Dog Park Etiquette
By Barbara Masi
When I adopt a Greyhound to someone who does not have a fenced in yard for them to run in, I recommend a dog park perhaps once a week or so to allow the dog to get out all his / her pent up energy and have a little fun. However, it is with trepidation that I do so, as there can be dangers in dog parks. There are certain cautions to take when going to a dog park – especially with a Greyhound.
Remember that a Greyhound has been muzzled when he / she is in an area where they can run freely with other Greyhounds. It is not a good idea to muzzle your Greyhound at a dog park when there are other dogs there that are not muzzled. Take the introduction period slowly – give them time to meet the other dogs before they are turned loose together and obey all the “rules” of etiquette for the park (as should others also) and you will have a successful time at the dog park.
For an initial introduction to a dog park, perhaps take the Greyhound along with your next door neighbor’s Golden Retriever (whom he has become familiar with) and let them play together first – before introducing them to the other dogs. Take them at a time when there are no other dogs there. Give them a chance to learn what it is to be loose and unmuzzled – and how to play nicely with others.
Wear appropriate clothing for going to a dog park – and don’t bring a purse. Fanny packs or your pockets are good places for your keys, cell phone and whatever else you feel you need while at the park. Cell phone should be used for emergencies only at a dog park – it is not the place to “chat” with friends. You need to be alert to what is going on at all times. Don’t bring the latest novel to read. You should never turn your back on your dog and the activity that is occurring in the dog park.
A few people who are unmannerly will ruin the experience for all – so watch that others are also attentive to their dogs and follow the rules – or leave and find another dog park or go back when that person has gone from the park.
Do not bring an unvaccinated dog or puppy to a dog park. This encourages a rapid spread of disease which can sometimes be fatal. Do not bring a sick dog to a dog park. Bringing a female in heat is irresponsible, yet some people do not monitor their dogs for this.
Do not bring young children into the dog park. You are there to be with the dog and other dogs can / may run and knock over the stroller or the child. This is not the place to go to babysit. Attention needs to be directed to your dog and the others he / she is playing with. Also, children should not be playing soccer (or similar games) right outside the fence of the dog park. This will encourage the dogs to run the fence line in order to join in on the game and may start a frenzy among the dogs inside the fence.
Don’t bring too many dogs. Some dog parks have a limit on the number of dogs any one person can bring to a dog park. Your dogs form a pack at your home and this pack mentality may continue at the dog park. This may be detrimental to their interacting with the other dogs at the dog park and they may become aggressive as a pack. Also, you cannot be two places at once, so do not bring a small dog for the small dog park and a large dog for the large one, unless you bring a family member or friend to sit in the other fenced area with the other dog. Never leave a dog alone in the fenced area.
Check to see that there are not an abundance of intact males in the dog park. If you see quite a few, do not bring your dog in the park until the number is reduced to just a couple.
Observe the dogs already in the dog park before letting your dog loose among them. Do not put small dogs in bigger dog pens, nor should you put larger dogs in smaller dog pens. No matter how well the smaller dog gets along with bigger dogs (or vice versa) this is inviting disaster. Make sure the dog park you go to has pens for various sizes of dogs – small, medium and large (or at least small and large) – and make sure the Greyhound is in the large dog pen. That’s where he/she belongs (unless you have a teeny girl – 52 lbs or so – who might fit in the medium dog pen.)
When you enter the park, remember that a group of dogs may come to “greet” you and the newcomer. This can be intimidating and may overwhelm the newcomer. It may cause a skirmish as the new dog enters, so take it slow and easy.
If your dog digs a hole, fill it in. If your dog poops, clean it up. Supervise the dogs constantly and interrupt any rough play. Make sure there is clean water available for the dogs to drink. Beware of standing puddles of water at dog parks. Standing water breeds disease and a wide variety of parasites and their eggs.
If you are afraid of certain breeds of dogs, don’t go to a dog park. Your nervousness and concerns may be transmitted to your dog, thus encouraging a confrontation which could wind up with a dog getting injured – either your dog or another one at the park.
Don’t bring highly sensitive dogs to a dog park where there are lots of dogs. This atmosphere will overwhelm them. The “rule of thumb” is no more than 2 dogs per every 20 yards of space. But you still may overwhelm a sensitive dog, and it is highly recommended that you make play dates with friends with like dogs in the yard at home rather than force a sensitive dog into a dog park situation.
Do not bring toys or treats to a dog park. These are two things that can / might create a disturbance and encourage possessiveness by your dog. If someone else is in the park with a toy or treats, wait until they leave if you feel that a situation might arise. (This also applies to snacks for you while at the dog park – eat before you go or afterwards – not while at the dog park).
Don’t let a dog off lead in a dog park if he / she is not responsive to verbal commands. Dogs should be taught the elementary commands before they are permitted to interact in this type of community. (Training should be done to have a well mannered dog in any circumstance.) Dogs taken to a Dog Park should have a very strong Recall. Train them to Come when called. Train them to Leave It! DO NOT let dogs smell feces on the ground that may be loaded with worms and worm eggs.
If your dog is being bullied by another dog (or dogs) remove him / her from the dog park. Conversely, if your dog is doing the bullying, take him / her away from the dog park. Most Greyhounds are not the ones doing the bullying – but I never say never when cautioning people about things that can happen.
When at a dog park, there is a lot of advice passed from person to person. Use discretion as to what you absorb as these are dog owners and not professionals. If you need advice, go to a professional dog trainer with your questions. I have many professionals who I recommend – you need to watch out for people who say they are “dog trainers” and yet they have no credentials or education to properly train a dog.
Watch for dog body posture or communication signals – on your dog and on the others in the park. Dogs can give a warning that something is “wrong” and you may be able to stop it before it escalates if you observe the body language for stress, fear, and tension as well as that which occurs for play and enjoyment. Know when your intervention is required and when the dogs are able to handle the situation on their own.
I highly recommend taking a Greyhound on “play dates” with other Greyhounds in their fenced in yard. Often I can put you together with another Greyhound owner in your area where these arrangements can be made. Please call me if I can help.
When you take your dog to a dog park you need to be aware that there are certain risks involved regarding injury to your dog or that he / she may injure another dog at the park. Be vigilant – be careful and you and your dog will be able to enjoy the time you spend together at the dog park.