. You have a responsibility to pick up after your dog. It doesn't matter what the others do or what you pass on the walking trail. You are better than that. Pick it up.
Some dog parks provide waste bags but come prepared in case there aren't any. And, if the park lacks the courtesy of a trash can, you will have to take your filled bag with you and dispose of it back at home. (An empty sealable paint bucket in the trunk of your car is a good dog park accessory.)
Plenty of city parks now prohibit dogs because owners didn't pick up. It would be a shame if your favorite dog park closed for the same reason.
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