The same way parents set up play dates for their kids, dog parks are an opportunity for dogs—and their owners—to socialize and have fun. Dogs need to run around, sniff things, and basically be dogs, and that’s usually a lot more fun with a few buddies. Taking your four-legged friend to the dog park also allows you to meet other dog lovers in your community, share tips, and give (or get) advice on caring for your pet. Just remember, everyone needs to do their part to make the experience enjoyable and safe for everyone, canine and human alike.

Here are some tips for proper dog park etiquette:

Follow the Rules

Every dog park has posted rules, and it’s important to follow them not just to be able to continue to use the park but to keep everyone safe and healthy. Most dog parks require dogs be spayed or neutered before they’re allowed to enter the park, and they must be up to date on their shots. In addition, because so many dogs will be together in one place, it’s especially important to make sure your dog is treated for fleas, ticks, and is taking a heartworm preventative. Maintaining your dog’s health is always better for him, and more cost-effective than having to buy pet meds if he falls ill, or having to treat your house if he brings parasites home with him.

Some dog parks may also have separate areas for small dogs. Check the weight/size requirements, and if your dog belongs in the small dog area, be sure to keep him there. He’ll be better able to enjoy himself, and you’ll feel better knowing he’s not going to get run over by the larger dogs running around the park.

Never Leave Your Dog Unattended

You would never drop your child off at a playground and leave her there alone. A dog park is no different. Most dog parks do not have attendants or employees, but even if they did, a dog park isn’t like doggie daycare where there’s someone keeping an eye on your dog for you. And dogs aren’t like children who can be taught not to get in cars with strangers. There’s no guarantee your dog would still be in the park upon your return.

Leaving your dog alone in the dog park may be interpreted as your having abandoned her, and someone is liable to either take her home or call animal control. At best, you may lose your dog park privileges. At worst, your dog could end up at the pound, or even worse, could escape the dog park and find herself in all kinds of danger. Keep your dog safe, and always stay with her at the park.

The Community Comes Together with Dog Parks and Dog Services

The Community Comes Together with Dog Parks and Dog Services

Clean Up After Your Dog

No one likes having to walk through a doggie minefield. You shouldn’t have to worry about watching your step at the dog park. Most parks will provide baggies and receptacles to throw full bags away. If your local park doesn’t provide them, be sure to take some baggies with you, and pick up after your dog if he leaves a pile behind.

More than avoiding a smelly shoe, it’s important to pick up after your dog to avoid passing on or contracting any illnesses. If a dog has intestinal parasites such as whipworms, roundworms, or hookworms, they can be passed in the dog’s feces. If another dog comes along, steps in the mess, and then licks his paw, he can get worms, too. This is another good reason to avoid leaving your dog unattended, so you can ensure he doesn’t eat anything off the ground that could make him sick.

Watch For Aggressive Behavior

Unfortunately, some dog parks have banned certain breeds that are thought to be aggressive. These include Rottweilers, Dobermans, and American Staffordshire Terriers (pit bulls). But the truth is, any dog can be aggressive if it hasn’t been properly socialized and trained, or if it feels threatened in some way. If you notice a dog behaving aggressively in the dog park, notify the dog’s owner immediately. If the owner doesn’t remove the dog, your best bet is to leave the park for your safety, and the safety of your dog. You may also consider reporting the behavior to the park’s administrative organization to avoid future incidents.

Watch For Aggressive Behavior

Watch For Aggressive Behavior

If your dog starts behaving aggressively, remove him from the park immediately. The last thing you want is an incident where your dog, fights with another dog, or worse, bite someone. This can lead to banishment from the park or even legal action. Try to determine what made your dog behave this way—was another dog antagonizing him? Was someone teasing him? Is he just not comfortable in social situations? Dogs have personalities just like people, so don’t try to force him to do something he’s not comfortable with. You can also try some remedial training and be socializing, but if it doesn’t help, you may have to forgo the dog park altogether. Ultimately, the safety of your dog and every other guest at the dog park is more important than trying to maintain a dog park membership.

Going to the dog park is supposed to be a fun, social experience for both you and your dog. By following a few simple rules, and being considerate of other people—and other dogs—you can help make time spent at the dog park even better for everyone.

Watch This Video Before Going to a Dog Park