Dog Park Etiquette and Re-Socialization
As dog parks and dog-friendly locations begin to reopen over the coming year, our pups are likely a little rusty and overexcited about new outings. Time at home has helped them bond well with their pet parents, but it has probably not improved their social skills.It may have only been about 6 months of relative isolation to us, but to them, that’s like more than 2 years. Whether your old dog needs to remember their manners or you’ve recently adopted a new dog, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of socialization. We must remember to be extra patient and diligent to retrain expected behavior in these and new social settings while also practicing a little dog park etiquette.
The biggest benefits of doggy socialization include being less fearful when in new situations, living healthier lives, building confidence, and helping them find other puppy friends. Since even the humans in your house might need to remember how to behave in social, public settings, we’ve pulled together these tips for dog park etiquette to help you through the coming transitions.
As Always: Pick up After Your Dog
This is an obvious one, but it is super important to be a super-scooper, especially at a dog park. It keeps the park clean and also protects the environment. We all want to be environmentally -responsible pet owners. Forgetting to pick-up or telling yourself you’ll get it on the way back can have consequences leading to poor water quality over time. Scoop every time. At the dog park, on the trail, at the dog bar, think of those little baggies as badges of honor (until you can find a proper place to dispose of them).
If you’re a frequent forgetter, consider getting a small dog bag that you take on every trip. It can hold treats to practice positive behavior reinforcement training, compostable bags, a collapsible water dish, and some even have a pocket to hold your phone. Then you’ll never find yourself without the bags to do what’s healthier for everyone.
Leave the Toys (and Balls) at Home
This tip is important, especially as new pet owners. Every dog has a different relationship with their balls and other toys. Some couldn’t care less. Others can be completely obsessed. When you’re in a dog park, its a shared space. When you throw a ball, there’s no guarantee that only your dog will try to retrieve it. The ball obsessed dogs will come out of the wood work to get a hold of someone else’s ball and they won’t care that you threw it only for your dog. Depending on the park and how full it is, throwing a ball among a group of dogs is one way to trigger resource guarding either in your dog or others.
While at the dog park, be mindful of your surroundings. If there aren’t any dogs around, go for it. But if it feels like a free-for-all, it might be best to keep your puppy’s toys out of sight.
Also be mindful when bringing treats into a dog park. While we fully support positive-reinforcement training, dogs who are resource guarders may expect that you will give them your treats. They may also expect that you won’t be giving them to your own dog. Or your dog may not appreciate how other dogs are drawn to your delicious smell. Consider raising treats up above dog nose height or keeping in your pocket only what you’ll need for your own dog.
Where do you throw the ball and practice with treats if you don’t have your own yard? Consider going to the dog park early in the morning or later in the evening when there will be fewer dogs. Or rent a Sniffspot all to yourself. Sniffspot is an app and website that allows homeowners to list their fenced property for rent by the hour for use by other dogs. Fees are often as low as $5/hour per dog. Of course, every home and yard is different, so be sure to read descriptions and reviews before you book your first appointment to be sure your dog will be safe and happy.
Only with Permission
The dog park is a great place to meet other owners and their dogs. But like anywhere else, always ask permission before you touch a strange dog. Dogs can react differently to strangers and noises, and could be more fearful than your dog. When we meet a new dog, we know nothing about how they were raised or any trauma they’ve experienced. If you pet them without permission and they bite you, our laws still blame the dog. So don’t put a strange dog in that vulnerable position. Asking permission before you pet starts your relationship on a polite note and keeps everyone safe. You never know, you might just meet your dog’s new best friend.
Just like petting a strange dog, don’t give treats to a strange dog without first asking permission as well. You might find that dogs are allergic to certain ingredients or that a dog nips when taking a treat from a stranger. Dog owners will often thank you for asking before treating their dog.
Always Within View
This one seems simple but dog owners often forget to stay attentive. As a rule, keep your eyes on your dog at all times. Watch how they interact with other dogs, people, and how they are responding to the environment. You want to be proactive and prevent negative interactions before they happen, rather than reacting after the fact.
BYOW (Bring Your Own Water)
Have your dog drink only fresh water from clean containers. There are convenient collapsible water bowls at pet stores to bring with you on your adventures. It is important to know what your pup is drinking to avoid disease and stomach issues. If people aren’t scooping up after their dog it can possibly leak into the stale river or accumulated puddle. Many Pacific Northwest streams and ditches, for example, harbor giardia, a parasite that causes diarrhea. Bring a refillable water bottle and keep an eye on your dog if you notice they may be thirsty. At dog parks, empty and refill water bowls when you arrive to ensure your dog has access to fresh water.
Be Mindful of the Entrance and Exit
Some dogs gets very excited about the dog park. It might be part of their routine and to them it most likely is the best place in the world. But that also means they may be too excited to listen to you or follow your usual instructions. Many dogs escape and can be temporarily lost during the transition in or out of a vehicle or park.
When the time comes to make the transition, be very aware of your dogs attention level. Consider leaving your dog leashed until you’re safely inside the park and leash up before you leave. The same goes for being considerate of others. Control your dog so others can safely enter and exit the park and vice versa. If we all take care to re-route your dogs excitement we’ll have a much more relaxing and positive social time.
Find New Friends
Did your dog make a new friend? Or maybe you did! We recommend bringing your business card along so that if you meet a dog and owner that you and your dog particularly get along well with, you can connect for a future play date at the park or your home. Dogs love building friendships just like people and when they find a friend that is a good fit, they’ll appreciate our support of their new connection.
These are just a few tips on using your best dog and human manners at the dog park! And, as always, if you just can’t get out to exercise your dog, Run Those Dogs is here to help. We are happy to adventure with your pup to the park, on a trail walk, or hike.