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Dog Park Etiquette: 10 Tips for Pet Parents


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 04/07/2023, edited: 04/07/2023


Dog park etiquette doesn't exist to prevent embarrassment (although it definitely can). Obeying park rules and taking precautions can help furry parkgoers avoid injury and illness.

Following these etiquette tips will ensure you never have a dog park "faux paw" again — and may even make you a favorite dog park patron! Read on to learn precisely what you should and shouldn't be doing at the bark park.

Pay attention to your dog

The first rule of the dog park is to pay close attention to your pup — this means don't play on your phone or pull out a magazine. Things can happen in an instant; all it takes is one second for a fight to break out or for your dog to bolt.

Use your time at the dog park to bond with your pet and watch how they socialize with other dogs. Taking the time to be present will make the trip more enjoyable for you and Fido, and give you the opportunity to brush up on training skills.

Pick up your pup's waste

Signs are posted everywhere, yet the most common complaint of paw park patrons is that park-goers don't pick up their dog's poop. Besides being gross, poop can contain parasites that are easily spread to other dogs who step on it or eat it.

Have your waste bags at the ready while you're in the off-leash area. No one wants to pick up your dog's poop, so do your part and clean up after them. Not only is this common courtesy, but it's actually required by law in certain cities, like NYC and San Francisco — local pet parents who skip out on their doggy duty could face hefty fines!

Have your canine vaccinated

That leads us to our next dog park etiquette tip: vaccinate your dog. Parvo spreads quickly from soil contaminated with infectious poop. Parvo is a serious illness that can cause rapid dehydration and death in young dogs.

Respiratory viruses, like kennel cough, are another danger that can lurk in the dog park. Protect your pup and others by vaccinating them against these preventable illnesses.

Related: These Non-core Vaccines Could Save Your Dog's Life

Dog getting a flea bath before heading to the dog park

Give your pup a flea bath before and after you go

The last thing you want is for your dog to be the reason another dog has fleas. Besides being an itchy nuisance, fleas can transmit tapeworms. Keep the flea population down by giving your woofer a flea bath before and after you go to the park. The furry park patrons will thank you!

The best way to "pawtect" your pup from fleas, ticks, and other pests is to administer a parasite preventative like K9 Advantix or Frontline Plus. That way, your pooch will still be protected even if they play with other dogs at the park who haven't been treated for parasites.

Related: 5 Ways to Prep Your Pets for Flea and Tick Season

Never bring a female in heat to the dog park

Females in heat can spell big trouble at the dog park. Estrus often causes male dogs to act aggressively. And, of course, unwanted mating can occur. It's best you keep your pup at home when they're in heat. Heat cycles only last for a few weeks, so your woofer won't have to miss out for long.

dogs playing at the dog park and steering clear of the entrance gate

Keep your pet clear of the gate when dogs are entering or exiting

Keep your pet away from the gate when dogs are coming or going from the enclosure. It's easy for pups to make a quick escape when the gate is open, but there can be other issues as well. Dogs tend to congregate around woofers as they enter an enclosure, but these enthusiastic greetings aren’t always welcome. 

Consider how scary it would be if you were swarmed by a mob of excited people when entering a store. As you would imagine, this is the same distressing feeling pups get when arriving at the park. Prevent fighting and scaring park-goers by keeping Sparky away from others until they're inside the enclosure and comfortable with the attention.

brown puppy walking outdoors on a short leash beside a person wearing blue jeans and a red plaid shirt

Don't bring a puppy younger than 4 months

We know — it's a bummer having to leave your pup behind on a park trip, but it's simply not worth the risk. The dog park is unsafe for dogs who are too young to be vaccinated.

Pups without their shots are at high risk for parasites and preventable illnesses like parvo. Bringing your puppy can even endanger other dogs since puppies are notorious carriers of worms.

Leave the kiddos at home

It's best to leave the human littles at home. Bringing kids is risky due to the potential for dog bites or falls into holes made by the furry park-goers. Most dog parks don't allow children under 12 to enter the off-leash area anyway, so it's best to leave the kiddos at home until they get a little older.

two dogs playing off leash in a grassy dog park while their pet parents supervise

Keep the collar on Fido and a leash in hand

Keep Fido's collar or harness on during your time in the off-leash area, and have your leash nearby too. This will allow you to get ahold of Spot if they get loose or a fight breaks out.

We recommend bringing a short leash (rather than a retractable one) so you can maintain control over your pup in case your dog park excursion goes south.

a blue dog collar with silver spikes

Ditch the spike collars

If your dog ordinarily wears a spike or metal collar, be sure to replace it with a regular collar before heading to the dog park. Sure, they look cool, but metal and spike collars can seriously injure other dogs while playing.

Related: A Professional Dog Trainer's Guide to Dog Walking Equipment

A leashed dog and their pet parent enjoying a sunny day at the park

Dog park etiquette tips: recap

Here's a quick review of our dog park etiquette tips:

  • Keep your pet at home if they're unvaccinated, have parasites, or are in heat.
  • Have your pup under physical or verbal control at all times.
  • Leave the kiddos at the house.
  • Most of all, respect the park and other park patrons by picking up after your pup and supervising them at all times.

If everyone respects park etiquette, it'll be a smooth (and safe!) experience for everyone!

Speaking of making pet parenthood smoother, download the Wag! app for all your pet care needs. From finding a dog walker or drop-in sitter for those hectic work days to boarding and getting help with dog training, the Wag! app makes easy work of finding trustworthy Pet Caregivers.

Download the Wag! app today to see what all our furry friends are raving about!

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