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Dog park etiquette: Play nice

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As the popularity of dog parks explodes across the nation, it's important to understand dog park "etiquette." As leash laws become more restrictive, dog owners are discovering that the parks are a great place for exercising and socializing their dogs in a safe environment. Ranging from a basic enclosed field to a fancy space filled with agility courses, water fountains and doggie swimming ponds, all dog parks have one thing in common: they provide a place where dogs can run and play off-leash.

Unfortunately, not every dog park is visited by responsible owners. Even a few inconsiderate people can ruin the experience for everyone. Make sure you're not one of them by following these simple dos and don'ts of the dog park:

1. Observe all park rules. It's a good idea to make your first visit alone so that you know the park rules before bringing your dog. Failure to follow the rules can cause a park to be shut down or a serious incident to occur.

2. Never leave your dog unattended at the park. Trouble can brew quickly when unfamiliar dogs gather – you'll want to stay alert and in close proximity to your dog at all times.

3. If your dog becomes aggressive, leash it immediately and leave.  It's important to know you are legally liable for your aggressive dog.  

4. Don't bring puppies younger than 4 months who have not had all the required vaccinations. It puts the health of the puppy, as well as the health of other dogs, at risk.

5. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all of its vaccinations, and that its license and rabies tags are visible on his collar.

6. If your female dog is in heat, keep her home. It would be terribly irresponsible to bring her to the dog park with dozens of dogs running loose, including the possible unneutered male.

7. Many parks will have a posted limit on the number of dogs one person can bring into a dog park. Abide by that number, and don't bring more dogs than you can easily handle.

8. If children accompany you to the park, ensure their safety by staying alert for aggressive dogs. Remind children to always ask an owner for permission before petting a dog.

9. Dispose of your garbage correctly. Old food, food containers and cigarette butts are harmful to dogs if eaten.

10. Finally, pick up the poop! Most dog parks have poop bags, scoopers and special waste receptacles. If yours doesn't, bring a plastic bag with you and dispose of waste properly.

When these simple rules of safety and courtesy are followed, everyone has a good time. Dogs get to play with other dogs, and their owners meet like-minded people with a common interest – the love of dogs.


Credit: Reviewed by Amy I. Attas, V.M.D.
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