Andrea Crawford of Portland Tails Magazine had the following tips for dog park etiquette.
Dog parks can be the perfect place to take your dog to socialize and get some exercise or, they can be your worst nightmare. What makes or breaks a good dog park are the people who utilize it. How well the users maintain the area and the expectations they have of each other and their animals.
Not all dogs are good candidates for dog-park play. A dog park is not the appropriate place for dogs who have behavior problems in relation to other dogs or humans.
Consider the following carefully before taking your dog through the gate into your local dog park.
• Watch park play for several minutes before you take your dog in to be sure there are no dogs present who are inappropriate play partners for your dog. Once inside the dog park pay attention to what is going on.
• Your dog should be reasonably confident and social. Those who are fearful, aggressive, or reactive are not appropriate for dog parks.
• Your dog must have basic good manners. Not jump or sit on people uninvited.
• Your dog should respond to basic cues – at least “come,” “sit,” and “leave it/off,” so you can get control of him if necessary, and prevent him from harassing others.
• Barking should be kept to a reasonable level, both for the comfort of other park users as well as nearby neighbors. Occasional barks of joy are acceptable.
• Only healthy dogs should visit dog parks. Your dog should have all vaccinations current. If you have an older dog or a dog with structural issues be aware that he might be jumped on or run into.
• If you are visiting a new park it is a good idea to visit the park without your dog to observe park culture and practices. Arrange to take your dog to the park the first time at non-peak use hours to allow both of you to get used to the environment without the stress and distraction of multiple dogs.
• Don’t bring small children inside the dog park. Occasionally, dogs who are running fast in a chasing game will accidentally run into a grown-up, sometimes even knocking down a full-sized man. You would not want that to be your toddler.
• Limit your use of toys or food treats as necessary to avoid dog/dog conflict. This may vary depending on the dog population at the park during any given visit.
• Keep puppies under the age of four months at home. They aren’t fully immunized yet, so are at higher risk for contracting diseases, and are very vulnerable to being traumatized by another dog’s inappropriate behavior.
• Remove your dog’s leash as soon as you enter the off-leash area. Mixing on-leash and off-leash dogs can cause stress in the leashed dogs, which may lead to aggression.
• Be polite, even if someone else’s dog is inappropriate and the owner isn’t controlling her dog or is unwilling to take her own dog out of the park. Try to be open-minded if your dog is involved in a conflict. Your dog may play a part in it.
• Avoid disciplining another park user’s dog. If you must use force to break up a fight, so be it, but do not attempt to “punish” someone else’s dog once the conflict is ended. If you find another dog’s behavior unacceptable, take your own dog out of the park rather than “correcting” someone else’s dog.
• Honor the posted dog-park hours. They are set for a reason often for your own safety, or to maintain peace and harmony with nearby neighbors.
• Of course, as always, clean up after your dog both inside and outside the park. Be willing to clean up unclaimed piles from visitors who don’t know or don’t follow the rules of dog-park etiquette, or perhaps who just didn’t notice their dog leaving a souvenir.
A list of dog parks and dog friendly areas can be found in the Portland Tails magazine, for a link click here.