Dog Park Etiquette: Basics
Adapted from an article by Scott Fung, San Fransisco Animal Trainer, San Fransisco Examiner
We’re very lucky we have access to dog parks for ourselves and our four-legged friends. But what we need to remember most is that many people and many dogs are using the same park and we need to be as courteous as possible when visiting them.
1.) Clean up! It isn’t just messy, it’s un-sanitary, and depending on where you are, you might be spreading disease and bacteria near children, other dogs, or possibly into open water ways.
2.) Most enclosed parks have a double gate to come through; there is a reason for this! The two gates are there to make sure no dogs accidentally get in or out, so when coming in you open the outside gate, let your dog through, close it, open the inside gate, let your dog through, and then close it.
3.) When you’re ready to come in, take your dog off its leash within the gates, don’t wait until you’re inside. Dogs don’t want to be on-leash even for a moment when none of the others are. When you open the inside gate, open it all the way, other pets will most likely want to greet yours and if you only give a little wiggle room. Mrs. Snugglesworth won’t want to come out of the gate head-to-head with another dog, so by opening it all the way gives them more room to enter.
4.) Learn how your dog plays: some dogs just play rough; it’s very important to learn the difference between a fight and just rough play. Growling isn’t always bad, some dogs are just vocal. I suggest reading some literature and dog’s body language or go to a behavior class at your local SPCA.
5.) You are at the dog park for them to play and do their business, so pay attention! Sure you can socialize yourself too, but keep an eye on your dog. How will you break up a fight or pick up after your dog if they’re across the park? As for cell-phones, sure you might need to use them, but probably best to keep the talk time to a minimum, you should have your attention mainly focused on your animal, and besides have you tried to bend down to pick up a present your dog left and accidentally dropped your new iPhone? Guess where Murphy’s Law states it will land?!
6.) Kids: don’t bring them if they are not extremely comfortable with animals, and know how to approach a dog they don’t know. This can be dangerous for the child and traumatizing for the dogs. Some pets have never been around kids before, so your screaming toddler might not be the best first impression, and some may have already had that, or a similar experience, and might be threatened or aggressive towards small children. The less you bring, the safer: there’s nothing worse than a family with five ill-advised kids all holding Frisbees and bags of treats, playing on agility equipment meant strictly for the dogs.
Some Basic Park Guidelines
SOME BASIC PARK GUIDELINES
First time users should visit at non-peak times.
Peak times are Monday - Friday, late afternoon until dark. Saturdays and Sundays are busy at sporadic times throughout the day, but 10am and 2pm are busiest. Dogs that regularly play together tend to form packs and can make a new dog uncomfortable. The first visit can be a little stressful for both you and your dog. Ease the stress that first time by going when the park isn't so busy. You may also wish to use the small dog area, which has its own separate entrance.
Observe the posted park rules
Park users must comply with those rules for the safety of everyone and every dog!
Let your dog off leash as soon as you arrive
Leashed dogs may feel threatened and growl or bark when off-leash dogs greet them. It’s recommended to take the leash off before entering through the second set of gates so your dog doesn’t feel confined.
This keeps the off-leash area neutral territory by keeping the dogs moving. It keeps you more attentive to what’s going on in the park and potential situations. It’s good exercise, too!
Pick up poop
This is the single most important thing you can do to help ensure the ongoing success of these areas. We need to pick up after our dogs and even pick up a few extras! Many dedicated park users do regular poop patrol -- one lap around conscientiously looking for orphan poops and collecting them. If you do this, you not only leave the site looking better than how you found it, you also model responsible behavior for the other dog owners.
Try not to poop patrol alone. Rather, enlist a fellow dog owner to hold a bag open for you while you pick up and pop the poops in the bag. Once you've taught another dog owner to poop patrol, they are much less shy about calling out. "Do you need a bag?" or "Whose golden retriever is taking that dump over there?" when they see a poop about to be ignored.
If you need a bag, take what you need from the bag dispenser box, but please bring some extra bags to share next time you come. Always pick up after your dog, even outside the off-leash area.
Be aware that dogs have different play styles
Educate yourself on dog behavior. Ask questions. A behavior that concerns you may simply be a rambunctious play style. Learn your dog’s behavior to know when they are playing or have had enough.
The dog park isn’t always for everyone
While we think dog parks are a great place for both people and dogs to socialize, we do recognize that not all dogs should be in the park. Dogs that aren’t fixed, especially dominant dogs and those in heat, shouldn’t come to the park. Know when to call it a day and recognize when it may not be the best situation for your dog. If your dog is involved in a fight, both parties should leave the park for the day. If your dog isn’t the social type, try enlisting the help of an animal trainer before bringing them to the park again.
Dog Park Rules and Regulations
Please familiarize yourselves with our rules and regulations. Remember that all NYC Dog Parks are self-policed. It is your responsibility as a dog park user to help enforce these rules. ARF-ARF is not responsible for individuals and cannot mediate disputes.