By Guest Writer and All Dogs Dog Walker, Merita Kligerman
The dog park can be a fun and vibrant place for dogs and humans alike. It provides our dogs with opportunities to socialize with other dogs and people, and get lots of exercise via running and play. But in order to maintain a fun and safe environment, it is imperative that dog owners follow some basic yet crucial rules when bringing their dogs to the dog park.
Pay Attention to Your Dog(s). The enclosed space of a dog park and the presence of other dog owners may give you a false sense of security when you’re there with your furry friend. You may find yourself distracted by your phone or an engaging conversation with a fellow dog owner, but it is critical that you keep an eye on your dog and her interactions with other dogs and people. It takes a split second for a playful situation between dogs to turn into a frightening interaction. A dog may be triggered by a behavior they see as a threat—prolonged eye contact with another dog, for example—or the instinct to protect a toy or treat, which might result in warning behaviour, or even an altercation. Actively watching your dog can help ensure friendly and respectful canine play.
Listen and Communicate. I have come across numerous dog owners who come into a dog park already wearing earphones or earbuds. This is a potentially dangerous situation because it means they will not be able to receive crucial information from other dog owners. It is absolutely essential that open and clear communication exist between dog park patrons in order to relay information regarding a dog’s triggers, sensitivity to specific breeds, personality traits, reactivity to certain people, pre-existing injuries or sensitivitiess, and so on. Having this essential information from other dog owners can help you and your dog avoid potentially dangerous situations. And don’t be afraid to ask questions of other dog owners regarding their dogs. The more you know, the better your experience in the dog park will be.
Pick Up After Your Dog. So simple yet so necessary. If you are distracted and don’t see it happen, or if you choose to ignore it, you will be called out by other dog owners. There is no escape from this responsibility in the dog park. Just do it. It makes for a more pleasant experience for all dog park attendees, both human and canine.
Undoubtedly, going to the dog park can be a joyful and active experience for both you and your dog. Friendships develop, hilarious moments take place, and you can bring your dog home tired and happy after a number of play sessions with other dogs. But it’s up to us as dog owners to ensure that we are aware of what’s happening in the dog park, that we communicate with one another clearly and effectively, and that we all participate in maintaining a clean and healthy space.
Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, and Decoding the Dog Park.