PAWS Magazine

Issue 73, Summer 2009

Dog Park Do's & Don'ts

If you asked dog lovers what activities their dogs enjoy most, the list would likely include a romp at the local dog park. Chances are it's up there with mealtime and snoozing on a comfy couch. This is especially true for urban and suburban dogs who, in order to stay safe and to comply with local laws, get most of their exercise attached to a leash. For both dog and guardian, experiencing the liberation of a dog park is an unrivaled pleasure.

Besides fun and excellent exercise, dog parks can also provide great opportunities for humans and canines to hone their social skills. As with every activity there are a few things to consider. Before you put your dog in the car and head to the nearest dog off-leash area, check out these tips:


  • Teach your dog basic commands like "sit," "come" and "leave it," so you can control him.
  • Always keep an eye on your dog, and know when it's time to leave if your dog is over-stimulated, no longer having fun, fatigued or other dogs are out of control.
  • Pick up after your dog and scoop a stray pile while you're at it.
  • Take small dogs to a park that has a designated area just for them, so they don't get overwhelmed by larger dogs.
  • Know your dog's play style and guide her toward other dogs who seem similar.
  • Get your dog spayed or neutered. He or she will be calmer and more interested in play, rather than exhibiting unwanted behaviors.
  • Be cautious about bringing young children. Kids can be bowled over by a speedy dog or dogs may chase after a running child.


  • Females in heat and puppies under four months old or who have not had all vaccinations should not go to a dog park.
  • Don't bring your dog to an off-leash area if she is overly reactive or aggressive to unfamiliar dogs or people, easily over-stimulated, unresponsive to commands, or timid.
  • Avoid bringing toys and treats to the park, as dogs can become possessive of them.
  • Don't keep your dog on-leash inside the park. Your dog can feel protective of you and trapped when other dogs run up to him.

Not every dog is a fit for a dog park. For those types, skip the park and instead play with small groups or a select canine buddy.

Looking for a dog park pal?
PAWS can help with the ASPCA's "MeetYour MatchTM" adoption program. It utilizes a color-coding system where dogs (and cats) are evaluated and assigned a color, and adopters complete a survey to discover their own color. With that in hand, adopters can feel confident that an animal with the same color will likely be a good match. See you at PAWS!


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