It’s a Dog Meet Dog World out There

By Judy Layne

Whether you’re walking your dog on the street or you’re in an off-leash dog park, there are certain important doggie etiquette “dos and don’ts” to follow as a responsible pet parent.  Here’s how to keep your dog and others safe and happy.

Pick up the poop!  No one wants to step in poop.  Some dogs like to roll in other dogs’ poop. Either way – yuck. Poop can also spread diseases.  Bring bags with you and dispose of them properly.

Respect the rules.  This will benefit you, your dog and others.  Municipal bylaws require dogs to be on-leash in public areas, unless signs say otherwise.  Choosing not to follow posted dog park rules can ruin the park for everyone else.

Rushing is not all right.  Never let your dog run up to another dog on leash.  Your dog may be friendly, but other dogs and owners don’t know that. A leashed dog can feel vulnerable around a loose dog and may defensively lash out.

Be proactive and protect your pup.  Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date and that they’re protected from ticks, fleas, heartworm, rabies and diseases that can be spread by other dogs.

Control your canine.  Before ever contemplating a dog park, you need to ensure your dog has basic obedience training and listens to your commands.

Know when to pass up the park. If your dog hasn’t been well socialized, nix the park.  Socialization needs to happen in an environment where things can’t go south quickly.If your dog is aggressive or resource-protective, keep playtime in your backyard or a secluded area without other dogs.Don’t bring puppies to the park – they can get diseases they don’t have immunity against and can be injured by bigger dogs.If your dog isn’t fully vaccinated, don’t risk making them or other dogs sick.  Never bring an intact male or female dog in heat to the park – this spells trouble.  Don’t be part of the pet overpopulation problem – spay or neuter your dog!

Keep an eye on your dog at all times.  On the street or in the park, don’t become distracted playing with your smartphone or socializing with other humans.  It only takes a minute for an accident to happen.

Learn to read dog body language.  By learning to spot signs of aggression, you can prevent fights before they happen, both in and outside of the dog park.   If your dog or another dog bares their teeth, growls or tenses their posture, leave before any fur starts flying.

Size does matter sometimes.  Smaller dogs can easily become intimidated by large dogs running loose. If the park has a separate area for smaller dogs, bring your small dog there so they can play safely with their pooch peers. If there’s no separate area, be cautious to make sure your dog’s not at risk.

Know when it’s time to leave.  If your dog seems uncomfortable or is too nervous to relax in a dog park, take them somewhere else where they feel safe.  If the park is jam-packed with pooches, come back at non-peak times.  If your dog is bullying or being bullied, leave.  And if your dog is just plain tired, call it quits and head home.

If we all mind our doggie manners, I’m paws-itive the world will be a better place for us and for our dogs.

Judy Layne

Judy is a dedicated volunteer with the Nova Scotia SPCA and proud adoptive fur-mama to Gracie. She is committed to speaking for animals who cannot speak for themselves.