Dog Park Etiquette

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If you’ve been to the dog park and have etiquette concerns regarding your own dog or someone else’s dog, make sure you read Pause & Paws next article in our Summer Edition of fetch! Sioux Falls Pet Magazine.

“We used to live out of town and had never been to a dog park. But now that we live in town, I want to be able to start taking my dog Lucy. There’s only one problem, Lucy is not aggressive, but it seems she always gets into fights at the dog park. The other dogs seem to pick on her. Help.” – Margaret (Sioux Falls, SD)

Margaret, it sounds like your dog may simply need some socializing and some leadership from you. Knowing proper dog park etiquette and how dog fights start will give you and Lucy a good foundation on which to start. Feel free to email me for more information.

Taking your dog to the dog park is very important for socialization and exercise. Even though the dog park is a great place for exercise, it should never be a substitute for the walk. Actually, you should take your dog for a walk before going to the dog park to drain some energy.

There are a few very important things dog owners must know to prevent any behavioral issues while visiting a dog park. Being accountable for your dog’s behavior and knowing dog park etiquette are part of being a responsible dog owner. If your dog is not aggressive, yet is too excited or too timid, they will attract the attention of other dogs which can lead to a dog fight. Other balanced dogs are going to see the excited or timid dog as unbalanced and try to correct this dog’s behavior.

Believe it or not, the majority of the time when dog fights start, it is not only the aggressor dog that is to blame but it is also the other dogs involved that are to blame. If your dog is not aggressive, yet is too excited or too timid, they will attract other dogs. This can mean you are as responsible for the fight as the other dog owner(s).

See COMMON DOG PARK ETIQUETTE EVERY RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNER SHOULD KNOW in the Summer Edition of fetch! Sioux Falls Pet Magazine on stands this week!

I realize there are some exceptions to this as some people teach their dogs to be aggressive and are simply not responsible enough to make sure their dog is balanced before entering the dog park. A good rule of thumb is that if a dog owner is not disciplining their dog or paying attention to his behavior you may want to consider leaving and coming back at a later time.

Also, try to find other responsible dog owners with which to hang around. Irresponsible dog owners should not be allowed to ruin everyone else’s playtime. Feel free to contact Animal Control if anything gets out of hand at the dog park.

Good luck Margaret! Thanks for your question. Readers, if you have a dog behavior related question, please feel free to email I will use some readers’ questions in upcoming articles of “Pause & Paws” in fetch! Sioux Falls Pet Magazine.

Pause & Paws is fetch!’s contributing writer for dog behavior and training tips.

Dog Safety

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Proper dog safety is something every parent should teach their children. Studies have proven that education is the number 1 measure to prevent dog bites. Children who are properly taught how to behave around dogs and how to treat them are less likely to be bitten.
According to the CDC, an estimated 4.5 million dog bites occur in the US each year. 50% involve children under 12 years old.
Pause & Paws is dedicated to responsible pet guardianship and animal advocacy through education.
On April 25, Pause & Paws taught dog safety to 28 toddlers and preschoolers. Trinity was the assistant that the children were able to practice proper behavior with.
The first thing the children were taught was to always ask the owner if they can pet their dog. But also to remember, that if the owner says yes, don’t run up to the dog – let the dog approach you!
Once the dog has approached you, pet them on the back or side – never on the head.
The question, “who hugs their dog at home?” was asked of the children and almost all raised their hand, saying “I do!” The next thing Pause & Paws taught the children was to never hug or kiss a dog they don’t know.
One by one, the children practiced asking if they can pet Trinity and showed what they learned.
The last thing the children learned was how to properly give a dog a treat. Always give the treat with an open hand.
Pause & Paws gives some tips on what to do when you see a dog you don’t know.
What NOT to do:
• Do not stick your hand out at the dog.
• Do not lean over the top of the dog or pet the dog’s head.
• Do not run towards the dog.
• Do not grab, hug or kiss the dog.
• Do not stare into the eyes of the dog.
• Do not squeal or talk in a loud, excited, high pitched voice
The RIGHT thing to do:
• Make little to no eye contact.
• Let the dog approach you on his own time to smell you.
• Be patient! It may take a few minutes for the dog to come to you, sniff you and feel comfortable enough to let you pet him.
• Keep to the side and not in front of the dog.
• If in front of the dog, keep your body sideways or even turn your back to him.
• Keep your hand to yourself if the dog has not come to you.
• Touch him on the side or back rather than the head once he has approached you.
• Accept that you may not get to pet the dog. Understand that not all dogs are eager to meet people or children.