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15 Rules of Dog Park Etiquette: Vet-Approved Guide

Written by: Grant Piper

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Dogster Team

Clean Up After Your Pet - A man and a dog in the park

15 Rules of Dog Park Etiquette: Vet-Approved Guide


Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo


Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dog parks are a great way to let your dog have some outdoor fun, get some socialization time with other pooches, and form a better bond with you. However, before you go to the dog park, these 15 rules will help keep you and your dog safe, keep the dog park nice and tidy, and ensure that all guests at the dog park enjoy their time there equally. You should have a basic knowledge of all these rules and expectations about the dog park before you go for the best possible experience.

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What You Should Bring

  • Poop bags
  • Fresh water (if the park does not have its own)
  • Collapsible water bowl
  • Proper identification for your dog
  • A leash

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The 15 Rules of Dog Park Etiquette

1. Always Keep a Leash on Hand

Many people go to the dog park because it is a safe and acceptable place for a dog to run around off-leash. But that doesn’t mean you can leave the leash at home. You should always have a leash on hand so you can grab your dog if you need to. This can help prevent your dog from getting into it with another dog. It also gives you a way to quickly leave the park in the event of an unpleasant situation. You may not need to keep your dog leashed at the dog park, but you do need to always have a leash with you.

2. Never Bring Food or Treats into the Park

It is okay to have food or treats in your car, but you should never bring food or treats into the dog park. The presence of food can upset other dogs. It can activate resource-guarding behaviors in your dog or other dogs, which can lead to conflict or even fighting, which can be dangerous and disruptive. Food can also bring unwanted attention to yourself from strange and unfamiliar dogs, which can be uncomfortable. This rule applies to both dog food and human food. Don’t bring any food for yourself either.

3. Reconsider Bringing Small Children

For their health and safety, as well as the dogs’, you may not want small children to accompany you to the dog park. Kids can excite other dogs. Some kids also do not have the knowledge, experience, or socialization skills to interact with unfamiliar dogs. Many small children think all dogs are safe and friendly, which may not be the case. Small children may be at risk of being injured at the dog park. They can also be a distraction and can cause other owners to be wary or anxious about their dogs.

If you want to bring your child to the dog park when it is just you and your dog and no one else, that is okay, but you may not want to bring your kid if there are other people and dogs around, as it can create an issue.

Little girl attacked by a dog
Image Credit: VCoscaron, Shutterstock

4. Always Pick Up After Your Dog

Most dog parks have waste disposal stations that include poop bags and a waste basket. Use these stations. Don’t leave your dog’s poop on the ground where other dogs can get into it or where people can step in it. Picking up after your dog is not only courteous, but it can also keep the dog park clean and free from parasites and other illnesses. Even if no one else is picking up after their dog, you should still pick up after yours and set a good example. If your local dog park does not have dog waste stations, you should bring your own dog poop bags and remove your waste and throw it away in the nearest trash can.

5. Always Keep a Collar With Proper ID on Your Dog

It’s unlikely that your dog will escape from a dog park, but it is possible. Many dog parks are fenced with a gate system to keep dogs from escaping, but not all of them do. It can only take one careless person leaving a gate open for your dog to accidentally run off. If your dog does get loose, you want to make sure that your current information is on their collar. Collars also help people grab your dog more easily so they can return them to you. Don’t go to the dog park without a collar with your current information posted on it, just in case.

6. Obey All Posted Rules

Dog parks often have a sign at the front with a list of rules that they expect all guests to adhere to. Please follow all of the posted rules. Even if you think they are silly or frivolous, the rules are in place to ensure that everyone can enjoy the dog park equally. Some municipalities can levy fines against people who do not follow the rules. Private dog parks can ban you and your dog from returning if you knowingly break the rules. For these reasons, you should make sure that you know the rules ahead of time and that you are following the rules.

Image Credit: Tanya-Dvoretskaya, Shutterstock

7. Always Supervise Your Dog

When you are at the dog park, you should always supervise your dog. Don’t be distracted by your phone or get too deep in conversation with someone else. You should be focused on your dog and make sure that they are having fun and staying safe. Many problems at the dog park start because people are not paying attention to what their dog is doing before it is too late. You should always keep your dog under close supervision at the dog park, especially if they are off leash and roaming about.

8. Keep Your Dog Under Voice Control

Some dogs go wild at the dog park. This can be a good way to burn off some excess energy, but you need to make sure that your dog remains under control. If your dog starts bothering other dogs, jumping on people, or not listening, you need to have a way to calm them down. It is a good idea to ensure that your dog has great recall so you can call them to you when they are getting a little too hyper so that you can calm them down. Overactive and hyper dogs can ruin the fun for everyone.

