Exceptional Canine: Know Your Dog Park Etiquette

Know Your Dog Park Etiquette

By Barry Stewart for Exceptional Canine

Know Your Dog Park Etiquette

Since socialization is as vital to a healthy dog as food and water, you want to seek out safe and convenient venues where your dog can make friends. Dog parks are a great place to do that, but not all are created equal. In the United States, you can find 20-plus-acre parks with ponds, trails and gigantic sand piles to climb. There are also compact urban ones with obstacle courses.

The most essential dog park features to look for are shade, cool running water, separate pens for small and large dogs, waste bags and a place to dispose of them.

When you’ve located a park, it is very important to observe the humans and the dogs before you go in. You want to make sure it is a safe environment for your dog. Are owners paying attention to the dog play? Do they have their dogs under control? Any unchecked, aggressive or ball-possessive behaviors? Sometimes people encourage their dogs to be alpha dogs and dominate other dogs. If you observe this, find a different park in which your dog can exercise.

To make the park enjoyable for everybody, also consider the following dog park etiquette do’s and don’ts:


  • Make sure your dog has the required shots.
  • Bring your own water bowl — and water if fresh water is not available — to avoid the spread of germs.
  • In hot weather, quit well before your dog is too exhausted to walk home.
  • Brush your dog afterward and check for ticks.
  • Leave if your dog is being harassed or attacked by another dog (and that dog’s owner is not correcting his dog).
  • Clean up after your dog.



  • Approach other people’s dogs. Rather, let them approach you and smell you first.
  • Get between dogs in a serious fight. Instead, each owner should pull their dogs out by the hind legs.
  • Allow your dog to “hump” or dominate another dog.
  • Give out treats without permission.
  • Expect other people to watch your dog.
  • Bring your dog if your dog does not listen or shows signs of aggression. Take him to obedience training first so you have the confidence to control him.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/dageldog

Barry Stewart, owner of Have Leash Will Train, is based in Nassau County, N.Y. He has more
than 30 years of experience in basic obedience and puppy training.