10 Signs You Need A New Dog Park

Does your dog love your neighborhood park? I know, my dog, Henry loves the dog park. He loves the different sniffs, dogs, and people. But maybe you get an uncomfortable feeling at the dog park. I’ve definitely been in that spot. Wonder if it’s time to look for a new dog park. Perhaps it’s time to switch up your routine and skip the dog park altogether. Today, let’s dig in and discover the top 10 signs that you need a new dog park or an alternative. 

a woman learns it's time for a new dog park
Budget tip:

It may seem like you can't save any money just by switching from a questionable dog park to a new dog park. But you can actually save a lot of potential money. Especially if the dog park is unsafe or the dogs (or even people) aren’t well behaved. Honestly, a questionable dog park isn’t a gamble I’m willing to make with Henry. I’ll opt for alternative dog park methods. That’s definitely a winner for my budget and for Henry and me!

1. Park isn’t well-lit or has good access

Safety is always key for me. So, if a dog park isn’t well-lit or has good accessibility, then it may be time for a new park. 

2. Park rules aren’t clearly posted at the entrance to the park

The park should have a posting at the entrance stating that it’s dog friendly and the rules for dogs and dog parents. If there is no posting, the rules are hidden behind overgrown bushes, or the posting is simply confusing, then it may be time for a new dog park.

3. Dog parents aren’t following the rules

Maybe your public dog park has the rules clearly posted, yet none of the dog owners are following the rules. This could end in disaster. For example, it’s an on-leash dog park and the clearly posted rules state that all dogs must be leashed, vaccinated, and under the control of owners but you see dogs roaming freely unleashed.

Maybe it’s a mix of non-dog park yet separated areas for off-leash dog park. Or it’s a park with areas separated for off-leash dogs and on-leash dogs. However, dogs are running in the non-dog area or open space areas and few rules are being followed by dog owners. The problem with this scenario is that you don’t know if these dogs are vaccinated or where the dog’s parents are if there is an incident. While we are all dog lovers this could be a glaring red flag that it’s time to look for a new dog park. 

What can you do when off-leashed dogs attack? There are a few tricks. In this article, I walk you through them.

4. Park isn’t well maintained or clean

Yep, a dirty park is definitely a neon red sign that says you need a new dog park. This could be in the parking lot, park, or the surrounding area. If you look around the dog park and see that it’s unclean or not well maintained then don’t enter. You could even see overflowing garbage cans or spilled garbage. Do you have to step over mounds of dog poop just for your dog to poop? This can be a major health issue. Many illnesses are transmitted in dog feces. 

For example, one of Henry’s favorite parks, which was a lovely park, I had to stop taking him because it was not just unclean, but gross! We pulled up in the parking lot one day and there were used condemns and syringes. That’s not a clean or safe place for Henry or myself. However, Henry would’ve been happy to continue exploring that park. I have to say my standards are higher than his. 

Remember dogs can be extremely quick. So, something on the ground can be gobbled up in a second and get stuck in your dog’s throat even quicker. That means rushing to the vet and a pricey vet bill, not to mention the stress and anxiety to you. 

A poorly maintained or dirty dog park is a HUGE red flag you need a new dog park or an alternative for your dog. 

Do you struggle to open your dog’s poop bags? I did until I created this simple and free hack. Learn how to create your own in this article. 

5. Dog parents are aggressive

This one I admit took me completely by surprise. However, I think you’ll agree it’s an in-your-face red flag. In fact, I haven’t been back to the dog park where Henry and I experienced this warning sign. Okay, I really should clarify that I do live in a small western town. But, weird things happen everywhere. This sign means the dog’s parents are your cue to exit.

Let me explain in this example. Unfortunately, it happens more than I’d like to think. This particular situation occurred the day after I adopted Henry. My boss at the time told me to take Henry to his neighborhood dog park. He thought it a very friendly dog park. I was lucky that Henry could go with me to work. So, once the work day was over we headed to this park.

As we entered the park there was a big commotion. People were rushing out the entrance. A man stopped to tell me what was going on at the other end of the park. Apparently, a man didn’t like that a woman showed up with a leashed pitbull. He was so upset that he took out a loaded gun and pointed at the poor dog. While he threatened to shoot the dog simply for his breed, he ultimately shot the ground. That’s when people and dogs shattered out of the park. 