9. Never Bring an Aggressive Dog

If you know that your dog has aggressive tendencies, you should keep them home. If your dog has ever bitten someone or another dog, you should not bring them to the dog park. They can be a liability. Dog parks can trigger aggressive dogs. The presence of other dogs and strangers can make aggressive dogs anxious or protective, which can cause them to become a risk to other guests at the park.

Image Credit: slexp880, Shutterstock

10. Never Bring a Dog in Heat

You should never bring a female dog to the dog park if they are in heat. A dog in heat may excite or upset other dogs nearby, which can cause them to act up. Male dogs might chase and pursue your dog. Some male dogs might even start fighting among themselves because of the presence of your dog. There is even a small chance your dog could get pregnant at the dog park from an intact male. The bottom line is that there are more risks with intact dogs than fixed dogs. If your dog is in heat, you should leave them at home until they are no longer in heat.

11. Be Courteous to Other Dog Owners

Be nice to other dog owners. Be kind. Be polite. Be accommodating. The dog park should be a safe and fun place for everyone. Keep your dog under control. Be proactive before problems start. Don’t be rude to people if their dogs are a little uppity. If you have a question or concern, approach the other people with kindness and humility. Don’t come at people and start trouble. Don’t curse or yell at anyone at the dog park. If your emotions start to rise, it can cause the nearby dogs to become anxious, aggressive, or protective. If you cannot coexist with someone else at the dog park, it may be best to go home.

12. Make Sure Your Dog Is Current on Vaccinations

Before you go to the dog park, you should ensure that your dog is up to date on all of their vaccinations. This will help protect your dog and other dogs that might be at the dog park. Your veterinarian should have a shot record for your dog, and they should be able to tell you if your dog is current on all their vaccines. In many cities, vaccinations are required for your dog to lawfully enter a public dog park, so make sure that your dog is up to date.

Image Credit: Zoran-Photographer, Shutterstock

13. Never Bring a Sick Dog to the Dog Park

If your dog is ill or sick, you should leave them at home. Sick dogs can spread illness to other dogs at the dog park, such as viruses or parasites, which can hide in the soil and infect other dogs. If your dog has any signs of illness, you should leave them at home. Playing or overexerting themselves when sick can also make their illness worse, which can increase the time it takes to recover fully.

14. Young Puppies Should Stay Home

Young puppies should not go to the dog park for a number of reasons. First, puppies typically do not have all of their vaccines and immunity to common diseases, which can be dangerous. Second, puppies do not always have all of their manners. Puppies need to learn how to interact with other dogs and people, and young dogs might not know how to behave properly at a public dog park. Lastly, puppies are typically small, and they may be more at risk of injury from large or rambunctious dogs. For these reasons, you should wait until a dog is at least 4 months old, preferably 6 months old, and fully vaccinated before bringing them to the park.

15. Always Keep Your Dog Within View

Some dog parks are quite large and can contain large trees, water features, rocks, agility equipment, and more. Even if your dog is safely confined within the fence of a dog park, you should always keep them within view. You don’t want your dog to be out of view because they can get into trouble. If your dog ends up fighting with another dog or bothering an owner when they are not within eyesight, you could end up being liable for their behavior.

Image Credit: yurakrasil, Shutterstock

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Not All Dogs Are a Good Fit for the Dog Park

The truth of the matter is that not all dogs are cut out for a trip to the dog park. Some dogs simply cannot meet the etiquette expectations for a good trip. Aggressive dogs, unfriendly dogs, anxious dogs, unhealthy dogs, and puppies should avoid the dog park most of the time (if not all the time). If you don’t think that your dog can meet these basic etiquette requirements, they might need more training or lifestyle changes before they can go out and participate. Don’t force your dog to go to the dog park if they do not like it or if they are not cut out to handle it.

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These 15 rules will help ensure that you nail every aspect of dog park etiquette. Dog parks can be hectic places filled with people and pets, so you should have a firm grasp on these basic rules to ensure that you get along with everyone and easily fit into the potential chaos. You don’t want to be a distraction or a nuisance, and you don’t want to be known as the person at the dog park with the bad or stressful dog. Dog parks are there for your enjoyment, but you also have to make sure that your behavior ensures that everyone else can enjoy the dog park as much as you and your dog.

Featured Image Credit: Anne-Kitzman, Shutterstock

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