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Dog Park Etiquette

Owning a dog can be loads of fun and very rewarding, but it also requires responsibility. Most dogs need exercise, and walking and playing with your dog is part of the essential bonding experience. If you love dogs, bringing your dog to a dog park may seem like a great idea and a chance for your dog to have fun and love other dogs with you. Keep in mind, though, that it's all fun and games until someone gets bitten, and some precautions might need to be taken before making the decision to bring your dog to a dog park. It's important to be polite and mannerly (and that goes for both you and your dog) to ensure that everyone at the park, human and canine alike, has a great time.

Best Dog Park Practices

Before taking your dog to a dog park, think about the behavior and temperament of your dog. A dog park is probably not a good idea if you don't have a well-trained dog. Dog parks offer lots of socializing for your dog, and that's where bad habits can be picked up. Because of this, you shouldn't bring young puppies to dog parks, either, as they are impressionable and bound to pick up some behavior that is not ideal. Ensure that your dog is well-socialized with other dogs as well as strange people before throwing them in. Never bring your dog to a dog park if you know your dog is known to be nervous or has a history of aggression towards other dogs.

Basic training is ideal before packing up your dog and heading over to the park. "Come," "sit," "stay," and "heel" are common spoken commands that your dog should understand and follow. Another good word for your dog to understand is "no" because it can prevent your dog from doing things such as approaching an unfriendly dog or relieving its where it's not supposed to.

Small children shouldn't be brought to dog parks. You may have your hands full already with just the dog, and not all of the dogs at the dog park are certain to be child-friendly. Make sure you interact with your dog at the dog park. The park isn't a day care for your dog to do whatever it wants while you ignore it. Always know where your dog is, and don't let it forget your presence. Play with the dog, and keep up with your dog's training.

Should You Let Your Dog Roam Without a Leash?

Some dogs walk on leashes better than others. If you have a dog that you're constantly dragging about or your dog is pulling you, it may be very tempting just to ditch the leash, sit back on a bench, and watch as your dog runs free. All dogs are different, though, and no matter how well you may think you know your animal, you can't know for sure what they're thinking. This could be a new experience for your dog. There is excitement everywhere and he or she may not know what to do. This change in the usual routine might make your dog gutsy enough to see how far it can get before he or she gets in trouble. Quickly, your dog will realize that he or she can't get in trouble if you can't catch it, and away it goes.

The dangers of your dog running away from you are quite obvious. Busy roads with cars, aggressive other dogs, unknown poisons, diseases, and terrified people can all be dangerous. There are also countless troubles your dog can get his or herself into, damages you may be held accountable for. Before letting your dog roam free, make sure it can not get to anywhere that might cause trouble and that your area is secure. Not all dog parks allow animals to go off-leash, and some only allow it in certain designated areas. Always know the rules of a dog park before you enter.

Dog Behavior

Even if you are in a safe, fenced-in off-leash area, don't be so hasty to take that leash off just yet. Your dog could be frightened or uncomfortable with the new surroundings. A frightened dog is an unpredictable dog. There is a chance that a terrified dog will stick to you out of comfort and try to stay away from anything it feels frightened of, but if it doesn't feel like it can get away from something that's scary, it might result to violence against other dogs or even other dog owners.

Even if your dog is a social butterfly, not every dog is. Don't just watch the behavior of your dog but every dog that you're aware of to keep growling and bickering to a minimum and avoid any potential fights. If you're unsure of how your dog is going to react to other dogs or vice versa, take your dog away and try to distract it with something else. Signs of a nervous dog can include raised hair, growling or whining, holding the tail in a stiff position, and excessive drooling or panting. As dogs meet each other, a pecking order is quickly established. Try to read the dog's body language. A high tail and head with ears up means your dog is testing the other for the dominant role. Head, tail and ears down is opting for the submissive role instead. If both dogs declare a right to dominance, take your dog away to avoid brawling. If your dog is just too nervous or aggressive to be around other dogs but you have your heart set on taking it to dog parks, you might want to consider obedience training to help with your dog's behavior.

How to Deal With Unruly Dogs

The best way to avoid any sort of incident at the dog park is to have a well-trained dog. If anything dangerous should arise, having your dog immediately respond to your call can be a life-saver. This will quickly put a stop to any wrongdoing your dog is up to, and pulls it out of harm's way as well. Having your dog sit and stay will also help prevent any trouble from happening before it starts. A well-trained dog should begin training at a young age, but that's not always done with all dogs. Some owners are lazy with their dog's training or maybe have acquired a dog later in its life after unwanted behavior had already been established. If this happens, sometimes it's best to hire a professional dog trainer instead of trying to fix the problem yourself.

Sometimes, the problem can be other dogs at the park. There's nothing you can do about the training of another dog. Even if your dog is on a leash, this does not prevent another dog from coming and attacking. This can be a very scary thing, and you may feel completely powerless to do anything about it. If this situation happens, try to remove your dog and yourself from the setting as fast as possible. If any injures should occur, obtain the information of the other dog's owner if possible, and the dog’s rabies vaccination status.

Picking Up After Your Dog

Not only is picking up after your dog the polite thing to do, but it's sanitary and keeps the park clean and disease-free. Ask your veterinarian what vaccinations or preventative care your dog should have if you plan on bringing him to the dog park or other places where he or she may socialize with other dogs.

There are many illnesses that can spread in settings such as dog parks, including respiratory disease, and diseases that are spread through fecal matter. Make sure to clean your shoes and your pup’s paws if you come into contact with any dogs’ fecal matter to avoid the potential for disease spread. Likewise, if your dog should decide to use the park as his or her restroom, you will want to be sure to properly clean-up and dispose of it. This will avoid not only potentially hefty fines, but will help to keep the park clean and disease-free.