Fun Off-Leash at the Dog Park… Tips and Etiquette for Newbies!

The days are getting longer, you’re shedding your winter layers, which means: summer is just around the corner, and it’s time to hit the DOG PARK! For many of us living in urban areas, dog parks are critical for maintaining our dogs’ physical, mental, and social well-being. If you’ve never been to an off-leash park, it’s never too late to start. Even for those NOT in urban cities, there are still dog parks to be found and enjoyed. Check out Dog Park or DogParkUSA.com for searchable, interactive maps to help you locate the best dog parks in your area.

Granted, you can visit the dog park year round, but there’s something about a winter “Nor’Easter” or spring downpour that doesn’t exactly call out for any more time braving the conditions than is absolutely necessary. Your dog would also probably agree: the dog park is way more fun when the weather is sunny, warm, and dry (there’s also bound to be more dogs to play with!).

As we’ve discussed in a prior post, people who own dogs are fitter than those without, and this is the reason… your dog is the best exercise partner you could ask for, so get outside and enjoy the weather with your best friend frolicking, off-leash, by your side!

Check out this cute, “quick tips” video for new visitors to prepare for their first visit to a dog park. For more substantive information on dog park etiquette, see below.

If it’s your first time heading to the dog park,

  • Go to the park for the first time at an off-peak time! This will help allow your dog to get acquainted with the territory without any pressure or anxiety brought on by other dogs, high excitement and activity.
  • Transition your dog slowly to the off-leash area, using the gated entrance.
  • Stay with your dog, and be alert! Take notice of the other dogs in the park, how they are playing and interacting with other dogs, and how your dog is reacting to them.
  • Your dog should be confident, be well socialized to other dogs and people, and reliably come when you call him.
  • Supervise your dog at all times and don’t talk on your cell phone or get too involved with talking with other people; this is your time to bond with your dog in a fun, dog-friendly social environment.

(Unless your dogs are like these Italian greyhounds, who have no interest in anything but RACING!!!):

  • If there are designated areas for small dogs and big dogs, use them. These areas are for the safety and comfort of both large and small dogs; whether or not your dog is a gentle giant or fierce teacup poodle; the other dogs may not appreciate the size differential and become intimidated or aggreived.
  • Be prepared to leave if your dog seems overwhelmed or isn’t having a good time.
  • Remember that there are as many human personalities at the park as there are canine personalities, so prepare to be patient and polite.
  • As always, clean up after your dog.
  • Though it’s a good idea to start socializing your dog to other dogs at an early age, puppies under the age of 4 months should stay home.

Check out this great, in-depth article on dog park etiquette for even more tips to ensure you and your dog make the most of your off-leash time at the dog park!