For most of today’s pups, gone are the days of hunting expeditions, herding sheep in the fields and having acres of woodlands to explore. The modern, urban dog rarely has a yard of its own. In cities full of apartments, the dog park has become a little paradise of fetch, Frisbee, barking and frolicking with new doggie-friends; a place for local pups and their parents to enjoy a bit of unleashed fun. Yet, like most community held treasures, the atmosphere is highly affected by the behavior of its attendees.

As pet owners who want to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle for our canines, it is our responsibility to make sure that we, along with our dogs, are choice members of our dog park community. The concept of “Dog Park Etiquette” seems as unwritten as it can be a foreign concept to many pet parents who frequent the local park. We’ve all experienced it — whether it’s our dog that is the chronic yapper or the one being awkwardly overwhelmed by the playful dog — therefore, learning these “Dog Park Etiquette” tips and tricks suggested by the SPCALA’s Director of Animal Behavior & Training, Eleasha Gall, will change your perspective on what the dog park is and how it should be used.


Train your pup before you embark on a dog park adventure. Make sure she recognizes and listens to commands like “come” and “sit”. Though it may seem obvious, the difference between a dog that will come when called and one that doesn’t know how to could mean the difference between safety and injury.

Focus on your dog, not your phone. Though it may be tempting to check your email, make a call or update your status, focusing on your pup and her interactions with the other dogs is of upmost priority. Tiffs can escalate quickly in the doggie-world, so in the interest of your pet’s well being, you must be attentive at all times.  No matter how convenient it would be, “the dog park is not free dog-sitting,” says Gall. Ultimately, you are in charge of your pet’s behavior. 

Play games with your dog and stay engaged with her. Practice “recalls” and give her a treat when she obeys. Play fetch, or just walk around with her. These are great ways to bond with your pup, especially if she isn’t the most social with the other dogs at the park.

Make sure that your pup is enjoying the park as much as you are. Relaxed, silly behavior while interacting with the other dogs, along with unsolicited check-ins as if to say a quick ‘Hey mom!’ are signs of enjoyment. If your dog is tense, standing with her tail tucked, yelps often or becomes aggressive are signs that she is not having much fun. Just as people differ in their level of sociability, so do dogs! If your pup doesn’t enjoy the dog park, that’s not a loss, just an opportunity for you to find other activities that are more enjoyable for you both.

Stay only a short amount of time. An exhausted pup is not always a friendly or obedient one.

Most importantly, take the opportunity to enjoy genuine quality time with your dog. Use the dog park as a space to bond with your pup; after all, they are woman’s best friend too!

What’s been your experience at the dog park? How do you keep it fun for your dog while being courteous of others?

The SPCALA offers many specialized workshops for helping you to train and engage with your dog. Visit their website for more information. 

Image via Of Hearth And Home

1 comment

  1. We live across the street from a big dog park and are regulars there with our dog Mati. What amazes me is how little control people have over their dogs. They seem to think that since it is a fenced in park, they don’t need to have recall down with their dog or even have any control over them. So many times I have had to call Mati to “leave it” when it got a bit rough only to have the other dog continue to lunge at her. Also many owners don’t take the time to understand dog behavior especially in play. I’ve been in situations in which people freak out or accuse another dog of attacking their dog when all that was happening was a friendly albeit rough wrestling match. When owners freak out and try to jump into the “fight”, their dog perceives that there is danger and the mood shifts from rough playing to I have to protect my master from this other dog now and it escalates. Be aware of how dogs perceive your behavior in the park. They are not humans and do not think or reason as humans do, they are canines and to respect your dog and others it is essential to recognize and understand that.

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