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These articles are some of the best we've found on dog manners. Written by and reprinted here with permission from Marty Guerra, Owner of Good Dog Behavior and Training. Visit his website for more excellent articles!

Dog Park Etiquette

  • Obey posted park rules.
  • Always keep your eye on your dog - mischief can happen quickly.
  • Never bring more dogs than you can watch- 3 is about the limit.
  • Never bring food or snacks into the park.
  • Never leave your dog unattended.
  • Always clean up after your dog. Poop bags are supplied, so use them. This
    is the primary reason dog parks get complaints, so pay attention and
    pick up poop.
  • Please help us educate other park users.
  • Remove any halters, metal choke chains or link collars. In the rough and tumble play, a tooth or nail could get caught in this type of collar, resulting
    in a scared dog, lost tooth or broken nail and possibly a panic fight.
  • Make sure that your dog is current on all shots, including
    Bordetella for kennel cough.
  • Don't bring dogs younger that 4 months to the park. They won't have all of the necessary inoculations to allow them to play safely with other animals
  • Do not bring a female dog in heat.
  • Spayed/neutered animals are recommended.
  • If your dog becomes unruly or plays rough, leash him/her and leave the park.
Tips For Bringing Kids

We want a visit to the park to be an enjoyable experience for everyone. One reason for development of this area was to provide a space away from park playgrounds and playing fields where dogs could be free to run without disrupting families with children. You may bring your kids to the park, but please be aware that the very fact that there is a pack of dogs running around changes the dynamics a bit. Not all dogs in the park have children in their homes. Some of them have not been exposed to kids, or may even simply not like them. In the interest of keeping the park a safe, fun place for everyone, please watch your children closely and read the following recommendations.

Children are susceptible to contracting intestinal parasites in areas where urine and feces are present. This is why dogs are often prohibited from playgrounds and schoolyards. Be sure that you and your child always wear shoes in the
park. Be aware that children can also pick up fleas.

This is not the place to bring a child to "get him/her over their fear of dogs"
Not all dogs are friendly with children. While some dogs will avoid children, others will harass them. (note to dog owners: whether you have children in your house or not, it is a good idea to socialize your dogs with children as much as possible- this will alleviate potential problems for everyone involved.)

NEVER allow your child to approach or pet a dog without the owner's permission and presence. Children are easily run over and knocked down by running dogs. Some herding breeds may nip at kids in an attempt to round them up. A running, yelling child attracts attention and becomes a target for many dogs because he resembles an injured animal or running prey. Do not allow your child to wildly wave his arms around.

NEVER let a child bring food or toys to the park. Even a friendly dog may go after a treat. One adult to supervise several children and the family dog is not enough. Make sure that you can take care of everyone you bring with you.

PARENTS: Teach your children how to behave around animals and what to do in case of any emergency before bringing them to the park:

NEVER RUN: Hide face, fold arms and stand still. If necessary, lie down, tuck arms and legs into the body and lie still. In both cases, wait for help or until the dog leaves. Direct eye contact (staring) is confrontational and a challenge. A child is at just the right height for this, and, therefore, at risk.

We strongly suggest that children under the age of 8 be closely supervised by an adult; this means keeping them within your arm's reach. Note to parents of infants: some dogs may jump to investigate babies in front or back packs. While most are merely curious and friendly, some have strong prey instincts and may mistake the baby for a small injured animal.

Doggy Manners

If you’ve ever been to the dog park, or anyplace where dogs are free to run, play and interact with each other, you may see how happy and exuberant many of the dogs appear to be. It is a wonderful thing to watch as the dogs play "tag," "keep-away," chase, fetch, etc.

