Beckoned by the weather and that forlorn look your dog wears when he wants to go out, you take him to a local park. Whether you go to a park that warmly invites dogs or to one that merely tolerates their presence, there are a few points of etiquette that you and your dog should follow.
A Park of Their Own?
The first point of etiquette is: are dogs allowed? As you approach that beautiful sea of green grass, you may confront a harsh reality: the ugly sign prohibiting dogs in the park.
Law-abiding person that you are, you turn away. To do otherwise could earn you a fine. But now what? It's time you make an effort to find the closest dog park to you. With more than 700 dog parks scattered throughout the United States, this may mean a bit of a drive. But as more communities enact leash laws, dog parks are increasing in number.
For the uninitiated, a dog park is generally defined as a park where dogs and owners are encouraged to visit and has amenities designed to make the visit more pleasant. (Sometimes the term is used for any park that permits – rather than explicitly invites – dogs. Usually, these parks are not designed with dogs in mind.) Some parks are enclosed and some are not. Often, a small entrance fee or membership fee is charged per dog.
Your dog should be fully vaccinated before taking him to any park. (Actually, he should be fully vaccinated even if you don't take him anywhere but the front yard.) The dog should be spayed or neutered, which means you really shouldn't take your dog to a park until he is older than 6 months (the age when the surgery is typically performed).
At a general park, however, keep your dog on a leash. Not everyone is dog-friendly, but everyone does have the right to enjoy the park unmolested.
Sometimes people are honestly unaware of where their dogs go when they are unleashed. You should keep an eye on your dog at all times and be honest – if you see him searching for a nice spot to relieve himself, get a bag, go to the area and scoop it up.
In parks that permit rather than invite dogs, baggies may not be available. It is even more crucial that you bring your own; if you don't you may find that a once dog-friendly park has been declared off-limits to canines.
If you don't have a dog park within reasonable driving distance, you may want to think about starting one. You can start by getting a committed group of dog owners together and contacting your city or county representative. Stress the benefits to people as well as to dogs, and explain how the park can educate the public on responsible dog ownership. With some help and perseverance, you may establish a dog park of their own.