Hopefully, you won’t encounter any person this aggressive. But if you do, leave immediately and call 9-1-1.  Of course, don’t return to the dog park either. You will want to look for a new dog park or an alternative for your dog. 

Want to take your dog to work? Learn how to do it in this article. 

6. Aggressive dogs (or seem that way)

Unfortunately, you may not see an aggressive dog until it’s running at you often off-leash. This happened with Henry and me at his old neighborhood park. There was a knoll and as we came around it a loose, large dog came running at Henry. I quickly picked Henry up and held him close to me. That’s a benefit of a small dog.

The off-leash dog at this on-leash dog park was barking, growling, and trying to bite Henry. About 30 seconds or so later a woman appeared and nonchalantly gathered her dog. I hadn’t seen this dog hiding when we were walking or the woman for that matter. However, if you encounter such an incident, try to get the person’s information and report it to the city or county. At the very least, consider not returning to the park. You may want to look for a new dog park or an alternative park. 

What is an aggressive dog? More importantly, what can you do about an aggressive or angry dog? In this article, I walk you through what an aggressive dog is and tips to calm a dog that appears aggressive. 

7. Bad behaviors being written off

No bad behavior should simply be written off as “Oh, my dog is just being a dog” or “Isn’t that cute”. Bad behavior is bad behavior. So, if a dog comes up to your leashed or unleashed (depending on the park rules) and begins to hump your dog, that’s not ok. If a dog makes your dog submissive by rolling your dog over and biting his/her neck, that’s not ok. This is alpha behavior and could turn very aggressive.

Moreover, if you see a dog fight being written off, that’s really not ok. It could be very dangerous or even fatal. You and your dog should feel safe at the dog park. Definitely leave the dog park since it’s not safe. Additionally, you can report such behavior to the city or county. It’s not acceptable behavior. Regardless of what other dog owners say. 

In fact, this is a flaming red sign that you need a new dog park or an alternative park. 

Do you know that simply training your dog to know the commands “sit”, “come”, “wait”, and “let it” go are critical? It can mean the difference between your dog engaging in something that can lead to an expensive vet bill and a well-behaved dog. Not sure you have the time, money, or know-how to train your dog? It’s not that difficult. Check out this easy article that shows you how to train your dog for free on your schedule. 

8. Your dog is fearful or wants to leave

Always listen to your dog. If your dog is showing signs of being scared or fearful at the park, then it’s time to leave and probably time for a new dog park. You’ll want to look for cues from your dog of being fearful such as shaking, ears pinned back, tail tucked, or overall body hunched trying to make him/herself as small as possible. Remember a fearful dog can also be defensive.

Thus, if someone should passby and try to pet your dog innocently without asking, then they have a higher risk of being bitten. Therefore, if your dog is showing any of these behaviors, then it’s definitely time to leave this dog park and it most likely is time to find a new dog pork or an alternative. 

9. You don’t know if other dogs are vaccinated – make sure yours is

The problem with dogs you don’t know is not knowing their history. If they’re vaccinated or not. Or if they have an illness that could make your dog sick. I always try to size up a dog before I allow Henry to get close to a dog I don’t know. Does it look healthy? But even then it’s a “WAG” so to speak because I have to trust the other dog owner. I certainly don’t let Henry smell another dog’s poop that could carry parasites or illnesses, which could make him sick. 

Keep in mind that a dog or pet can easily get fleas from an infected dog. Those fleas can then be transmitted to your home and that can be a complete nightmare! 

While I haven’t witnessed this often, I have seen it on occasion when a new dog parent will take a very small, unvaccinated puppy to a dog park. YIKES!!!! Poor puppy. While the dog parent probably (or hopefully doesn’t know) that it’s not safe for the puppy, it also tells me that the dog parent is a bit free-willing with their puppy. Additionally, I’ve seen dog parents very vocal about vaccines. Honestly, that’s fine. But the dogs need to play with their family pack because transmission of disease goes up. 

If you experience these situations, then it may be time to find a new dog park or an alternative that’s safer for your pup.

Wish you could get your dog vaccinated by a vet at a lower cost? It’s possible. In this article, I walk you through how to do it.

