Taking your dog to the dog park is a rewarding experience for both of you. She gets to run off her leash, socialize with other dogs and play, while you get to watch your pup have the time of her life and meet other adorable dogs.
Whether it’s your first time taking your dog to the dog park or the 50th, there are some etiquette rules to keep in mind when you go.
Best Practices When Taking Your Dog to the Dog Park
- Make sure vaccinations are up to date.
It’s always wise to make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date so you’ll minimize the chance of them contracting a virus from another dog or getting another dog sick. Their flea and tick prevention methods should be current as well. You might be tempted to socialize your puppy at a dog park but it’s important to wait until they are at least 17-weeks-old so they’ve finished vaccinations and their immune systems are healthy.
- Pack water and waste bags.
Many dog parks have a water fountain, some community dog bowls, and sometimes a hose—or a baby pool for cooling off in! There should be a trash can available to put your dog’s waste in after they run around the park. Some parks have bags or pooper scoopers available but it’s always best to carry your own waste bags. (And keep an eye on your dog so you can quickly pick up after her after she goes number two.) Pack a dog-friendly water bowl or your bottle and a little dish so they will have water to drink. Bring extra water since other dogs will often come over and drink out of the bowl, too!
- Prep for your return and a treating moment.
If you drive to the dog park, make sure you’re ready for the dirty car trip home. Keep some old towels or sheets in the car for wiping down your pooch and their paws before they get into the car. Stash a special favorite treat like Old Mother Hubbard by Wellness Chicken Pot Pie in your car and offer your dog a treat to enjoy outside the car before you start driving. Never bring treats in the dog park as some other dogs can be food aggressive and try to snatch them away. If you walk to the park, save that special treating moment as a reward for your pooch at home.
- Take your dog to their designated dog park area.
Some dog parks have one section for small dogs and another for big dogs. Always bring your big dog to the larger dog park area. If you have a small dog who’s comfortable around big dogs, plays well with them and can hold her own, you can bring her in to the bigger dog park after observing the dogs who are there and seeing if it seems like they’d play well together.
- Bring her in on a leash.
You’ll need to remain in control when taking your pup to the dog park. Enter the park with your dog leashed. Usually, there are two gates so dogs don’t run out every time a dog comes in. You can take your pup off his leash once inside the first gate or when you’re in the dog park. Always keep your dog’s collar and ID tags on.
- Be prepared for the welcome wagon.
Know that some—or all!—of the other dogs already in the park will often rush over to greet the new dog. Your dog might lean up against you or hide behind you if they’re scared. Give them a minute or two to get accustomed to all the dogs sniffing them and saying hello. If they aren’t ready to socialize yet, keep them with you and throw a toy or hang out on a bench and watch.
- Have fun, but keep an eye on your dog.
Once you’re going to a dog park repeatedly, you might get to know some of the owners and their dogs. You should be aware that some dogs are aggressive, other dogs play rough, some know each other and have their own way of playing with one another, and others might play with or chase your dog in a way she doesn’t like or isn’t used to. While you can sit back and chat with the other dog owners while the pooches run around, always keep an eye on your dog. If another dog plays rough or you don’t like their behavior, bring your dog over to you or have them play in a different area of the park.
- Plan for your exit.
Going to the dog park can be a fun outing on a beautiful day, but keep the temperature in mind when taking your dog out for this experience. If it’s hot and sunny, you might need to cut your trip shorter than other times to help prevent overheating or dehydration in your pup. Keep in mind how long you stay if there’s a long walk home after the dog park. Always keep your dog on its leash as you leave so they can’t run away.