Do’s and Don’ts of the Dog Park

P-A-R-K. One simple word and ears perk up, tails go into overdrive. There are eager looks from you to the leash to the door and back to you. The dog park is a great place for both you and your furry friend to spend the day playing and socializing. There are, however, things you need to know to ensure that a visit to the park is fun and safe for everyone. Stacey Hawk, owner of Hawk City K9 and co-founder of the first dog park in Chicago (the aptly named Wiggly Field), has the inside scoop on what to do–and what not to do–at the dog park. Here’s what she told us:

Dog Park Rules:

Follow these simple guidelines to enjoy a day of fun and frolicking while avoiding possible mayhem, altercations, and even lawsuits:

1. Watch your dog at all times. In the dog park, your dog’s social life takes precedence over yours.

2. Don’t go to the dog park unless your dog is current on all vaccines.

3. Be prepared: Bring water and poop bags. Always clean up immediately after your dog.

4. Do not go to the park unless your dog is trained. At the very least, he must know and listen to “stay,” “come,” and “no.”

5. This may seem obvious, but unfortunately that’s not always the case: Don’t bring your dog to the dog park if he’s not good with other dogs.

6. Before going into the dog park, scope out the scene: Are the people there as attentive to their dogs as you are to yours? If not, take a rain check.

7. Do not let your dog off leash until you are safely within the confines of the park.

8. Always abide by any official rules of the park itself. Rules like “no eating in the park” or “all dogs must remain on a leash” are there for the safety of all the dogs and people there; it’s not worth it to rebel.

Next: Common scenarios to be wary of

Dog Park Game-Changers:

The dynamics at the dog park can change in an instant with the arrival of a new pup, a change in weather, or even your dog’s general temperament. The following scenarios could transform your dog’s demeanor from happy and playful to anxious, scared, or aggressive in seconds, in which case, you should leave the park immediately.

1. Watch out for female dogs in heat. They shouldn’t be there to begin with, but if they are–keep your dog away.

2. Does your dog freak out at thunder? Get out of the park at the first sign of rain clouds.

3. Maybe your dog doesn’t like big dogs. Or little dogs. Or a certain gender of dogs. If you see your pooch becoming agitated because there are too many of the “wrong” canines around, get him out of the park.

4. Pay attention to your dog’s mood. If he was jumping into the water, fetching sticks, and rolling around with his favorite doggie pals when you first arrived at the park, but now he’s shadowing you, shivering, and yawning, he’s not happy anymore. Time to go home!

Next: What to do if your dog gets bitten (or bites)

Dog Bite Dangers:

1. Regardless of whether your dog was the bitten or the biter, you and the other dog guardian are equally responsible for the incident. Stay calm, mature, and rational–dogs are very adept at reading your body language. Your dog will take his cues from you, so don’t get riled up.

2. Separate the dogs immediately to prevent further harm.

3. Check to make sure there are no puncture wounds. If there are, get the injured dog(s) to the vet immediately–those wounds can easily become infected if not treated right away.

4. Exchange contact information with the other dog guardian.

5. Collect contact information from witnesses who saw the incident take place.

6. Know the laws. In some states the guardian of a dog who bites a person may be held liable for civil damages. For more information, visit


9 Things to Know Before Getting a Dog
6 Outdoor Activity Ideas for Pets
Day at the Dog Park (video)

Selected by Laura Drucker, TAILS Editor

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Valentina R.
Valentina R.3 years ago

Excellent article; many mediocre dog owners should follow these tips.

Pamela H: "All dogs should be desexed. Ban backyard breeders."

All people should be desexed. Ban those who have children.

Um, 3 children. So dog overpopulation is bad but human overpopulation is fine?

How are backyard breeders related to this dogs-at-the-park article? Please enlighten us.

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

A N M.
Anne m.3 years ago

To be honest, I like most dogs a heck of a lot better than their owners.

Pamela H.
Pamela H.3 years ago

All dogs should be desexed. Ban backyard breeders.

Isabel Araujo
Isabel Araujo3 years ago

Thank you.

Rosie Jolliffe
Rosie Lopez3 years ago


Tom Sullivan
Tom C Sullivan3 years ago

Thank you. All about the Doggies

Fiona Dudley
Fiona Dudley3 years ago

All excellent advice. A pet peeve - I've seen dog owners think it's fine to just let their pup run free with a lot of other dogs while engrossed in reading a book, not paying any attention. This is how trouble happens.
I'd add one more point: Watch for sudden "pack behavior". In the blink of an eye, a group of dogs can get together and decide to pick on another one. I've broken up packs and rescued little dogs from underneath benches on occasion.
If that happens, it's time to take your dog home.

Danielle K.
Danielle K.3 years ago

This should be common sense, but sadly it isn't. And maybe unspayed/unneutered dogs should not be allowed in dog parks.

Cheryl I.
Past Member 3 years ago