Our fair city boasts an undeniable affinity for canines. As a result, we are blessed with a multitude of off-leash dog parks for resident tail-waggers, making for a more sociable, friendly, and responsive pet population. But the skills learned at the dog park don’t just happen overnight; rather, a simple – yet specific – code of conduct must be established and observed by pets and pet parents alike.
If you’re looking to learn the ropes for a positive, safe experience at one of San Francisco’s finest dog parks, look no further than our guide to dog park etiquette.
Born To Run
Dog parks provide public off-leash recreation and socialization for our canine citizens. Many behavioral issues, such as boredom or depression, can result from an urban dog left alone in an apartment or condo all day. Symptoms – ranging from barking, destructive chewing, digging, marking to gaining weight – are both painfully obvious and terribly frustrating to a loving dog owner.
Not only great for your pup to play, exercise, and get the stimulation he or she craves (and deserves!), dog parks facilitate meeting and conversing with your neighbors and fellow dog lovers. It’s a win-win!
Preparation Is Everything
Get approval from your vet prior to planning a visit, and invest in professional training. We are lucky that the Bay area is home to some of the country’s finest dog trainers. SFSPCA, Marin Humane Society, and the Peninsula Humane Society will help your dog learn the most important dog park commands.
You may consider checking out the dog park on your own before getting your dog all excited. Observing how the dogs are interacting with each other, and watching how the owners get involved when needed can inform and prepare you for an inaugural visit with your pup.
Dog Park Etiquette
Every dog park is a little different, but rules and regulations are typically posted at the entrance. Some may reflect the following dog park etiquette:
- Puppies younger than four months old should not visit the dog park due to an incomplete vaccination schedule
- Be certain your adult dog’s vaccinations are all up-to-date.
- Prevent parasites; your dog could potentially pick up fleas, and even ticks during a visit.
- It is recommended that canine visitors to the dog park be spayed or neutered.
- Is your dog properly identifiable? Update microchip information, ensure tags are secure, and, if applicable, renew his or her dog license.
- Poop! It is a measure of responsible dog ownership to swiftly remove your dog’s feces. Most parks provide baggies for this, but if you are like us, you most likely have one or two stuffed in your pocket.
- Treats and toys should be saved for home, as they tend to result in resource-guarding aggression.
- Always bring your own water; communal dog park water can spread illnesses, such as leptospirosis.
- If you notice any unwanted behavior from your dog, or your dog becomes an aggressive dog’s target, intervene immediately.
The Good, The Bad, And The Snarly
Your dog may likely tap into some ancestral traits, like growling, chasing, wrestling, tackling, pouncing, or biting. Most of this (hopefully) will all be in the name of good fun, but “good play” can escalate quickly into full-fledged aggression. Keep an eye on your dog’s body language: stiffness, rigidity, or any tension signal that it’s time for you to intervene or possibly remove your dog.
We know that by applying your dog park etiquette, you are ensuring that your dog is happy-go-lucky, at ease, and a sweet companion. There are so many opportunities to play in and around San Francisco; we’re sure you both will get a lot of visiting the dog park regularly. Please let us know if we can support your upcoming adventures!