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November 18, 2015

My Rules for the Dog Park (Pt. 2)

A few weeks ago I posted my rules for the dog park. These are rules which aren’t listed on any sign or in any law but which I’ve found invaluable for making the dog park safe and fun. The post generated a lot of great discussion so I wanted to
A few weeks ago I posted my rules for the dog park. These are rules which aren’t listed on any sign or in any law but which I’ve found invaluable for making the dog park safe and fun.The post generated a lot of great discussion so I wanted to follow up with a few additional rules I forgot to include in the original list.

1. Stay away from the gate

The above photo is not from a dog park, but it’s indicative of the amped up, on-leash behavior that frequently occurs near the front gate of any dog park. Gates are natural choke points. Between the excitement of the dogs and the close confines, it can be a recipe for trouble. I like to enter the park as quickly as possible and move the dogs to play as far from the entrance as possible.

2. Spread out

Humans, wherever we go, seem to bunch up. For the same reasons as listed above, I always find my way away from the crowd. The more space the dogs have, the more likely they are to enjoy the trip. It also makes keeping an eye on everyone that much easier.

3. Be ready to get down and dirty

If you value something, do not wear it to the dog park. If you are not prepared for something to withstand a Beethoven like shake, do not bring it to the dog park. This will save you a lot of frustration/money and make it easier for you to enjoy the trip.

4. Be able to follow your dog anywhere

Related to my previous rule, this one just means be prepared to go through any terrain to keep your pup safe. If you’re on trails, be ready to go through mud. If you’re in fields, be ready to cut through deep grass. If you’re at the beach, be ready to go in the water.

I’ve fished out a couple over-ambitious pups from the water while their owners were still trying to untie their dress shoes.

5. Embrace Communism

Whatever your human political beliefs are, know that communism is the law of the land at dog parks. Assume any toys, balls and sticks you throw belong to the general population. Of course, you want to be polite and return balls to their owners. But the smart move is to bring a few cheap tennis balls rather than one prized ball.

6. Don’t expect perfection

Before I got Eko, I imagined dog parks as this blissful utopia where every pup is perfectly happy. Yeah, not so much. The personalities, energy levels and social skills of dogs vary as wildly as in humans.

Dog parks don’t offer effortless joy, but they do offer the opportunity to work for that joy. This means working on socialization, recall and general training. There will be bumps along the way for everyone, but the effort is well worth the reward.

7. Leave too early

I touched on the importance of leaving the dog park in my first post, but I don’t think it can be said enough. Exiting the dog park safely and on your terms is invaluable. It’s always better to leave too early than too late.

For my own training, I found the familiar “three-strikes” method effective. If (aka when) puppy Penny misbehaved, I gave her two corrective chances. After strike three we would immediately. Sometimes this meant our trips to the beach were about three minutes long, but overall the training worked quite well.

Conversely if I see an unsocialized dog causing problems, or someone letting their small child tease dogs with a bagel (this actually happened), we leave. Sure, those people should have left. But I always prefer to be safe than to be right.

8. Have fun!

This one seems obvious but it’s always good to remind ourselves to enjoy the time we have with our pups. And the happier we are, the more at ease our dogs are. Which is always a good thing.

One last reminder. Always bring a towel and extra poop bags. No matter what. Trust me, whenever you don’t have these things you’ll need them.

In the next few weeks I’d like to put together a short video about “Dog Park Rules” based on my two posts. If you have any ideas for additional rules I could include in the video I’d love to hear them. Thanks!


Comments for My Rules for the Dog Park (Pt. 2)

  1. Jesse says:

    I really like number 7 especially the portion about leaving if someone else isn’t controlling their dog. Definitely the smart and safe choice. Sure they should have left but not everyone is a considerate and responsible dog owner. Also it still amazes me how high your pups can leap.

  2. More great tips, with people following tips like this there will be fun all around and hopefully no mishaps.

  3. the gate is always a challenge… there are a lot of pups who wait for new guests :o)

  4. Christy Joslin says:

    Hi Will!
    I wanted to add a quick tidbit on sharing water bowls at the dog park. I am a vet tech, and have seen many dogs come into the office with kennel cough. This primarily spreads through sharing water bowls at the dog park. I would recommend either opting for the bordetella vaccine and sharing water, or keeping your pup’s water just for them!
    Take care!

  5. Emmadog says:

    Those are excellent tips to follow!

  6. I miss going to the dog park. I haven’t read the first post, but reading this one, a rule that immediately came to mind was “know when the dog park isn’t for you.”

    The dog park isn’t for me. We have four dogs and I can’t keep my eye on our dogs AND the other dogs AND meet my neighbors. Once our pack grew, visits to the dog park grew more stressful and I finally had to admit that although it’s fun our dogs and a great way to socialize them; it’s just not for us.

    Rodrigo is too dominant.
    Sydney doesn’t like other dogs (except her friends).
    Scout doesn’t like people to talk to him.
    Zoey doesn’t like dogs to talk to me.

    We’re lucky, because we have a large property with surrounding woods. A flashlight, a headlamp, and our dogs is all we need.

  7. stephumina says:

    Beware of bullies!
    Dogs that live together will often team up to chase a particular dog or a newcomer to the park. While it might look like harmless play because no one is biting one another you should know your dog and know if they’re comfortable. Being chased by two or three dogs is a lot scarier than one. If your dog is being insistantly chased by another dog its time to leave the dog park and avoid going back there when those dogs are there because the last thing you want is your own dog starting to fear the dog park. That’s when bites and accidents happen.

    Conversly if you have two dogs, make sure they are not the bullies! If the dog they are playing with is not responding to their advanves you need to be calling them back.

    And for real emergencies, a treat bag full of cheese works wonders. Before you feed any other dogs at the park though always ask their owners.

    Also keep an eye if your dog is approaching another dog on leash, the owner might have a very good reason for keeping their dog on a leash.

  8. Kismet says:

    One of the later pictures is perfect for me.

    Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away
    If you could use some exotic booze
    There’s a bar in far Bombay
    Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away

    Your dogs are wannabe birds.

  9. We don’t frequent dog parks anymore – neither Jack or Maggie are fans for their own reasons. I may find myself back at one in the future, so appreciate the rules. I really like the three strikes rule – that’s a keeper.

  10. These are great rules and make a lot of sense. We don’t go to dog parks at all for two reasons: first, there are hawks here that brazenly go after dogs Daisy’s size, regardless of whether there are lots of people and other dogs around. One tried to snatch a small dog that was still on-leash! And second, I find that a lot of people take unsocialized dogs there, resulting in quick tempers (both the humans and the dogs) and injuries. Oh, and the brilliant designer of our dog park didn’t separate large and small dogs, it’s just one big arena – that works better on a large beach than in a more confined area. So instead, we enjoy reading about your beach adventures. 🙂

  11. Hi Will. Your pups are pretty active and rough house a lot. ( I wish Kali would do more of that…). I’m interested in your perspective about how to know when someone else’s dog may be crossing the boarder from play to actual aggression.

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