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Dog park trips offer dog parents and their pets a great opportunity to bond, socialize, and run off some pent-up energy, but with all that fun comes responsibility. Dog park rules and regulations are there to ensure the safety and fun of all its visitors. No matter what type of dog park you go to, knowing and following its rules will help keep you and your dog safe.
Most dog parks are designed for dogs to play, run, and enjoy the company of other pups. But, as described by the American Kennel Club, they should always include a fenced-in area to keep dogs safely contained while off-leash. Additional amenities usually include some form of shade (or trees for shade), benches for pet parents to rest and supervise, and water for when pups get thirsty. A pooper-scooper station, complete with empty bags and a receptacle, help keep the park neat and under control as well.
Dog parks may include leashed and off-leash areas. Leashed areas mean dogs must be kept on a leash at all times. An off-leash area affords you various spots where you can safely release your dog in an enclosed area to run or play. Larger dog parks may even separate dogs according to size, providing large-breed dogs with an area to play without intimidating or harming smaller dogs.
Each city or town establishes its own rules for the local dog park. These rules are usually displayed on the fence or gate of the dog park, and should be followed at all times. If you do not see these rules posted at the entrance, it might be wise to perform an online search for the dog park you are visiting to see if the city website has any special rules listed. According to DogPark.com, the most common dog park rules include the following:
Pet parents are responsible for their animals. Take responsibility for your dogs' behavior at all times. Make sure he's properly socialized and non-aggressive toward strangers and the dogs they're playing with.
One of the benefits of taking your dog to the dog park is to let them interact and play with other dogs. While this is a fun and exciting treat for you both, it is important to exercise certain cautions to ensure that all dogs and dog parents are safe. Before letting your dog play with any other dogs it is important to meet the parent of the other dog. Ask them about their furry little friend to see if it is okay for the two dogs to play. Not all dogs get along with other dogs, or they might be a bit too rough with dogs of a certain size. Also, some pet parents may just be looking for an outing to share alone with their pooch and aren't looking for a play date at this time; be sure to respect their wishes as there are probably plenty of other dogs and parents that are willing to let the two dogs become the best of pals.
When introducing two dogs it is usually a good idea to keep them both on a leash and let them sniff each other. This will allow you to control his movements if some roughness starts to break out. If a fight does start to break out, never get in the middle of it as it can lead to your own personal injury. This is why a leash is a good idea; it allows you to control the pace of the interaction until you are certain that they will be best buds.
It is also important to ask permission before petting another dog -- this is especially true if you have children with you. Certain dogs respond differently to males vs females, certain ages, races, hairstyles (including facial hair), smells, and more. Do not be offended if his pet parent says no as he or she is probably just looking out for their dog to try and keep him as comfortable as possible.
Some dog parks provide additional activities for your pup beyond an open space to run off all of his energy. There are dog parks all across the country that have obstacle courses for your dog to play on and run through. If there are separate rules for these areas of the dog park, make sure to read and follow them carefully to keep you, your dog, and all other visitors safe and happy. Ponds are also a common feature to find at your local dog park. Make sure that there aren't any rules forbidding your dog from going for a swim. If not, this can be a great way for your dog to get exercise or cool off in the warm summer months. Before letting him go for a dip be sure that he is a strong swimmer, and it is usually best to make sure he will stay close to the shore and come back to you on command. There is nothing worse than having to go retrieve your playful dog from the water when you weren't prepared to get wet.
Keep your dog safe during dog park trips doesn't require you to be a helicopter parent and hover over them the entire time, but it also isn't without some universal ground rules. For example, don't bring puppies or young dogs under four months old to a dog park. Puppies this young still need to finish their vaccinations, and may be at risk for contracting illnesses from other dogs. Play with them at home until they are old enough to play with the big dogs (literally!).
It goes without saying, but pay attention to your dog at all times. Dog park trips should be about time spent with your dog, not catching up with friends or hunched over your phone the entire time. Problems happen if pet parents aren't paying attention to their dogs, and when they least expect it. Keep your dog safe by being a watchful pet parent.
Call your dog away from the gate while others are entering and leaving. This rule of thumb is both to make life easier for those trying to enter or exit the park but also helps to avoid some of the altercations that can happen when new dogs are entering. A dog entering the park can become anxious or overwhelmed when greeted by many unfamiliar dogs. A tense or uncomfortable dog is more likely to become aggressive or frightened. Keeping your pup away from the gate will also prevent her from slipping out.
Remove your dog’s leash before entering the park. Most dog parks have a double-gate system that prevents dogs from escaping whenever a gate is opened. This double-gate system offers the perfect opportunity to remove your dog’s leash before they enter the park. Not only does this prevent any accidents associated with your dog darting around the park with her leash flailing behind her, but prevents leash aggression incidents, too.
Keep a close watch on your dog’s body language and the body language of any dog he’s interacting with. If you notice any signs of discomfort – ears pulled back, wide-eyed stares, a tense mouth, tucked tail, excessive lip-licking or yawning, etc. – be prepared to remove your dog from the situation. Just like people, all dogs don’t get along with all dogs
Leave food, treats, and toys at home. Because dogs all react differently to food and treats, it’s best to leave these at home. It may be tempting to reward your dog for good behavior with a treat, but handing out treats can very quickly backfire and cause unnecessary conflict. Instead, reward your dog with praise and petting. Further, many dogs have special dietary needs or restrictions. Passing out a chicken treat to an allergic dog, no matter how well-meaning the offer, can be very dangerous. Just make sure to give them their favorite Nature’s Select Treat when you get home~! Additionally, some dogs can become very possessive of a favorite toy or ball. Bringing toys to the dog park can easily lead to fights
Finally, it is important to practice safety on the trip to and from the park too. If you do not live within walking distance of your local dog park, be sure to follow proper puppy transportation rules. Use a dog carrier where appropriate, or invest in a specially made doggie seat belt. Always make sure your Furbaby is Microchipped and Registered just to be on the safe side~!
Dog park trips are a fun way to bond with your dog, but only by obeying the park rules can everyone play together happily and safely.