Dog Park Decorum

By Lisa-Anne Manolius | June 03, 2011 ~ 9 Comments

How often have you seen this? Someone walks into a dog park, fixates on his smart phone and stays that way, completely oblivious to whatever his dog might be up to.

I know, I know, it’s the uber-tech age and many humans want to be wired most of the time. But taking a dog to a dog park and not monitoring him just isn’t safe. It’s a bit like taking a four year-old child to an amusement park and letting him run amok with no adult supervision.

Dog guardians can go a long way to making sure that dog park experiences are safe and pleasant for humans and canines by keeping these tips in mind:

  • You are responsible for Scrappy. Pay close attention at all times to what he’s doing and how other dogs are behaving towards him.
  • Avoid doing things that take your attention away from Scrappy, like talking on cell phones, checking email, texting, or getting caught up in conversations with other dog guardians.
  • Dog pay fun

  • Dog parks aren’t appropriate for dogs that are afraid of or don’t get along well with other dogs. If you don’t know if your dog is a good dog park candidate, or you’d like your dog to become more comfortable with other dogs, consult with a positive reinforcement trainer.
  • Scrappy should be completely healthy and up-to-date on his vaccinations whenever he visits the dog park.
  • Make sure Scrappy has a reliable recall before taking him to an off-leash park. Park rules typically require that owners have their dogs under “voice control.”
  • Take Scrappy’s leash off as soon as he enters the park. This avoids him becoming frustrated by being leashed while other dogs are off-leash. It also avoids turning Scrappy into an easy target for other unleashed dogs.
  • Take frequent obedience breaks with Scrappy. Call him to come to you, reward him when he does, and ask him to sit for the reward of resuming play. These breaks help Scrappy keep his impulses in check and are good practice for times when you may need him to come to you in a hurry. Rewarding him with something fabulous when he comes to you at the park teaches him that it pays handsomely to pay attention to and check in with you when he’s playing off-leash.
  • Think of yourself as Scrappy’s advocate and ambassador. If he’s is being bullied or harassed by another dog, intervene. Call Scrappy to come to you and move far away from the other dog. Leave the park if the other guardian won’t/can’t get and keep his dog under control.
  • If Scrappy is bullying or harassing another dog, step in. The other dog’s guardian may tell you not to worry, that his dog is fine and enjoys playing that way. But bullying and harassing aren’t polite play; they stress the targeted dog and can result in dog fights. If Scrappy won’t stop bullying, it’s best to leave the park.
  • If Scrappy gets upset at other dogs who approach him when his toy’s around, don’t bring the toy to the dog park.
  • Avoid bringing puppies younger than 4-5 months to dog parks. Some adult dogs are quite intolerant of puppies. Some dogs like to bully pups. It’s easy for puppies to get hurt by adult dogs due to size & strength disparities. A scary negative experience at a dog park could scar a puppy behaviorally and install a fear of other dogs. Instead, take puppies to trainer-supervised puppy playgroups where they can exercise safely off-leash, learn bite inhibition, polite play and dog-dog social skills.
  • Avoid bringing young kids to dog parks. It’s just too easy for them to get knocked down or hurt accidentally by romping dogs. Other dogs are a big unknown when it comes to kids. You don’t know if other dogs may be afraid of kids, or if a running, shrieking child will stir up a dog’s prey drive.
  • Always pick up after Scrappy.

9 Responses to “Dog Park Decorum”

  1. Jana Rade 3 June 2011 at 8:00 pm Permalink

    I wrote about this issue too. So many people believe that bringing the dog in the park is all they need to do. I even know of an owner who let his dog go in the park and left. And yes, it resulted in a fight and injuries.

    What happened to common sense and any responsibility at all?

  2. KellyK 6 June 2011 at 6:37 am Permalink

    Thank you for all of these. I particularly love the idea of obedience breaks and working on recalls at the dog park. Our local park’s rules prohibit bringing treats in, though, so I’ll have to do some thinking on what to use.

  3. Lisa-Anne Manolius 6 June 2011 at 8:49 am Permalink


    Thanks for reading and commenting on the post. If your dog loves certain toys but doesn’t guard them from other dogs, you could use toys as rewards at the dog park.


  4. KellyK 6 June 2011 at 12:14 pm Permalink

    Thank you. That’s a good idea. Come to think of it, rat-shaped toys are just about her favorite thing (to the point where we’ve stopped getting mouse/rat toys for our cats, because she destroys them). If we had a couple leather rats that were jackpot-level obedience rewards for situations where we can’t use food…yeah, that definitely has potential.

  5. lambros 4 July 2011 at 2:18 pm Permalink

    I agree with Kelly that toys as rewards is a good way to reward your dog.I also believe that with good training you can avoid any possible problems between your dog and other dogs

  6. Donna and the Dogs 23 September 2011 at 1:08 pm Permalink

    Great post! Another thing to ad – when going to and from your car to the dog park, please keep your dog on leash. Often, people who are training their dogs are working outside the fence, safely on leash – and it undermines them to have other dogs run up to them while they are in training. Maybe the dog being trained just needs to learn self control, but maybe they are fearful, or even dog aggressive. Just because your dog is friendly, doesn’t mean the dog on the leash is!

  7. Lisa-Anne Manolius 23 September 2011 at 6:49 pm Permalink

    Thanks Donna! Great point!

    Cheers & Happy Training,

  8. KellyK 17 October 2011 at 10:38 am Permalink

    Wow, yeah, absolutely. I’m not a fan of dogs being off-leash anywhere but their own yards or areas intended for that (like the dog park). Our current foster isn’t ready for the dog park–she’s super excitable, likes to play rough, and hasn’t learned manners or how to tell when another dog is fed up with her. So my husband and I take turns being inside with our dog and doing laps outside with her. Having a random dog run up to her would really irritate me.

    I did see one person who I’d give a pass on that–their dog was heeling perfectly with the leash in its mouth. But if your dog isn’t so well trained that they might as well be on a leash even if they’re not, definitely a leash on the way in.

  9. KellyK 31 October 2011 at 5:58 am Permalink

    Also, even if your dog is a perfect angel, an obedience champion, and a direct descendant of Lassie, I don’t know any of that by looking (and my dog is none of those things). If I see a dog loose and its owner 20 feet, or more, away, that always concerns me.

Leave a Reply