Dog Park Dos and Don’ts

Heading out to the dog park? You might want to bring this list along and anonymously tape it to a tree. It seems that the dogs at dog parks can be better behaved than their humans. If you’ve spent any time at your local dog park, you know what I mean.

Before I adopted Daisy, a yellow lab, I’d never been to a dog park. I’m not sure I even knew that they existed. But, like local vets and grain-free dog food, dog parks are a topic of conversation that comes up when dog parents get to talking. What rarely comes up, however, are the dos and don’ts of dog park behavior for humans.

Whether you’ve just moved to a new area or just adopted your dog, before your first trip to the local dog park, I recommend taking a look at Animal Behavior Associate’s dog park safety tips. This list has been around for nearly a decade, and is just as relevant now as it was when it was first published.

As a new dog parent, I had no idea what to expect at the dog park. But boy have I learned! I’ve learned that, so far, every dog we’ve encountered has been pretty awesome. There are the big dogs with tons of energy (Daisy looks on, perhaps reminiscing about her younger years), and the little dogs, most of whom seem to think they are big dogs, and have big personalities to match. Daisy is a senior dog citizen, and gets along with just about every dog she meets. The humans, however, are a different story.

And this brings us to our list of Dos and Don’ts at the dog park.


Bring supplies. Sure, the dog park should supply the basics (water, potty bags), but just in case there’s a shortage, it’s good to be prepared.

Pick up after your dog. Every time.

Be mindful of “large dog” and “small dog” areas. Even if your dog thinks he’s a big dog, go with his actual size in determining where he’ll play best with his canine companions.

Chat with other dog parents. You may know them only as “Spot’s parents,” but it’s always good to be cordial. You may even pick up some good tips.

Share tips, not “shoulds.” Are you feeding your senior dog canned pumpkin to help keep him regular? Awesome. But that doesn’t mean everyone should. Share what works, your experiences, even tell funny stories about your dog. And leave it at that. If another dog parent wants your advice, he will ask.


Spend the entire time on your mobile device. Of course, you might need to check for an email from work, but aside from that—and the adorable photo you’ll take of Fido—set the phone aside for a while.

Bring a sandwich. Who does this? Oh wait, that woman at the dog park today. Yeah, people do this.

Be a parking area jerk. Perhaps because the landscape architects were thinking that dog people walk a lot, rather than drive, dog parks are notoriously short on parking spaces. Once you get your dog in the car, please leave. No one wants to watch you stretch your hamstrings against the back of your car or wait while you call your BFF.

Finally, unless you are a veterinarian, don’t ask about the health or wellbeing of other dogs. Questions like, “Why is he so thin?” and “Wow, your dog’s pretty old, isn’t he?” or even “Is that a rescue?” don’t do anything to benefit the dogs.

Some questions that are fair game:

What’s your dog’s name?

How old is your dog?

What breed is your dog?

From those questions alone, there’s plenty to talk about. Just be sure to keep an eye on Fido while you’re talking. After all, time at the dog park is quality time.

Conna Shannon

Conna Shannon

Conna is a writer, editor and aspiring filmmaker. She's into DIY, upcylcing and macrobiotic cooking. She lives in Monterey, California, with a yellow lab named Daisy.
Conna Shannon

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