10. Your internal bells are ringing

Have you ever been someplace and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up? Or do you just know that’s not the best place to be at that moment? That’s your intuition. Trust it! When it talks or screams, listen. If you hear it say, this isn’t a good park, then turn around and leave. Simple and no questions asked. It’s definitely a time when you will want to get a new park or new equivalent for your dog. 

NOTE: Sometimes a dog park will just have a bad experience with a not-so-nice visitor. I’d like to think most dog parks are great. So, you may want to give a dog park more than one strike and out. Especially, if you see something out of the ordinary. However, if you are simply uncomfortable, then it’s probably time to find a new park. Never put yourself or your dog in an unsafe place.  

Is there anything I can do to improve my dog park?

If your dog park fits into any of these 10 categories, definitely call your local county or city parks department. Also, call your local animal control and express your concerns. However, honestly, if you have issues with your dog park, I highly recommend finding an alternative. You can check out your regular dog park in a few months and see if it’s improved. Perhaps simply drive by and get an overall impression. I’ve done this with the dog park closest to me. Unfortunately, it still has work to do before I will return with Henry. But I do have alternatives that Henry loves.

What are alternatives are there to my local dog park?

If you or your dog have decided that your dog park isn’t a good fit, then you need to look for another way to exercise your dog. Here are a few great ways to keep your dog fit:

  • Walk around the neighborhood
  • Hike a local trail
  • Backyard play more
  • Friend’s backyard to play
  • Walk around a well-lit parking lot
  • sniffspot.com (this is where you can rent a dog park and it’s cheap!)
Henry looking for fish at one of his alternative new dog park options
Henry loves looking for fish on one of his favorite hiking trails.

Is there really a savings to my budget for leaving a questionable dog park?

You might be surprised to know that you can save on your dog’s budget simply by not going to a questionable dog park. Here’s how:

Related articles:

Summary of the signs you need a new dog park 

Henry thoroughly loves the dog park. It honestly doesn’t matter which dog park. He just loves being social with people and other critters. Actually, if there was a park of just deer, birds, cats, heck you name it, he’d be all in on it. He’s really not picky. That means I have to be picky. So, when his neighborhood park became unclean (well, honestly, gross) and unsafe, we stopped going to it. That doesn’t mean dog parks are bad. Not at all.

In fact, there’s a wonderful dog park near my brother’s house which is several hundred acres with a nice walking path and lots of green grass. The dogs and people (including dog owners) are well-behaved. That seems weird to write, but it’s true. Plus, it’s clean and well-maintained. The only problem is that it’s seven hours away. So, it’s not a daily dog park. On a daily basis, Henry enjoys running around our two-acre property and going for hikes. He’s well-exercised and it’s safer. 

a happy is excited to be at a new dog park

Have you ever experienced any of these 10 signs that you need a new dog park? What did you do?

About Terri Rodefer

Terri Rodefer is the founder of Tail Wag Wisdom, a blog focused on affordable pet care. She likes to say helping pet parents afford and love their animals even more, makes her tail wag. As a lifelong lover of all animals with a background in economics, biology, and marketing, allows Terri to bring a unique spin to pet care. 

10 thoughts on “10 Signs You Need A New Dog Park”

  1. We avoid the dog park like the plague in our house -simply because I’ve seen far too many altercations in our area. You have some great tips here on what to watch for to recognize that it may be that type of setting before getting into a difficult or dangerous situation. As dog parents, we are their protectors, and we need to be their advocates. One key way to do that is to be aware and spot trouble before it happens. Thanks for sharing!

    • You know it’s really sad that there are so many issues at dog parks. It should be a safe place where dog parents can go with their dogs. But unfortunately, all too often rules aren’t followed or a few bad apples will spoil the whole park. It truly does make me sad, because dogs like Henry, just love dog parks. There are still a few great ones out there, such as the one near my brother. However, once you’ve had a bad experience or seen a bad experience it definitely makes you want to avoid dog parks altogether. You are absolutely correct, dog parents are the protectors of our dogs. We have to be the responsible ones. So, if you feel uncomfortable or simply don’t think a dog park is the right fit, then, by all means, listen to that internal message. More than once, I’ve pulled up to a dog park, only to turn around and drive out. Of course, Henry whines about it. But I listen to my internal messages. Thank you for your continued support! I really appreciate it!

