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Dog Park Safety Guidelines for Owners and their Dogs

Guest author from All Things Dog Blog

First in a series on dog parks from Carrie Boyko

Thinking about taking your pup to an off-leash dog park? Great! I’m here to help prepare you so that this experience will be a positive one for both you and Fido.

Entering a dog park is much like walking into a playground of beings from another planet. Dogs have their own set of rules. Well-socialized dogs know these rules and handle themselves well at the park. An unsocialized dog needs to learn these rules to be successful and safe. This is a process best begun at a young age, and needed throughout a dog’s life.

Start by educating yourself on the normal and natural way for dogs to greet. Realize that sniffing is their proper and mannerly “Hello”, and don’t discourage this activity. Consult a trainer if your dog gets aggressive during greetings.

Let’s begin with some safety tips for both you and FIDO. It is important for you to evaluate your emotions regarding a dog park visit, as well as your dog’s mental state. You may find this amusing, but it’s extremely important. Dogs sense emotion in us and tend to feed off our attitudes. When a nervous owner enters the dog park, he has often unknowingly set the groundwork for an anxious dog.

The solution? Start by working on your own fears, if you have any. Visit a few local dog parks without your Fido to select one that is not too large or busy. Read the posted rules and watch the interaction among the owners and their dogs that seem well-engaged. Look for good examples of confident owners with social dogs—calm and confidant, not dominant. Observe some of the unwritten rules of the dog park, as well as those that were on the gate. Here are a few of both:

    Absolutely no food inside the dog park. This is not a picnic area.

    Toys are also best left behind, as not all dogs ‘share’ well.  If you absolutely must bring something for a Fetch game, choose a tennis ball you can afford to lose, and be prepared to do just that.

    Dogs must have received all of their vaccinations before entering–usually no earlier than 4 months.

    Be sure to clean up after your own Fido.

    If your dog is aggressive, dominant, fearful, anxious or extremely shy, he doesn’t belong in a dog park. Engage an experienced trainer for help with these issues.

    Don’t allow your dog to ‘hump’ or dominate dogs or people.

    If you’ll be visiting an off-leash area that does not provide waste bags or water, be sure to come prepared.

    Keep an eye on your dog at all times, even as you socialize with other owners. His behavior, as well as his deposits on the grass, are your responsibility.

Need help with preparing your pup for a dog park romp? Join me next month when I address more detailed tips for your Fido’s first visit to a dog park. You can also consult with our Ask the Dog Trainer columnists about your specific concerns, by writing to us at

Carrie Boyko writes All Things Dog Blog, where her pack of high-spirited dogs teaches her every day how to be a better pack leader.

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