Do you know about dog park etiquette and unwritten rules? Don’t worry if you don’t. Most dog parents don’t know about them all. I know you’re probably thinking, life is full of rules. While I think some are meant to be broken, other rules are very needed. And yes, there are unwritten rules of the dog park. Crazy, huh? Today, let’s dig and discover the unwritten rules of the dog park. You may be surprised how this can change your dog park visit.
*Updated: August 28, 2023
Budget Tip: It doesn't cost anything to be dog park polite. But it will pay dividends for you and your dog, especially if a case of kennel cough should break out in your area. Or if your dog decides to play with a not-so-nice dog or unvaccinated dog. It will save you an unnecessary vet bil. Plus, it will save you unnecessary stress. Knowing about and following dog park etiquette is a priceless part of your dog knowledge. Dog park etiquette is a major win-win for you and your dog!
Dog Park Etiquette varies by leashed and off-leash parks
First, leashed and off-leashed dog parks are not the same. To be comprehensive, I’ll cover both leashed (or on-leash) as well as off-leash dog parks and address the secret rules for each. First, what does each of these types of parks mean?
Your dog and all other dogs must be leashed at all times while at these parks.
You may take your dog off-leash if you choose. Be aware that some people will choose to leave their dogs leashed for many reasons. Whatever the reason, respect these dogs and their owners.
*If you are not fully comfortable with how your dog will react, I strongly suggest you leave your dog on-leash until you know each other better. The last thing you want is a huge vet bill straight away.
Reasons to keep your dog on leash at an off-leash park
1. Uncertain about your new dog
3. Uncertain of other dogs at the park
You’ve made it to the dog park and now the fun begins! Or does it?
1. Entering the dog park
This can be overwhelming at first to see so many dogs and dog owners. There are a few unwritten dog rules to follow.
The entrance to a leashed dog park should be fairly wide open. Make sure to give any dog or person entering or exiting plenty of space. Most likely there won’t be a fence or gate to maneuver. If you see a dog and its owner off by themselves, give them space. There’s generally a reason why the owner is choosing to separate from the rest of the leashed dogs. Again, it could be a new dog, training, or the uncertainty of another dog.
Meanwhile, at an off-leashed dog park, there is generally a fence and a gate. Keep in mind that there can be a traffic jam at peak hours at the gate. Wait your turn. Don’t push other dogs or owners. Be kind. Stand back and let each dog and dog owner pass safely.
Also, always make sure you shut the gate tightly behind you. There will generally be a curious dog wanting to explore the exit. If it’s not secured tightly, then the whole park could escape.
2. Meeting dogs at the dog park
How does my dog meet a new dog friend?
When meeting a new dog at a leashed dog park try to bring your dog to a sitting position or a calm position about 6’ away from the other dog and let them approach each other slowly. If there are any signs of aggression from either dog, quickly and calmly pull your dog back and go the other way. That’s the benefit of having your dog leashed.
On the other hand, when meeting a new dog at an off-leash dog park, it can be a bit trickier. You will have to trust your dog to make good decisions. However, if something bad happens you will need to be prepared to act in a safe way to resolve any conflict. Throwing a jacket or ball can distract attention. A water facet can also calm agitated dogs. If these do not work, you may have to resort to pepper or deterrent spray aimed very carefully. I have not used this and will not unless it’s absolutely necessary. But if it’s necessary, I will without question. It’s much easier to recover from pepper spray than a punctured eye or worse.
3. Playtime at the dog park
Is it okay for my dog to play ball or rough house (or maybe that’s “rough park”) with another dog at the park?
At a leashed park, you most likely won’t encounter an opportunity to play at a leashed park, unless it’s a simple “meet and greet”, sniff, and jump a little with a new dog. As long as both dogs are wagging their tails and owners are okay with the behavior, this is the most acceptable and unwritten dog rule.
However, at an off-leash dog park, ask the other dog’s owner and if all dogs get along with wagging tails, then it’s acceptable. Always recognize “dog play” from something that’s getting out of control and be prepared to redirect energy. If all goes well, perhaps it will be the start of new best fur friends.
Are you worried because your dog doesn’t seem to like dog toys? No need to worry. My dog, Henry doesn’t like dog toys either. You just need to learn to play the way they want to play. Find out how in this article.
4. Sharing with other dogs
Can my dog share a water bowl with other dogs at the dog park?
*This applies to both leashed and off-leashed dog parks.
Honestly, I don’t encourage sharing bowls (this includes water, food, and treats) at the dog park unless you know the dog very well, then you can make a judgment call. Some dog illnesses, much like human illnesses, can be passed this way. It’s always best to bring your own bowl, water, food, and treats. When your dog is done drinking or eating, simply pick it up to prevent other dogs from using the bowl.
5. Humping acceptable at the dog park?
My dog likes to mount everyone and everything, even though he’s altered. Is this okay at the dog park?
No! This can end with a dog or human becoming aggressive. It’s best to keep your dog occupied or leave the park if he wants to engage in this behavior.
6. Bag it, can it, always at the dog park!
My dog just pooped. Is it okay to ignore it?
*This applies to both leashed and off-leashed dog parks.
While this one is generally a written rule at most dog parks, it still is a good one that definitely needs to be covered in this space. Most dog parks should have potty bags available for use. Although, it’s always nice to have a good supply just in case the park runs out.
Moreover, keep in mind that parasites and other diseases can be transmitted through feces. So, definitely don’t let your dog sniff another dog’s poop.
Finally, if your dog makes a “deposit” at the park, by all means, be kind, grab a doggie bag, and pick it up. That doggie doo you step in could be your dog’s. Trust me, whether that brown package is your dog’s or some other furball’s, the smell will follow you like a hungry bear.
Can adhering to dog park etiquette and unwritten rules reduce my dog expenses?
This is the fun part and one that often is amazing when it’s in front of you. In short, yes! When you follow the rules you can keep your dog safe and help reduce your overall dog costs. Consider the following for a moment.
- 6 Things To Consider Before You Get A Dog
- Secret Benefit Of Dog Harnesses: Massive!
- 10 Signs You Need A New Dog Park
- This Is How A Dog Who Doesn’t Like Toys Plays!
- 8 Awesome Reasons Your Dog Needs Water
- Hack Lets You Easily Open Dog Poo Bags
Summary of hidden dog park etiquette and unwritten rules
Taking your dog to the dog park, especially for the first time can be overwhelming. There are many unwritten and written rules at dog parks. While there are leashed and off-leashed dog parks, there are basic dog park rules all dog owners should know.
Some dog park etiquette rules that new dog owners may not always know are entering the park properly, meeting new dogs safely, playing with new friends is fine if all approve, not sharing bowls, humping is never acceptable behavior, and always bag what your dog drops. Of course, this is not an exclusive list of dog park etiquette and unwritten rules. Your dog park may even have etiquette rules of its own.
My dog has a harem of female dog friends. Funny, because he’s been fixed. It must be his charming personality.