  2. It’s such a shame when bad dog owners show up at a park, or when the town doesn’t keep it clean. We’ve had so many negative issues we rarely go to the dog park anymore. Icy is 13 and slowing down a lot. She used to play with all the dogs so well and had loads of energy, but now that she’s slowed down and her hearing is diminished a bit she is a little fearful of the other dogs there. She’s ok with small dogs, so sometimes we take her to a small dog park near a family member, but it’s 45 minutes away. Where we live we don’t trust the dog parks and my husband no longer wants to take her to the fabulous dog friendly beaches – he’ll only go if she’s on leash and even then he’s so wary of all the other dogs. I hate that he doesn’t let me take her to the beach anymore. ) – : Thanks for including the Sniffspot link!

    • You are absolutely welcome for the sniffspot link! It seems like a very cool option. Much safer than a dog park. Honestly, the whole dog park issue is kind of making me sad. It’s as if we need a dog park makeover. How do you do that? I don’t know. If I have an idea, I’ll certainly post it. Thank you for sharing your experiences and your continued support. I truly appreciate it!

  3. I am very blessed to go to a dog park which is very clean, a community where some have been going there for years plus, I feel very safe there, everyone watches their dogs and are very respectful especially with Layla being a senior now, I have not seen problems in our park and have been going there for over 10 years plus everyone sticks to the guidelines also. I would not change my park although do go to others sometimes for a change, but there also I go to the ones that are very clean and safe.

    • Actually, I think you and Layla are very blessed. You may be more blessed than you even realize. Hold on to your treasured dog park. It’s almost a unicorn anymore. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I really appreciate it!

  4. We are very fortunate that we have a dog park just for our development. We have learned the times to go when no one else usually goes, so Rex can run and play ball for a little bit. There are a few people that we trust that will show up sometimes. Otherwise, we leave a lot of times when we see people pulling in if we don’t recognize them just because there have been issues with some dogs in the past.

    The only real issue we have with our dog park is people don’t keep their dogs on-leash prior to entering the gates. We will be leaving and suddenly a loose dog will come running up to us right after we are out of the gate. Of course, it is usually all excited and barking and jumping around and its owner is still back at their vehicle. It makes it difficult to get out of there. It has also been an issue when people with little dogs are leaving, and a big dog comes running at them off leash.

    Otherwise, our park is great, I just wish people would pay attention to the leash laws and keep their dogs on leash until they are in the park.

    • How lovely that you have a good dog park! Dog parents not following park rules is a major issue. Off-leash dogs can be a huge issue, especially if you have a small dog. A playful bite placed in the wrong spot can be disastrous! When I see off-leash dogs running loose at an on-leash dog park, I don’t even stop. Henry’s not happy. But I’m not willing to take a chance.

      Thank you so much for sharing your experiences! I greatly appreciate it!

  5. Wow! There is so much excellent information here! I know dog parks are a wonderful thing for so many. For me, with five Huskies, we created our own private dog park in our backyard. I always worried about so many things you wrote about – will another dog attack them? Will the handlers be responsible? Will the dogs all be healthy? And…with Huskies being Houdini escape artists, will they get out?!

    I am *so* glad your Henry is okay after that incident. How frightening for you both! And she was nonchalant? That is so aggravating, rude, and irresponsible. Definitely time to leave. I am glad you found another one near your brother’s place that sounds exceptional! Here’s to many happy visits!

    I also love how you do a budget! It’s important to think about the savings, and include possible incidents/accidents.

    Oh, and the recommendation of sniffspot is spot (BOL) on! I did not know about that. What a great resource.

    As always, your information is top-notch! Sharing and Pinning!

    • Yes, if you have a good dog park, definitely hold onto it. Sometimes a good dog park is almost like a unicorn.

      I’m glad you enjoy the budget or cost breakout. They give a different insight into the subject matter. You know, I’m always trying to bring the expense value to folks.

      Oh, yes, I love Sniffspot as well. I haven’t personally used it yet, but I’m looking forward to doing it. There are so many great yards listed for not much at all.

      Thank you for your continued support and encouragement. I really appreciate it!


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