Most reputable dog parks will have their own guidelines, but we have a few that might not be posted on a sign. If you follow these rules, they can help keep you from offending others at the park and make your experience a pleasant one.
1. Don't take a puppy until she is at least 12 weeks old.
If you don't read anything else on this list, please follow this warning. It can be dangerous for your dog and for other dogs around her to come into contact with unvaccinated canines. "Until the pet is 12 weeks old and has had appropriate vaccinations, I wouldn't take her to a dog park," says veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker for Vetstreet.com. Becker does stress that proper socialization during eight to 12 weeks of age is critical, so consider a puppy class where vaccinations are required. Before heading to the dog park or puppy class for the first time, check with your vet to make sure it is the right choice for your little dog.
2. Don't take a dog who isn't social.
Not all dogs enjoy the dog park experience. "Some dogs are social only with select playmates, and playdates with known friends may be best," says Vetstreet.com dog trainer Mikkel Becker. "Just like people, dogs have personalities and motivations that make them either good fits for dog parks or not."
3. Don't bring babies or very small children.
Your child might be comfortable around dogs, but that doesn't mean all dogs are comfortable around children. Kids running around and screaming can be extra disconcerting for some dogs, and little ones can get stepped on or knocked down, which could lead to a long-term fear of dogs.
4. Don't ignore your dog.
This is a tough one because it's easy to do without even realizing you're doing it. You might need to take a phone call you can't miss or get caught up in conversation with the neighbor you haven't seen in a while. If you don't pay close attention to your dog, you could miss signs of trouble. Even if you're preoccupied, try to keep an eye on your dog's body language and behavior while she plays with other dogs. If you see anything that makes you uncomfortable, either about your own dog's behavior or someone else's, then just grab your dog and go.
5. Don't bring a toy you don't want other dogs to play with.
Not only is it unreasonable to expect other dogs not to play with your dog's toy, it's kind of mean. Do you really think those happy pups can resist a colorful ball or toy being launched into the air?
6. Don't leave your dog on-leash at the park.
"Keeping your dog on-leash in a dog park situation is just asking for trouble," says Dr. Marty Becker. He explains that leaving your dog on her leash can make her feel restrained and can cause tension if another dog approaches. Because she's on-leash she may feel unable to protect or remove herself from the possible threat. "If you're comfortable with the circumstances of the dog park, just take a deep breath, unhook the leash and let your dog sniff and interact in proper canine fashion, without the artificial restraint of a leash," says Becker.
7. Don't leave behind the poop!
And last but most important, pick up that poop! If your dog needs to go number two while at the park, don't leave it behind for people and other dogs to step in. Not only is it rude and messy, but it's a public health hazard for both pets and humans.
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