No, No! Mistakes That Humans Make At Dog Parks

Taking your pup to a dog park can be a lot of fun. It allows your pet to bond and socialize with other animals as well as release some pent-up energy. But you can’t just arrive at the park, take your dog off the leash, and let him run wild. There are some unwritten rules that every dog owner should follow.

Dog park etiquette will keep your dog and other animals safe. If you break the rules, you risk harming your dog, other dogs, and even other people. Check out some of the most common mistakes dog owners make when they don’t adhere to the rules.

Not Giving The Dog Enough Exercise Before Arriving At The Park

dog running on beach
Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images
Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

Yes, a lot of dog owners specifically take their pets to the park for exercise, but it’s not a good idea to bring her there if she’s been cooped up in a small apartment all day. Dog parks are not designed to be the only source of exercise that a pup gets. If you bring a dog that’s been alone all day to a dog park, she’s probably going to act a little wild.

Dog parks can be overly stimulating for animals that have been inside for long periods of time. They can get too excited about their interactions with other dogs and inadvertently start a fight. Make sure the zoomies are out of their system before you take them to the park.

Allowing Small Dogs To Play In The Same Area As Large Dogs

dog park scene
Cole Burston/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Cole Burston/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Not all dog parks have separate play areas for different-sized canines. Either way, it’s important that you’re particularly careful if you bring a small dog to a dog park. Some big dogs will see them as prey, and sometimes the quick movements and high-pitched barks of small dogs can cause larger dogs to snap.

It’s not uncommon for bigger dogs to lunge after smaller canines. While it’s not necessarily the bigger dog’s fault, it can cause some problems for both the animals and the owners.

Not Picking Up The Dog’s Waste

picking up
ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/AFP via Getty Images
ALESSANDRO RAMPAZZO/AFP via Getty Images

People with good manners will always clean up their dog’s waste. It’s disgusting to walk in a park with dog feces scattered everywhere. But even more importantly, good sanitation is key to keeping your pup in good health. If your dog encounters another pup’s poo, he can be exposed to all kinds of diseases and parasites.

And let’s face it, lots of dogs touch, roll in, and even eat each other’s waste. By following this simple rule, you will keep the park clean and pretty, and you’ll prevent your canine from getting sick.

Neglecting To Remove A Choke Chain Or Harness

dog on a leash
Ralf Graner/picture alliance via Getty Images
Ralf Graner/picture alliance via Getty Images

Some people use prong collars, choke chains, or harnesses and gentle leads on their dogs combined with a leash. But it’s not a good idea to leave them on when you’re in a dog park. When dogs play with each other, they commonly nip at the neck and shoulders, and those devices can be harmful.

The last thing you want is for another pet to hurt his teeth, paws, and other parts on the metal contraptions. The situation can quickly turn sour and lead to a fight, particularly if an animal can’t get loose after getting stuck on a harness. Instead, use a nylon or leather collar.

Picking Up A Small Dog

picking up a small dog
Jerod Harris/Getty Images
Jerod Harris/Getty Images

It’s not uncommon for dog owners to pick up their small dogs if they sense that a situation is escalating. While you may just want to protect your dog, it’s not a good idea. The other dogs may sense that your pup is fleeing, which can trigger a chase instinct.

If you pick up your small dog, another dog may instinctively want to go after your pup. He may even jump on you to get to the dog. Try to avoid picking up your small dog because you may get knocked over, or worse, bitten.

Not Teaching Your Dog How To Make A Polite Introduction

Polite Introduction
Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Not all dogs get along, but it helps if they’re properly trained to interact with animals they’ve never met. Never let your dog charge another animal when it enters a dog park. The new pup is on alert and taking in its new surroundings, so if your pet runs up to it at full speed, it can cause some issues.

Also, never allow your dog to mount another one or repeatedly sniff another dog because these behaviors are rude. Humans need to establish contact and be polite and teach their dogs to do the same.

Letting A Dog Bully Others

dogs at the park
Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Hyoung Chang/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

It’s not nice to allow your dog to bounce all over another canine. Some behaviors are cute and acceptable, while others are not. Make sure you recognize when a gesture is proper versus obnoxious and rude.

If your dog is frequently nipping at another animal’s neck and jumping on him to start a wrestling match, it is not a good thing. This is particularly true if the other dog doesn’t appear comfortable. Don’t allow your dog to get too rough with one that’s not enjoying it. Otherwise, it may cause a fight.

Leaving The Leash On In A Leash-Off Area

crowded dog park
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

While it may make you feel more secure because you think you can better control your dog, it’s not a good idea to keep a leash on a dog in a leash-off area. It can cause the animal to trip and even lead to a broken leg if the leash gets wrapped around a dog’s body. Plus, the dog may feel trapped, which can trigger an altercation with another dog.

If you don’t feel comfortable releasing your dog, then don’t venture into a no-leash area. Even better, engage in some training so you and your dog are able to spend time outside without a leash.

Bringing A Dog That Won’t Respond To Commands

dog listening to a command
Amanda Edwards/contributor/Getty Images
Amanda Edwards/contributor/Getty Images

If a dog doesn’t have recall skills, he or she doesn’t come to you when it’s called. A dog with good recall skills is in tune with you and is ready to obey your instructions no matter what, even if they are running around with abandon.

