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Park politeness: Etiquette matters when you visit off-leash areas

by Sojos | March 26, 2013

What could be better, in your dog’s mind, than a free and unencumbered run through the outdoors? On the list of things he enjoys, a trip to the off-leash dog park probably ranks right near the top. But when you visit the park, you’re sure to encounter other dogs - and their owners - so sharing the space politely is a priority.

Whether you get your dog as a puppy or adopt an adult, a bit of training will go a long way in making your dog park experiences pleasant and safe. There’s no guarantee that other dogs will be trained well, but if you and your pup have a system of communication down pat, you’ll be able to confidently enjoy your surroundings. Work on recall, above all else, but commands like “leave it,” “sit,” and “stay” will also help.

Here are a few other etiquette ideas to remember when you visit the off-leash dog park:

* Bring bags. Cleaning up after your dog makes everyone’s time at the park more enjoyable. The less mess, the lower the chance of you or your dog stepping in an unwanted surprise. Bring a full roll of bags so you can offer them to other owners who might have forgotten their own.

* Leash up at the entrance/exits. Having your dog on leash as you arrive and leave will lessen the chance of your dog running away or getting hurt (since many parks have car parking areas nearby). It also gives you better control of your own pet if other dogs start crowding the gate.

* Respect other owners’ commands. You might be OK with your dog jumping up to say hello, but other people might be training their dogs to stop the behavior. Listen to the commands the other owners are giving their dogs and do what you can to help encourage the right response - but remember to let each owner take the vocal lead.

* Recognize the difference between aggression and play. Some dogs bark a lot when they’re playing, but it isn’t necessarily a sign of aggression - particularly if the dog is in a “play bow” and wagging his tail. Overly aggressive interaction is identifiable when dogs’ postures become tense, their hackles are raised and they’re baring their teeth. It’s also a bad sign when a dog won’t stop going after another dog that is clearly afraid (cowering, trying to find shelter/safety, avoiding eye contact). If you sense that your dog is making another dog’s owner uncomfortable, it’s best to call your dog off and move to another area to play.

For your own peace of mind, pack a towel or two in your car – parks can get mighty messy at any time of year, and a quick wipe down for your pup will keep your car clean. You can even offer it to a fellow dog owner who needs it in a gesture of dog-park goodwill! 

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