Dog Park Etiquette Rules

10 Dog Park Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow

Follow these dog park etiquette rules to ensure it stays a fun—and safe—space for you and your pooch.

Taking your dog to the dog park is a fantastic way to provide them with exercise, socialization, and even mental stimulation. Visiting one of these parks allows your pup the freedom to play fetch, run around with other pooches, and splash around in dog-friendly freshwater pools. Here in New York City, we luckily have many options to choose from when it comes to dog parks and runs.

Dog parks are a great place for bonding with your dog and giving them a break from its typically confined living arrangements. It is also an opportunity for owners to meet other dog people and chat while their furry friends enjoy themselves together. For dog owners, following proper dog park rules and etiquette is the best way to keep dog parks safe and fun for all dogs and their pet parents.

Know Your Dog’s Personality

Before taking your dog to a dog park, make sure you have a grasp on their overall personality and boundaries. Dog parks can be fun for our furry pals, but they can also pose challenges—and your dog needs to be capable of handling them. The best way to check your dog’s capability is to watch how well they do in new situations. This is especially key if you’ve recently adopted an adult dog.

First, have your dog interact with other pooches, either on walks or playdates. If your pup shows any reactivity like barking, teeth baring or growling, they are not ready for the park. Also, if your dog gets over excited, this could cause another pooch to react, which could lead to a fight. If you have a shy dog, you don’t want to make them more fearful or stressed by bringing them to the park. While you’re at it, find out why dogs bark at other dogs. As a dog owner, it's up to you to be in charge of all of these scenarios and use common sense for your pets.

Scouting Out The Right Park

Before you bring your pup to play, check out a couple of local parks in your area. I personally like parks with separate areas for big and little dogs. Also look for ones with some shade and places that dogs can get away from each other. For anyone looking to get the most out of their visit, here are 10 park etiquette tips for dogs for ensuring everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience at the dog park. With proper care, your dog will love spending time at the dog park!

10 Guidelines for Dog Park Etiquette 

1. Always Follow the Rules

Always Follow the Rules

Most dog parks post their rules and regulations that must be followed to keep them safe for everyone. Some of these parks are owned by the town, and others are owned by private entities such as apartment complexes or neighborhoods. 

Dog parks often post dog park rules and regulations (and even laws for national parks) that you must follow. In addition, park staff or park rangers may also be on hand to speak to about these rules. Pay attention to the posted signs in the confined area. These rules usually entail:

  • Dogs need to be up to date on all vaccinations 
  • In turn, dogs need to be old enough to be out in public
  • Dogs must display proper required tags, such as rabies and identification
  • Pick up any dog waste and dispose of it properly
  • Owners must stay present 
  • Children’s ages and expected behaviors
  • What to do if there is a human-to-dog or dog-to-dog safety incident 
  • Posted hours of operation
  • Toys, balls, water source, and entrance/exit rules
  • Consequences for violations by park visitors
  • Information about trash protocols

2. Be Present

We mean “being present” in two different ways: Keep your physical body in the park, and be attentive to what’s going on with your dog and other dogs. 

The dog park is not doggy daycare 

The dog park is not to be used as a babysitter. This is not the time for you to go grocery shopping or run errands while you assume other dogs entertain them. Your dog will be looking for you. If an incident happens, you won’t be there to handle it, which could result in fines or lawsuits.

The dog park is not a game of telephone

Likewise, being physically present at the park isn’t enough. If you use this time to turn your back and talk about the latest neighborhood gossip, your dog could be causing all sorts of ruckus and you’d never know. Watch your doggo at all times to see how they interact in the designated areas, gauge if they’re having a great time or not, and know when it’s time to leave for the session. 

3. Be Friendly

Be Friendly at Dog Park

Your dog park may actually be a fantastic place to meet people. Perhaps the same people come there when you do, or you start to notice the same dog buddies your dog gravitates toward. A shared interest of pups is an easy topic for natural small talk, and a conversation can grow deeper from there. You know you already have a love of dogs in common, and you may live nearby. From platonic friends to even romantic relationships, friendships can blossom at the dog park. 

Remember the golden rule

Another part of being friendly is treating others with kindness. If your dog is causing a problem, handle it in a mature, apologetic way. If another dog is causing issues with your dog, try your best to keep your cool and stand up for your dog without jumping into anger. Remember the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. 

4. Don’t Be Caught Unprepared

Being prepared at the dog park is essential before you even leave your house. One of the most important things your puppy should have before visiting a dog park is to make sure your dog is caught up on core vaccinations for puppies to avoid severe and even deadly infections, viruses, and parasites. Always carry enough dog waste bags in case the waste station or trash can is out. You can’t guarantee the water source will be fresh or available, so carry a collapsible bowl and water for your puppy. 

Being prepared also means keeping emergency vet numbers stored in your phone in case something terrible happens that needs attention right away. You don’t want to be Googling “emergency vets near me” when it’s the worst time possible. You may consider extra items to keep nearby to clean up messes. The weather could turn quickly, or there could be huge mud puddles at the dog park even if it’s sunny outside. Be ready for any mess your dog gets into! 

Your dog may also get carsick on the way to the dog park. Be prepared by keeping wet wipes, disposable gloves, plastic bags, old towels for muddy paws, and maybe even a pet-safe upholstery cleaner for car accidents in a kit or backpack. Keeping a small doggy first-aid kit handy is smart as well. Lastly, be prepared to leave when it’s clear your dog is ready to go. Don’t be rigid and stick to your regular schedule. Listen to their body language and respect any fear they may have. Sometimes we have to pivot on our human plans when our dog has another agenda. Being aware is key.