Before taking your dog to a park, you should be able to disengage it from escalating activities so he or she can calm down. It’s vital that your dog has good recall skills because otherwise it will compromise her safety and everyone else’s at the park.

Using Retractable Leashes

Retractable Leashes
Chris Hondros/Getty Images
Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Try to avoid retractable leashes. They can be very dangerous, particularly if your dog starts running at another dog believing she has all the space in the word. The reality hits hard when the leash snaps back on her neck. It’s not a good situation.

Also, when a retractable leash is extended, other dogs that are running loose may accidentally run into the thin cord, which can harm them. Generally, retractable leashes aren’t a good idea, but when you use them in a dog park they can be really dangerous.

Bringing Small Children

park scene
Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images Images
Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images Images

This one’s important. You really should not bring little children to a dog park. If you have an infant or toddler, you are putting them at risk. They may get knocked over by overly excited dogs.

Not all dogs are familiar with children. They may get rambunctious and lunge at children, which can cause them harm. The last thing you want is for your child to be exposed to something like that. In addition to getting hurt, it may cause them to fear all dogs.

Bringing A Dog That Hasn’t Been Vaccinated

Vaccinated
David Mirzoeff/PA Images via Getty Images
David Mirzoeff/PA Images via Getty Images

Dog parks are rife with diseases and parasites. Adult dogs and older puppies who are up to date on their immunizations should have no problem. At worst, they may pick up worms or Giardia, which aren’t too difficult to treat if they have strong immune systems.

However, if there’s a puppy that hasn’t had all of its vaccinations yet, he or she can get parvo, distemper, or other diseases, which they will struggle to overcome.

Not Asking Permission To Pet Another Dog

permission to pet
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

When you’re at a dog park, it can be tempting to interact and pet other animals you meet. But it’s crucial that you ask the owner for permission before touching the dog, especially if your children are involved.

Some dogs are better with men than women or respond differently based on factors like facial hair, or scent. They’re not always comfortable with everyone they meet, so make sure you ask before you touch. Otherwise, the dog may act in a way that you’re not expecting, and it could be problematic.

Staring At A Phone Instead Of Watching The Dog

looking at her phone
Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Try to avoid distractions when you take your dog to the park. You don’t want to be the person who stares at her phone as her dog runs around uncontrollably. It’s also bad if you are so wrapped up in your phone that your dog just stares up at you and wonders when it’s time to play.

Many dogs will take advantage of you when you’re fiddling with your phone. They will break more rules than usual. You’re at the park to give your dog some playtime. Make sure you allow them to do that in a safe environment.

Bringing A Puppy That’s Less Than 12 Weeks Old

puppy at the park
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

You may be eager to bring your new puppy to the park, but you should never bring one there if he or she is less than 12 weeks old. Puppies that are less than three months old haven’t been fully immunized. They are still susceptible to common diseases.

If you want to keep your pup strong and healthy, be patient and wait several weeks until he or she is old enough and her shots are up to date.

Letting Dogs Work Out Their Own Problems

dogs at the park
Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Some dog owners think letting their pets work out their own social drama is the best approach. That’s not always the case. When dogs meet for the first time in an excitable environment, it can be hard to work out their differences. It’s actually a good idea to intervene when you witness bullying or other behaviors that make your dog uncomfortable.

This includes mounting. It’s rude and shouldn’t be tolerated in a dog park. It’s best to separate the animals because it could lead to some problems.

Bringing A Pregnant Dog Or Female That’s In Heat

pregnant dogs should not go to the park
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images
Roberto Machado Noa/LightRocket via Getty Images

This should be pretty obvious, yet there are some owners who for some reason think it’s okay to bring a female dog in heat to the park. You should never ever do this because it will cause absolute chaos among all the other dogs in the vicinity.

Also, you should avoid bringing a dog that’s pregnant to the dog park. The last thing you want to do when you go to the park is cause conflict among the other animals.

Paying More Attention To Other People Than Your Dog

people visiting
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images

When you’re at a dog park, your top priority should be the dog, not chatting with other people you meet there. If you are a parent, you make sure to watch your child on a swing set, right? You wouldn’t want to leave them unsupervised. The same is true with dogs at a dog park.

You need to pay attention to make sure your dog isn’t acting out. If you’re too busy having a conversation with somebody, you may miss behaviors that can cause harm to your pet or another animal.

Bringing A Dog That Gets Proprietary

dalmation with a toy
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

If your dog doesn’t like sharing her toys or likes taking other dogs’ toys and hoarding them, you should not bring her to a dog park. It can be dangerous to other dogs who want to play with toys and don’t recognize your pup’s hints about backing off.

This also applies to dog treats. Some dogs will pick up the scent and may get aggressive with other animals. Some dogs also get proprietary about a dog they’re playing with and even about their human. These animals should not hang out at dog parks.

Eating Food

food is a no-no
Cliff Grassmick/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images
Cliff Grassmick/Digital First Media/Boulder Daily Camera via Getty Images

It’s not a good idea to bring food to a dog park. Instead, leave your picnic lunch for another time. Not all dogs have good manners, and they can get a little hyped up if they smell your lunch. The last thing you want is to be faced with a hungry dog that has problems controlling its behavior.

You can bring treats for your dog, just don’t bring a whole pizza pie to the park. It’s a huge temptation, and some dogs simply won’t be able to control themselves.