Play and its role were thoroughly examine in R. Fagen’s work "Animal Play Behavior" 1981:

  • Play Stimulates communal behavior.
  • Facilitates social interactions.
  • Molds adult behavior, particularly through the role of the learning curve.
  • Establishes early, strong social relationships, although the role of social
    hierarchy and its development in play is less clear.
  • Enhances physical and mental dexterity.
  • Improves coordination.
  • Provides a venue for safe experimentation and the first demonstration
    of ritual and ritualized behaviors.
  • Provide puppies with an outlet to learn about social rules and predictability
    through sequences of events.
  • Provide puppies with an outlet for exploration.
  • Provide them with a safe outlet for increasingly complex problem solving.

    What’s even more fascinating to see is all the "talking" that goes on between all the dogs. Dogs, being social, group animals have an intricate way of communicating with one another. Through a series of facial expressions, ear, tail, head positions, eye and mouth position, they are able to communicate and read the intentions of one another.

The problem is that not all dogs are good at speaking or reading their own language. Many are socially inept and can be rude or even down right mean. When dogs don’t speak "dog" and don’t play well with others, it’s usually for one or a combination of three reasons: genetics, learned behavior, or poor socialization.

The genes:
Over thousands of years dogs have gone through many different stages of domestication. Unfortunately, humans have bred aggressive tendencies into many breeds of dogs. Now, not all dogs within a breed group are aggressive nor are all within another group easy going and pleasant. We are talking propensities here. The more common of these include Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Chows and other guard types. On the other hand many dogs were developed into breeds of a more cooperative nature (again, we are dealing with overall propensities) these include, scent hounds such as Beagles, Bloodhounds and Foxhound. These were bred to hunt in packs and are very amenable to being and cooperating in groups. The sporting breeds (Labs, Goldens, etc.) also tend to be easy going among others. The working breeds can run the continuum from being relatively gregarious to aggressive. Again, it is important to mention that not all dogs in any given group are going to behave in one way or another; not all Rottweilers are aggressive just as not all Labs are friendly.

Learned Behavior:
The dog’s natural propensities can and will be modified by how you raise the dog. Improper, harsh and abusive training methods, no training at all, abuse, etc can turn any dog into an aggressive anti-social, danger to society. It is critical that you raise your dog in an environment that doesn’t allow him to be teased, threatened, tormented or attacked by other dogs or people (kids included).

Socialize, Socialize, Socialize:
The most common reason for dogs not getting along with others is a lack proper socialization. If you keep your dog isolated or only expose him to limited environments, you run the risk of your dog developing anti-social, aggressive or fearful behavior.

When your dog says "hello":
When your dog is greeting another dog be aware of both of the dogs' demeanors. Friendly postures generally involve the dog making him or herself "smaller" relative to the other dog. This, along with other physical posturing, serves to decrease their potential threat to others. Dogs exhibiting passive submission tend to have an averted gaze, lower their neck and ears, lick, groom and paw.

Not so friendly greetings involve the dog making itself appear larger. Erect stance, head up, ears forward, tail up (possibly flicking tip), piloerection (hair up on neck/back, puffed tail hair), direct stare (pupils may or may not be dilated), raised lips, low tone growl, snapping, etc. There are some agnostic behaviors that are considered normal but may not be well received by some dogs, such as, mounting, chasing, pinning and the like.

You, as your dog’s owner, shouldn’t forget common sense or your responsibility for your dog’s behavior. You cannot control other people’s dogs but you certainly should be able to control your own. Don’t confuse control with punishment. You don’t need to be a dictator with your dog. You can give him as much slack as you want, but when you say "enough" the dog needs to know that you mean it. A well-mannered dog is one who does what you want him to do when you want him to do it. Controlling through intimidation doesn’t work any better with dogs than with children. (Dr. Nicholas Dodman, 2000)

You need to understand the personality, characteristics of your dog and mold your expectations around that understanding. If your dog has exhibited aggressive, or any other inappropriate behavior(s) while running in the dog park, it is incumbent upon you to (1) not take your dog to the park or (2) take the necessary steps to teach your dog how to behave appropriately in a social setting. It is a task well worth the time needed to change your dog’s attitude.