Proper pups: dog park manners

Don’t let your dog be that dog…

RVA has a lot of to offer and not just for humans. The dog parks in Richmond are some magical, muddy places, but be sure you practice proper pup manners when you visit, so nobody ends up having a ruff time.1

1. Be very careful when going to the dog park with children

Particularly young children. Some dog parks may post age limits, and these seem like common sense. While you trust your own dog, it’s always a gamble to trust a strange dog, even more so a large number of strange dogs put together. If you’re carrying a baby in a sling with its adorable toes dangling, your dog may not be interested in the baby-toe-toy, but that friendly Aussie who likes to bounce over there2 may see them as an invitation to play, and that may or may not be what you want. Children also may not know the proper way to act around large numbers of unknown dogs; running around is not the best idea, and pulling tails definitely isn’t either. It might be a teachable moment, but it also may be one best done before visiting. And of course, your kids may be great with dogs! But if the next person to arrive has a child who sees other children in the park, un-trained children may end up in the park as a result. It’s for the safety of everyone that some parks have age restrictions.

2. Take grumpy pups elsewhere

If your dog isn’t friendly, the dog park isn’t the best place for him to be. Plain and simple, nobody should have to learn that your dog is the mean dog who shouldn’t be approached.3 And nobody wants a dog park trip to end in a trip to the dog or human hospital.Your dog needs to learn how to socialize, yes, but not at the expense of other park visitors.

3. Be proactive, not passive

Speaking of which, what happens when your dog, who’s great 99% of the time, has that 1% issue? Maybe a game of chase simply gets too rough and they lash out–correcting another dog does happen, and it doesn’t mean the dog is vicious. I’m not a professional dog trainer, but if my bossy Corgi gets snippy after being cornered by a pack of chasers,4 then it’s time for my dog to go home. The trip is over, the fun has been had, and somebody needs a nap.5

4. Watch your dog

This means not sitting in your car and watching from afar even when it’s chilly. You’re watching your dog for him doing his business, sure, but you should also be watching his behavior (see #3), to make sure he doesn’t get hurt,6 and that all is well. You’re there first and foremost for your dog. You’re his lifeline, so be there with him and for him, not with the car radio.

5. Try to go off-leash

You’re bringing your dog to the dog park to socialize and play, and keeping him on a leash by your side while other dogs frolic about is probably frustrating. Additionally, if an unknown dog tries to play, the leash could become a liability and a safety hazard. If your dog has no specific need to be on the leash, let him learn how to interact with other dogs and have some fun! (Unless, obviously, there’s a specific need for the leash, in which case, just be careful.)

— ∮∮∮ —

Most of all, just be a conscious visitor. Pick up after yourselves, share the toys, and try to make sure your dog doesn’t jump up on people.7 And have fun! The dog parks are great places to meet new dogs and their humans, so in addition to bonding with your fur family, maybe you can also make some new people-friends in the process.

And always remember to close the gate.

Photo by: donjd2

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. 1) I’m here all night! and 2) I’m just a park visitor, so these are opinions only, and not official regulations, unless the signs at the dog park say they are! 
  2. cough mine cough–we’re working on that. 
  3. Although community memory does exist; there are dog park regulars who remember! But trust me, you don’t want to be remembered as That Person Whose Dog Is Satan And Should Leave. 
  4. Because that happens, even with nice dogs. 
  5. Me. 
  6. The number of broken pieces of glass I’ve found at dog parks would astound you. No joke. Please don’t throw glass on the ground at the dog park! 
  7. Seriously. We’ve worked on this like CRAZY. We’re SO CLOSE to 100 percent no-jumping success! Nobody’s perfect! And most dog people at the park totally get that. If you’re at the park, you should expect mud. 
  • error

    Report an error

Hayley DeRoche

Hayley DeRoche is a librarian with a penchant for cardigans and corduroys. Luckily, her professional life revolves more around technology & information than fashion.

There are 6 reader comments. Read them.