A friend in the Great Dane group I’m a part of recently shared a story in which she and a friend had a horrible experience at their local dog park. As someone who dog parks twice weekly at minimum, I thought a post on dog park etiquette was in order. These are nothing more than the guidelines *we* follow when we are at the park, and in no way am I saying this is the ONLY right way, or that this is how you and your dogs should go about stuff. This is only how we go about stuff. 🙂
- Keep your leash with you: Many dog owners tend to hang the leashes at the entrance of the dog park. I am not a fan of this, though we used to do it ourselves. We make sure we always have the leashes with us, because there have been too many times where we’ve either had to remove them from the park quickly due to the energy of the park changing too quickly, (this happens a lot) OR because of trouble-maker dogs, OR because little kids were allowed to run around the big dog park by their STUPID parents. Why do you allow your toddler to RUN and play BALL in the big section of the dog park? My 140lbs beast will for SURE knock down your kid, people! Once, an animal control officer was walking the park asking us to leash our dogs for an event they had coming. Ugh. Yeah- keep your leashes with you.
- Do not bring treats: Don’t bring treats to the dog park, and then be surprised when my hound tries to cram her giant dog head into your pants pocket to retrieve said treats. The sign says don’t bring treats. Common sense says don’t bring treats. However, if you DO bring treats (just don’t, people), for the love of all things good, please don’t give treats to dogs who don’t belong to you. “Oh, I hope you don’t mind! I gave your gorgeous Dane a chicken jerky treat!” )(/dies). Leave your dog treats in the car.
- This ain’t social hour: I’m not trying to be a jerk-off here, but honestly. I am not at the dog park to make friends. I’m not there to socialize with other dog owners, or other dane owners. I’m not at the dog park to walk around and talk to every couple there or to chat. I’m at the dog park to allow my dogs to socialize and play with other dogs. I’ll talk to you, sure, but my eyes are busy watching my dogs. When you stand in front of me to try to make eye contact, I’m going to step to the side, because I’m watching to ensure my Great Dane is interacting with the other dogs appropriately, and that Duncan Doodle isn’t barking in everyone’s face. Things can go south VERY quickly at the dog park, and watching your dog at all times really helps keep this in check. I will absolutely walk away from your conversation in a heartbeat if I feel that the energy is wrong surrounding either of my dogs, or honestly, just if they are being cute and adorable.
- Keep your voice calm in a shitshow: Before I get jumped on for this next one, I will again point you to the disclaimer above. Again, this is how *I* do it, and I am not advising ANYONE that this is the way to do stuff– but for us, it’s how we roll. There have been many times at the park, where smaller dogs will get Stella going, and will chase her all around the park. We’ve seen upwards of 6 dogs chasing her before, the entire pack frantically trying to catch her. Sometimes, they will trip her up, sometimes they will bite her leg, and sometimes, she’ll just wipe out, but if they get her down, we’ve seen the pack mentality really set in, where they are barking and snapping while she’s trapped on the ground, belly up. There have been times I’ve been panicked and allowed my voice to become emotional, but I’ve stopped doing this. I will wade into the pack (frowned upon by all, but I care not at all), and will clap my hands, and fire off a few sharp “LEAVE IT!”s for anyone who will listen, until I can get my hand in Stella’s collar to help her stand up. The entire time, I’m using my legs to brush the other dogs gently but firmly away from her, still chanting ‘leave it!’ until the pack disperses. I have found that calmly stepping in works FAR better than yelling, screaming, panicking, flailing and generally just freaking out. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done my fair share of freaking, but it’s far better to remain calm and in control, as your dog will take the queues you are sending off.
- Know your dog: This is one of those things that’s probably the hardest for some owners to really get a grip on. I could see this could be particularly hard with folks who rescue their dogs, but am friends with many folks who have rescued, and they are pretty great with reading their dogs as well. Because I’ve had Stella since she was 8 weeks old, and was involved with her from the time she was born, I ‘know’ her very well. I know what certain expressions on her face mean, I know by the way her ears lay what sort of mood she’s in. I can tell if she’s nervous/excited because the fur on her butt will stand straight up. I know she’s *extremely* nervous if her butt-fur AND the fur along her spine is standing up. I know that if a dog continually tries to hump her, she will turn her head around, lower her hips and snap at them, but will never actually bite them. I know she’s going to get the zoomies about 15 seconds before she zooms off. I know when she will allow a stranger to pet her, and when she won’t, by the way she looks at them. Knowing your dog will help you keep control both of the situations you have them in at the park, and will help you keep your nervous energy in check.
- Allow your dog to play at the park: Please don’t take your dog to the dog park if you won’t let them play with other dogs. The BEST dogs are well socialized ones, and it’s probably the one thing Great Dane owners are the WORST about. Most Danes are well socialized with people, but owners tend to take this ridiculous, over-protective stance and make their dogs fearful and aggressive towards other dogs. This does not need to happen! Start early and teach your dog the right way to engage with other dogs. Keep your voice, pleasant and calm when they are playing. We used “easy!” when we wanted to remind Stella to be gentle, but to ‘keep playing’. Owning a giant breed comes with great responsibility, and proper socialization is one of those responsibilities. It’s something you will NEVER regret and the benefits are immediate. I truly believe having a well socialized dog is an integral part of a well rounded lifestyle. Excellent food, top notch vet care, and socialization are all important parts of your dogs health and well being.
Again, these are just the guidelines we use and feel are important. What are some of your rules at the dog park?