10 Things You Should Never Do at the Dog Park

These habits put the health and happiness of frolicking canines at risk -- and irritate the other dog owners.

Three dogs playing together at dog park.LagunaticPhoto / Shutterstock.com

Dog parks, which barely existed 20 years ago, have sprung up in cities nationwide. It’s a great concept to have parks designated for off-leash canines where they can play and socialize, but away from small children or people who just don’t want to deal with dogs.

There was a 4 percent increase in such doggy playgrounds from 2015 to 2016, when the number also reflected an 89 percent increase from 2007, reports PetGuide.com.

Brad Weston, president and chief merchant at Petco, headquartered in San Diego, told the publication that parks have multiplied as dog owners focus on the physical and emotional needs of their four-legged buddies in the city. But not every dog will benefit from every park.

Before you take Fido for his play date, consider these 10 things NOT to do while in a dog park:

1. Ignoring your dog’s fear

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Dogs are generally social animals. Yet some dogs don’t want to interact with others and some are downright fearful. Respect your dog’s personality and don’t force it to go to a dog park. Once there, if the pup cowers or otherwise shows fear or discomfort, leave. Forcing your dog into a dog park, which can be a hectic environment, will only increase the dog’s stress, reports WedMD. That’s not a proper way to socialize a fearful dog, says Mother Nature Network.

2. Feeding your dog at the park

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It’s best to feed your dog at home. Feeding at a dog park cause aggression in other dogs looking to steal the food. If another dog does eat your dog’s food, it might get sick due to its own food allergies or ailments. And you shouldn’t bring dog biscuits or other treats to share with the other dogs, either, advises Mother Nature Network.

3. Not cleaning up your dog’s waste

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Failing to pick it up the poo is not only rude, but presents a health risk. Infectious diseases can spread at a dog park, including through fecal matter. To better protect your dog against others who don’t follow this rule, only take your dog to a park if your pet has been vaccinated, suggests VetStreet. You may also want to talk to your vet about giving your dog a vaccine for kennel cough and preventive medicine for heartworms before you go, adds VetStreet. Also, bring a water bowl for your dog and only allow your dog to use it.

4. Arriving with an over-energetic dog

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Many dogs get incredibly excited by dog parks. That can lead to aggression and other poor behavior. Rather than risk fights and other dangerous behavior — which can lead to trouble for you and the dog — allow your dog to burn off energy before you arrive, suggests Cesar’s Way. Before you visit the park, take your dog for a leashed walk somewhere else.

5. Taking an unfixed dog to the park

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It’s imperative that you only take spayed or neutered dogs to a dog park, says Cesar’s Way. Otherwise your dog may attempt to mount another dog or may be mounted. And don’t bring a female dog in heat.

6. Allowing your small dog in the large dog area

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Many dog parks have small dog areas. Keep your small dog there, even if you think it likes to play with larger canines, suggests the AKC and other canine experts. It’s common for large dogs to look at smaller canines as prey. This isn’t a fault of the large dog. It’s just a function of biology.

7. Ignoring your dog

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Many dog owners love to socialize while their dogs play. That’s fine, but be sure to keep an eye on your dog at the same time. As Mother Nature Network reports, dogs can get into fights, hurt themselves or otherwise jeopardize their health or the health of other dogs — and people! Watch your dog as closely as you’d watch your child, the site recommends.

8. Choosing a park sight unseen

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You wouldn’t take your child to a day care without first visiting and assessing it. Similarly you should check out a dog park before bringing your canine, recommends PetMD. Visit the park at various times — without your pup — and watch the interactions. Are aggressive dogs allowed to do as they please? Do owners ignore the dogs? Are there any safety hazards?

9. Not watching for heat stroke

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Dogs have few sweat glands and quickly become overheated when they run and play. Watch your dog to make sure it’s not panting or otherwise in distress. Choose a dog park with shade, and make sure you have a dog dish and cool water available for your dog, recommends VetStreet.

10. Letting your dog run amok

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You should only take your dog to a park if it understands you’re in charge. Otherwise your dog may well ignore you when you try to keep it from chasing a squirrel, wandering into a mud puddle or otherwise behaving inappropriately, recommends Cesar’s Way.

Dog parks are a great way for you to share the great outdoors with your pet while you both socialize. Just make sure to take precautions so the visit is positive for you and your four-legged buddy.

What kind of experiences have you had at dog parks? Any dog park tips to share? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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