Dog Park Etiquette 101 - Your Pooch in Public Spaces

Posted by Laura Greenland on

As dog owners, we’re often looking for new and engaging things to do with our pups. And heading to a communal dog park or an open public space can be super appealing, especially at this time of year when the weather is much nicer than in the depths of winter. We all want to take advantage of the recent summer sunshine, which is perfectly understandable. 

But before you go barrelling into this new experience with your dog without any preparation at all,, there are a few key things you’ll want to be mindful of. In this blog, we’ll share our key tips for dog park etiquette, to keep both you and your pooch happy, safe and engaged. 

First things first, as tempting as it can be to take your new puppy with you for every single social occasion, a dog park is probably not one we’d recommend. Not only can this put them at risk if they’re not fully vaccinated, but socialisation for a puppy in a crazy busy dog park or open space can absolutely cause more than good. You’ll want to avoid popping your puppy down on the floor especially as the potential for nasties is super high in these early few weeks. Instead, hang fire until they’re fully vaccinated, including the waiting period after their second jabs. Although this can feel like an endless wait in-the-moment, you’re setting your doggo up for a lifetime of good health and wellness, instead of ending up with a sickly tiny pup battling an illness they simply shouldn’t have, caused by impatience. 

And socialisation should always be done within a structured container. The trouble with dog parks is they are unpredictable in nature. You never know when another dog is about to come sprinting over, engaging with your puppy however they please. This leaves your doggo open to unpleasant surprises, overwhelming encounters and developing behavioural issues at a very early age. And this can be really hard to train them out of when they’re older. Instead, consider walking your puppy (once they are fully jabbed of course), in busy spaces but on a lead. There is nothing wrong with busy environments and exposure for them, but you need to be in the driving seat. And by all means, set up 1:1 encounters with other dogs for them, but in such a way that you can control both of the animals involved in the situation. You ideally want to end up with a neutral dog - one that can handle anything the world throws at them without being phased. 

This advice really extends into adult dogs as well as puppies. You need to properly assess whether or not a dog park is the best environment for your dog. Pups with anxious personalities, aggressive tendencies or even just overly boisterous behaviour can cause major issues in communal play spaces. Firstly, you’ll want to avoid stressing out your dog. If they tend to struggle with packs/groups of dogs, and even with 1:1 exchanges, then it’s unlikely they’re going to enjoy themselves in the park. And if they’re not happy, it’s unlikely you will be either. 

On the subject of dog behaviour and body language, it’s really important for you to be able to “read the room”. If your dog is causing any issues, or likewise, another pooch is being bothersome, it’s crucial that you intervene. You have a responsibility as a dog owner to ensure that your pup is being respectful, and sometimes they need to be taught this proactively. Packing behaviour can also be quite a common occurrence in group settings, and if your dog is participating in a pack, all involved owners should be mindful. Keep a close eye on your pup throughout their time in the park, Although it’s easy to be distracted, be it through an interesting conversation or perhaps browsing on social media, things can go wrong in an instant if you’re not quick to act. 

Before you go to the dog park, make sure you look up the rules and etiquette of wherever it is that you’re visiting. Specific dog parks may have guidelines for you to follow, such as areas your dog can access off-leash, quantities of dogs permitted at any one time, and just general best-practice for you to be aware of. If you’re going to a more open public space, again, please be mindful of any restrictions that might exist. Not every area will necessarily be dog-friendly. For example, children’s play areas are often fully enclosed but not always dog-friendly, so make sure you are observant to signage and any other directional literature at the park. 

There may also be things to consider such as birds, wildlife and even livestock roaming. So, unless your dog has perfect recall, you will need to be cautious in any public setting. This keeps the fun in contained, dedicated spaces, without putting any users of the spaces at risk. Remember, a happy pup usually results in a happy owner. 

Whenever you take your dog out in public, the best thing you can do is be fully prepared. Make sure you stock up on the obvious necessities such as poo bags. Some parks will provide them but this is fairly few and far between. There are plenty of stylish poo bag dispensers out there, which can make it a lot less easy to forget this walking essential! Options include this, this and this!

 It’s super important to be well-prepared because this will help you to keep any public spaces clean for other users. There’s nothing worse than stepping in someone else’s mess during what was otherwise a lovely dog walk. Nobody wants to be scraping dog poo off the bottom of their shoes, so do your part to avoid this. Outside of that, make sure that you have the required accessories on-board for things like post-walk hydration and even emergency first aid if necessary. You could keep a little doggy box in your vehicle to ensure you’re ready for any situation you’re likely to face. 

Going to a dog park can be a really enjoyable experience for both pup and owner, providing you’re nicely prepared and aware of your surroundings. Do be a little mindful in the summer months especially, given the rising temperatures. There are numerous resources online that will provide you with guidance on when it’s safe to exercise your dog in the sunshine, and when it’s safer to keep them at home. Just remember, one or two days without a dog walk might be much better for them. Have fun this summer - and stay safe! 

Check out all our Public Space Essentials for Dogs over on our Amazon Storefront now! 

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