Dog Park Etiquette

blog post photo
“Whether you like it or not, dogs are going to jump on you. Don’t show up in your
Sunday best.”

There are over 700 dog parks in the United States, with more popping up every year. Dog parks come in all shapes, sizes and types – Some are fenced, others are open, most permit off-leash enjoyment.  Dog parks allow for increased animal socialization and challenging physical and mental exercise. Additionally, dog parks offer an opportunity for pet owners to mingle with one another and meet like-minded people.

All dog parks have participation rules that encourage positive and healthy behaviors (such as vaccinated, licensed and friendly pets). But visiting a dog park also requires some unsaid pet owner etiquette.

So, I thought I’d ask real life dog owners their advice on dog park etiquette, based on their personal experiences.

blog post photoHere’s what they had to say:

“No one likes a bully. If your dog is forming packs or getting a little rough, break it up before a fight breaks out. And if your dog keeps misbehaving, maybe it’s time for you to call it a day, ya know?”

“Dog parks are for dogs to run around and be rowdy, not for toddlers to learn how to walk.”

“It’s a good idea to understand how dog’s communicate with each other before you visit a dog park. That way, you’ll know when it’s an appropriate time to leave, or if your dog is having fun, fearful, stressed or dominant. Do some reading before you go.”

“Don’t talk on your cell phone and ignore your dog while he goes bananas!”

“Dog parks are not ­a free form of dog sitting. And unless I get paid, I’m not your dog-sitter. Know what your pups are doing out there.”

“Never, ever, ever drink alcohol before you go to the dog park. It’s not cool to be intoxicated in a family-friendly atmosphere. Also, it’s unsafe for a lot of reasons. So don’t be that guy.”

“If your dog is sick or not up-to-date on his vaccinations, don’t bring him to the park. I want to keep my dog healthy.”

“Don’t take your lunch and a book and expect to peacefully sit inside the fence with no interference.”

“Most people who go to dog parks get to know each other ­– or, at least each other’s dogs. So, be friendly and smile. Dog parks should be welcoming for everyone.”

“Pick up your dog’s poop. Every single time.”

“Hey, if your dog isn’t neutered or spayed, don’t take them to the park. You’re going to create a hormonal mess!”

“You are not the Dog Whisperer, okay? Don’t try to tell me how to teach my dog to sit, come, heel or any other command. I’ve got that under control and if I want advice, I’ll ask.”

“Don’t bring your young children… It is a DOG PARK. The whole point is that dogs are able to be off the leash and rambunctious. Delicate toddlers wandering around makes me nervous, and a dog park is where dogs should be able to run around freely and have fun.”

“Please don’t talk on your cell phone. We all can hear you air your dirty laundry.”

“If your dog shows aggression and dominance towards other dogs, do not take them to the dog park. Seek out training and socialization opportunities first, or you’re going to put other animals in danger.”

“Dog parks should be smoke-free places. An animal could eat that cigarette butt you threw on the ground.”

“Do not take your dog to the dog park if you’re going to freak out when another dog approaches yours and wants to sniff, play, jump and run. If this makes you uncomfortable, then just take your dog for a walk and not to the off-leash park.”

“Never EVER leave your dog unattended.”

What’s your dog park etiquette advice?

Additional Resources:

Find a dog park near you. (Psssst! There’s also an iPhone app for that).

Learn more about dog etiquette here.

Don’t have a dog park nearby? Find out how to start one.


  1. melerhund
    April 2, 2010, 8:35 pm

    Very good advice:)

  2. jenniferdogs2
    April 5, 2010, 5:19 am

    I have two large dogs, a Dane and an Irish wolfhound, and I have given up on dog parks. I would never take a dog that was not social and friendly to people and their dogs. People seem to think its funny (not to mention macho) when their small dog comes in looking for a fight, and how great when they go after a large dog. Can you imagine what would happen if mine did that? My Wolfie doesn’t even understand that they are being nasty and going after him .. he thinks its a game. And he gets snapped at and bit, and the owners laugh. My Dane is getting older and doesn’t always put up with that behavior. She does not bite back or cause any damage (and she certainly could), but she does put the dog on the ground. And then she gets accused of starting a fight. I know of other owners of large breed dogs that have had similar problems. Its sad that the dogs that need the space to really run can’t use it.