Training & Behavior

Dog Park Etiquette – What You Need to Know

Dogs Playing at the Park

Dog Park Etiquette – What You Need to Know 

On sunny days, dog parks everywhere see a sudden increase in paw traffic. Pet owners can’t wait to get their dogs out and watch them play. While an exhilarating romp is an excellent way for your dog to socialize and get exercise, there is certain dog park etiquette that should be followed regarding your dog’s size.  

Once you follow it, you’ll be doing your part to help every pet and person get along nicely at the dog park.  
Be Savvy with Your Small Dog 
While dog parks specifically for small dogs are few and far between, many have a designated small breed section. Even then, smaller-sized canines may need multiple introductions so they can adjust to the small dog section. 

To start, take your small dog to the dog park during non-peak hours. A calm, quiet environment may help give your dog the confidence to explore every new tree trunk or patch of grass without the pressure of having to interact with others.  
Choose the Right Side for Your Medium Sized Dog 
Somewhere in between small breeds and large breeds are medium-sized breeds like bulldogs or border collies. When you’re visiting a dog park for the first time, you may find yourself wondering which side your medium-sized dog should play in.  

That’s why, no matter your dog’s size, it’s always a good idea to check out the dog park on your own first. That way, you can scope out the lay of the land and see which side medium-sized dogs tend to play on. It might be good to ask some of the other dog owners how various breeds interact in their designated play areas. 
Do You Have a Gentle Giant? 
Many giant breed dogs are great cuddle companions, but to some small dogs, large breed dogs may appear a little daunting in a big open space like a dog park.  

When visiting the dog park, mind the rules for the designated areas for small and large dogs. Always let smaller dogs approach your giant dog first. Allow the dogs to do a proper introduction with a thorough sniff and if either dog bends down to a play bow, that’s generally a sign that all is well. 
Focus Your Dog’s Attention 
Some dogs can be a little bit particular about their personal space. But for large dogs who typically take up more space than others, it can be easy for them to unknowingly trot into the personal space of one of these who prefers a bit more breathing room. Since there’s no official rule to answer the question “how big should a dog park be?” it’s always important to keep a close eye on your dog if he and other dogs find them confined in a particularly small area. 

If your dog is maybe a bit too large and in charge at the dog park, you may want to try and figure out ways to divert their attention by tossing a ball or engaging them in a tug of war.   

If a Dog Park Isn’t the Right Fit 
For the safety of your own dog and others, it’s important to know your pet and to choose alternative activities if your dog isn’t a good fit for a dog park. 

For example, if your dog doesn’t like the crowds or unpredictability of a dog park, behavior expert Dr. Annie Valuska recommends forming a smaller play group of dogs of the same size and with the same social skills, through local doggie daycares or neighborhood social media pages.

To match the energy of a dog park experience, try a physical game such as fetch. You can increase the challenge (and the fun) even more by enrolling your dog in classes for sports like agility or flyball.  

Dr. Valuska also suggests, “One of my favorite ways to let a dog stretch to their full canine potential is to offer a ‘smell walk.’” Go to an open space, like a park, and let your dog walk wherever they like and sniff as long as they want to. You can help your dog understand the difference between when they are expected to behave and when they can “dog out” by adding a cue, such as “go smell,” and/or using a different, longer leash for these walks. 

No matter what your dog’s size, finding the right blend of socialization and activities is important to their well-being. It’s also essential to find a blend that answers their unique nutritional needs. Just Right creates personalized blends based on your dog’s size, lifestyle, preferences and more.