For a dog to be happy and healthy, they need both physical exercise and social interaction with their peers. Running, playing, speaking ‘dog’ and sniffing butts are all part of a well-socialized canine community. As vital as a leash is for the rest of your pet’s day, they can interfere with the normal socialization and even cause poor or aggressive interaction. Called ‘leash aggression’, it is the most common form of dog aggression and even dogs that are normally calm and well behaved can display signs when meeting new friends.
There was a time not that long ago where every park was an off leash park. However, with the urbanization of our world, the areas where our pets are allowed to play footloose and fancy-free are diminishing. More then ever dog owners must act responsibly and not take off leash parks for granted.
Off Leash Etiquette How to Help Keep Dog Parks Open
Part of not taking off leash dog parks for granted is by following a few simple rules or etiquette.
- Keep your dog on a leash outside of the park or if there is no sign saying that the area is an off-leash area
- Don’t let your dog be a nuisance to other people, pets or wildlife.
- Basic obedience is a must! If your dog does not have a solid recall, keep him on leash until he does!
- Always carry a leash, even in the designated off leash area. You never know when you may need it.
- Keep your pet within sight and voice range.
- Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate! Always make sure your pet is up to date on their vaccines.
- Don’t bring a young puppy to a dog park. Young pups do not have a strong enough immune system and are more susceptible to catching potentially life threatening viruses.
- Don’t bring an intact female in heat to a dog park you are just asking for serious trouble!
- Never bring toys or treats to a dog park. Dogs can quickly become territorial or display guarding behavior with toys and food. They are there to play with other dogs save the game of fetch for another area.
- Does your pet seem under the weather? Is he listless or suffering from diarrhea? Unless you know for a fact that the upset stomach is caused from eating something unusual, do not bring him to the dog park! Common viruses are easily passed
- If your dog does begin to act aggressively or his play becomes out of control, leash him immediately and leave the area.
- Never bring an aggressive dog to an off leash park. Instead, take him to an animal behaviorist or aggressive dog obedience class and rehabilitate him.
- No digging allowed! If your dog does dig a hole, fill it immediately to prevent any injuries to other dogs or their people.
- Respect the rules of the park and the other users, both four-legged and two.
- Bring multiple baggies and clean up after your pet immediately. Pay special attention to the first ten minutes of each play session and if you see feces that does not belong to your pet, pick it up otherwise it may be your dog that steps in it and brings it home with him!
Dog Parks and the Not-So-Common Common Sense
Beyond the basic rules of the off leash dog park, there is also using your common sense.
- Is it your first visit to the dog park? To help guarantee a pleasant experience for both you and your pet, visit the dog park at a quiet time such as early morning or mid afternoon. Avoid the crazy after work/before dinner chaos as it will only overwhelm your pet and make the experience too stressful for the both of you!
- Keep your dog under control! If your pet does not have basic obedience or is still in the silly puppy stage where he wants to play ‘keep away’, keep away from the park. For your pet’s safety, he must be able to be kept under verbal control at all times while at the park.
- Look before you leap! Before you enter the enclosure or release your pet’s leash, have a look around at not only the behavior of the other dogs but also their owners. Is a dog acting aggressively or out of control? What is the owner doing about it? Its better all around to keep your pet on their leash and go for a walk then have him pick up bad habits or come face to face with an aggressive dog or you an idiotic owner!
- Watch your pet’s behavior and body language throughout the session. Play behavior can quickly change to fear or aggression if things change or a new dog enters the park. If he suddenly looks hesitant or no longer wants to play, take him to a different area within the park or call it quits for the day.
By following this advice, our off leash dog parks will stay open and our pets happy!