5. Don’t Bring Special, Beloved Items

Don’t Bring Special, Beloved Items at Dog Park

The dog park is not a place to bring your dog’s favorite toy. Think of dogs like toddlers: They will inevitably be drawn to toys that are not theirs and will want to play with them. Now is not the time to teach your dog the lesson of sharing. Your dog could get possessive of her toy and cause a fight when guarding it. Safety is key in all of these parks. This is also true when it comes to an item such as a treat or bone.

It’s best to use neutral objects already there, like old tennis balls and sticks. Some dog parks even have adorable dog park stick libraries where visitors find the perfect stick to stack in a box for other dogs to use. 

6. Don’t Bring Unwelcome Children 

Do not use your dog park experience as a playdate experience for your kids. You need to first and foremost follow the posted rules for guidelines for small children to be inside the dog park area. You can’t trust dogs you don’t know around children, especially off leash in parks. Some are perfectly fine at home with their own human siblings but may exhibit aggressive behavior in a dog park setting. Don’t put your kids in possible harm’s way!

If kids are allowed, know your child. Are they timid? Are they fine with dogs? Do they have a calm or boisterous personality? Do not allow your kids to wander away or mess with dogs they don’t know. Teach them members of your family all the rules of the dog park and how to be around dogs they don’t know. Perhaps the dog park is not the time to teach them these skills on a large scale. Practice interacting in a smaller, controlled environment.  

7. Eat Somewhere Else! 

The dog park is not the time to sit down at a picnic table for a delicious meal. Like flies swarming to honey, dogs will catch a whiff of that quarter pounder with cheese and flock to your picnic table. Don't be that person!

And certainly don’t start feeding any food or treats to dogs you don’t know. They will either fight over them, or they may be on a special diet that doesn’t allow what you’re feeding even if your own dog is fine with the food. Most parked have picnic tables or a designated area where food is allowed.

8. Own Up to Unfortunate Incidents

Unfortunate Incidents at Dog Park

In the unfortunate case your dog causes problems, whether it’s with another dog or a human, you must own up to your part in how to address and correct what happened.  Part of owning a dog is being responsible for your dog’s actions. Don’t shirk any responsibilities of paying for damages caused, whether it’s veterinary or medical bills past what insurance covers or make the physical and emotional healing process difficult for the affected party. 

We all want to think our dogs are perfectly behaved angels who would never put another dog or human in harm’s way. However, don’t have the firm mindset that your dog would never do what happened because you don’t know how or when your dog will react to something in another environment away from the familiarity of home. Especially when off leash, hiking or walking.

In some he-said, she-said cases, the details may get murky as to what exactly happened. Witnesses may be able to help. If the authorities get involved, be cooperative. Have your insurance information handy and give factual information without embellishments. 

9. Make Sure to Spay and Neuter Your Dogs!

Make Sure to Spay and Neuter Your Dogs!

One of the most responsible things you can do for your dog is to get him or her neutered or spayed. There are several benefits to spaying or neutering your dog that help society and public health. The procedure can prevent possible health conditions, such as cancers, tumors, and infections, from harming your female dog. Neutering can prevent cancers and prostate problems and also reduce aggression and roaming tendencies in male dogs. 

Dogs who are spayed or neutered can also increase their lifespan. In a study conducted at the University of Georgia, neutered male dogs lived 13.8% longer, and spayed females lived a whopping 26.3% longer than their non-neutered or spayed fellow dogs based on more than 70,000 collected medical records.

Before we get into more benefits of spaying and neutering, the most pertinent reason regarding a dog park is to prevent unwanted dog pregnancies. Each year, over 70 million stray animals in the US enter shelters. Do your part in preventing unwanted puppies from ending up homeless or wasting away their sad lives in shelters, especially when not all shelters are no-kill facilities. 

However, if you do have an intact male or female dog, you must take extra precautions when visiting a dog park. Never bring your female dog if she's in heat to a dog park. If your female dog is in heat, male dogs will surround her and could fight over their desire to follow their instincts. If your male dog is intact, he may cause issues roaming around the dog park looking for a mate and getting into fights. Dog owners beware.

10. Have Fun!

Have Fun at Dog Park

A dog park is a fantastic place to allow your dog(s) to socialize and interact with other dogs in a controlled, fenced-in, safe environment. Dogs are pack animals and thrive when they can learn invaluable social skills by observing and interacting with other canine friends. Relax, throw the ball, take pictures, and post on social media about how your stick-carrying pup was promoted from Assistant Branch Manager to District Branch Manager! 

And remember, after a trip to the dog park, your dog may need some freshening up! That’s where we come in. PRIDE+GROOM offers the finest all-natural, clean, luxe grooming products for your pooch that will help clean up after a walk, some play time, and even a romp in the mud!


You may be your dog’s best friend, but chances are that your pet might want to hang with four-legged pals every now and then. To help them (and you) socialize, an increasing number of pooch playgrounds have been popping up around cities and suburban neighborhoods to offer an alternative to the typical routine. Dogs playing together also provides mental stimulation, improves social skills, and is good exercise! So dog owners: before you head out with your furry friend, make sure to go over these dog park etiquette tips above to make sure the dog park remains a safe and fun environment for pet play.