COME AND BARK IN A PARK
Dog Park Etiquette and Safety Rules
In the San Francisco South Bay Area, all year around and especially during the Summer months and around the holidays, you may find a greater number of dogs and people at the neighborhood dog parks. At Diva Dogs we like the concept of dog parks, dogs can play and socialize with other dogs off-leash in a fenced in area and get their daily exercise. However, what looks and sounds like the utopia place for your dog, may not be. It just depends on you, your dog, the other dogs and owners at the park.
If you decide you want to visit a public dog park, below are a few things you might want to be aware of and prepare yourself for.
Diva Dogs Top 10 Dog Park Etiquette and Safety Rules
1. Safety: Remember safety first, if you or your dog are not comfortable with the other dogs or people, leave the park without expressing your concerns. There has to be consensus between all four (4) parties; you, your dog, the other dog and the dog’s owner and/or guardian.
2. Obedience Training and Dog-Dog Play: Sign-up for a class or hire a private trainer to assist you with basic training commands and appropriate dog-dog play. To locate a family dog-friendly trainer, find one who is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.apdt.com) and/or a Certified Dog Trainer of the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers (www.sfspca.org) and (www.academyfordogtrainers.com).
3. Treats: Refrain from handing out treats in close proximity of other dogs. Some dogs are not rewarded for good behavior and when they smell a tasty treat nearby, they become very persistent about earning it. If by chance you and your dog are in the park with only one other dog, always ask the dog’s owner/guardian if it is okay to give a treat. Some dogs are allergic to ingredients (some meats, corn, wheat or soy) and may be on a special diet. Always error on the side of caution.
4. Positive Tools: Bring a whistle or squeaker to use in an emergency or to get your dog’s attention. The sounds of these devices may distract the other dogs and is much more pleasant sound than a can of pennies.
5. General Health and Vaccinations: Always consult with your veterinarian before taking a puppy under 5-months old to a public park. Since this is a public park with no check-in process, be aware that there may be dogs who are not vaccinated or altered (spayed or neutered) potentially increasing the chance of spreading diseases and creating unwanted pregnancies. Intact females and males are especially interesting to those dogs who have been altered, and the intact dogs can be a victim to uninvited squabbles.
6. Cleanliness and Trash: Pick-up any solid matter made by your dog to help keep the park clean. If you see a pile that was left behind, picking up may prevent dogs from stepping on it.
7. Dog-Dog Play and Behavior: Observe very closely your own dog’s behavior and monitor their comfort level. If they are trying to avoid the other dog(s) or people, respect his/her feelings and help them by giving them some space and a much needed break. Learn as much as you can about what is appropriate play and what is not. (Refer to book “Canine Body Language” – available through DogWise.com). Some dogs play rough with each other, while others are gentle and give dogs space and a chance to reciprocate. If your dog is not being given a chance to reciprocate, your dog could be getting bullied. Unfortunately, not all dogs will get along and you are free to leave the park if you are not comfortable. Don’t expect the owner of the dog who is bullying other dogs to leave before you. Safety should always be your first priority.
8. Dog Sizes: Dog sizes do matter. Locate a park that has set size limits. Especially important for those who have small dogs. A large dog in their attempt to play with a small dog, could injure or worse, the interaction could be fatal to the small dog. Safety trumps socialization. Generally use the 50% weight rule; a 10-lbs dog may be able to play safely with dogs who are 20-lbs; same may be true for a 40-lbs dog playing with an 80-lbs dog; etc. but any greater than 50% could be dangerous for the smaller dog.
9. Collars and harnesses: Remove any harness or leash from your dog so that it does not get tangled up. Always place a “quick-release” collar on your dog in the event another dog gets caught during play, as these can be released before injury. Also attach a name & number identification tag with his/her city license to your dog’s collar before leaving the home.
10. The Dog Park: Realize you do not and cannot control the environment. If your dog or another dog does not like to share tennis balls, unique toys or water fountains without causing a squabble, a public park may not be the best place to exercise your dog. It’s best to leave unique toys at home.