The fundamental rule of a dog park is to clean up after your pet. Many parks have poop bags or scoopers, but it's up to owners to be responsible. This is the biggest issue for parks. If people don't keep parks clean, they run the risk of being closed down.
Other important rules and suggestions at dog parks include:
- Never leave your dog unattended. Keep an eye on your dog as much as possible.
- Each dog should sport a current license on its collar. Be prepared if a ranger asks to see your dog's shot records.
- Puppies under four months old haven't received enough inoculations to protect them from potential diseases.
- First-time visitors should visit the park at off-peak times. Late afternoons until dusk and around 9:30 a.m. on weekends are heavy-traffic times.
- Bring supplies like water, poop bags, towels and a leash.
- If your dog is not neutered or spayed, think twice before taking him or her to a dog park, unless you're ready to welcome new puppies!
- Remove your dog's leash as soon as you enter the park. Leashed dogs may feel threatened when greeted by off-leash dogs [source: Dogpark.com].
- Keep moving. Dog experts say this will keep the off-leash area neutral territory.
- If your dog displays an aggressive temperament, consider staying at home.
- Some parks without fences will only allow dogs that respond to "firm voice control," meaning they must listen and obey their owners.
- Don't bring outside toys. Dogs see anything new brought into the park as open for their own enjoyment. Denied that opportunity, they can act up [source: AnimalPlanet.com].
- Minimize barking if the park is located in a residential area.
Cities can also impose their own rules at dog parks. Minneapolis dog owners must have a permit to use city parks. In Brooklyn's Prospect Park, owners of dogs that are off-leash between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. can be slapped with a $100 fine [source: Dogpark.com].
In the next section, find out why people join dog park associations.