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Dog Park Etiquette: Rules to Help Dogs Get Along

19 | Posted 8/23/12

Dog Park Etiquette: Rules to Help Dogs Get Along

By Dr. Sophia Yin

Download the free poster on Dog Park Etiquette.

Anyone who frequents the dog park and knows about dog behavior probably has a few horror stories to share and I am no exception.

A couple of years ago, I was at my neighborhood park, which is a private multiuse park for dogs and people. It was an off-hour so it was just me, my dog, Jonesy, and my foster dog, a little Corgi with a history of some fear and reactivity to unfamiliar dogs. Jonesy was off-leash and the Corgi was on a long line. Generally when I’m just with Jonesy, who is reactive towards unfamiliar dogs, especially those who are en route to trampling or side-swiping him, I’ll keep him focused on me in fun games or give him treats. That way Jonesy doesn’t have a chance to feel threatened enough to bark and growl doggie expletives. But in this case, I didn’t know other dogs were entering the area park until I heard the mad barking of three Australian Shepherds as they leapt out of their car and started racing around as if they had been penned up for weeks. The park was the size of a football field, but as usual, these dogs decided that the choice spot was wherever we were, so they sprinted our way. I stood for an instant indecisively.  Should I call the Corgi and sprint so he’d follow me (but most likely with the other dogs in hot pursuit) or should I give him a superslack leash in hopes that he will feel like he can get away and doesn’t need to lunge at or possible bite the furry torpedoes heading our way.

Still unsure, I shouted to the other owner, “My dogs are fearful of other dogs that race up to them,” a tactic that generally works well. Most owners are accommodating, or at least apologetic, when their off-leash dogs have charged up. But today I was up against the type of guy for whom workplace sensitivity classes were invented. 

“Oh, are they bothering you?” he asks.  “You look really scared. Do you want me to leave the park?” He continues in his pretend-nice, voice.  I'm thinking, “What normal person notices he is doing something that makes you nervous and hears you verbalize the problem, and then asks you if it’s an issue?”

My reply, “No, you don’t need to leave, but can we have 10 yards of space?” Then his true colors came out. “It’s a DOG park,” he says, emphasizing every word, as if, because I’m a small Asian woman, I’m too stupid to understand English spoken at a normal speed. “They’re supposed to be able to play,” he continues.

That’s what he said, but what he really meant was, “My dogs have no come when called and because of that, they have to hog the entire 100 yard field. Because I have no control of them, I have to pretend that you’re the idiot when I know the real idiot is me.”  Sure enough, when he tried to get his dogs to go back to the car, it took him a good five minutes to round them up.  (Note he had to get his dogs back into the car in order to have any control over them so that I could leave the park with the corgi).

How and Why Dogs Should Behave Politely at the Off-Leash Park

Incidents like this happen regularly at a majority of off-leash dog and multiuse parks, resulting in bad experiences for both people and dogs. Many people may pooh pooh the problem and blame other, insecure dogs for being scared. However,  when you turn the situation around and imagine we were talking about kids at the playground, it would all seem very different.

Take these scenarios, for example:

Scenario 1:

At the dog park, avoid letting your dog mob dogs that enter the park and avoid letting them sprint up to other dogs they don’t know. Watch how the other dogs respond to your dog’s greeting and look for signs of fear or anxiety in them (Read the blog on body language of fear and anxiety and download the free poster)

Scenario 2:

If your dog has a tendency to steal toys or even crowd other dogs who are playing with toys, you’ll need to develop a fantastic come when called and fetch so that he can bring the toy to you and you can get it back to the rightful owner. You may need to leash your dog if he’s a toy thief because it’s not fair for him to disrupt other dogs’ play.

Scenario 3:

If your dog is a pest you’ll want to call him and engage him in more appropriate play with you or a toy.

Scenario 4:

In fact, in my experiences, overly rough play is a leading cause of deteriorating behavior at the park. One dog’s having fun but the other is getting trampled, or both dogs are getting too excited and suddenly their play breaks into a fight. To prevent this from happening, you’ll want to call your dog over to you and engage him in replacement behaviors before he gets overly rough with others.

Download the free poster of Dog Park Etiquette.

Scenario 5:

A park is for multiple uses, even if it’s a dog park. Dogs should avoid hogging the entire field. Give dogs that are playing fetch room to play and let dogs that are interacting with their people interact on their own.

Scenario 6:

While most people at the dog park like dogs, most people dislike being body slammed or jumped on. In fact, these rude behaviors can cause injury to people. I’ve even seen this injury cost $40,000 for the negligent owner of the dog. The solution? Train your dog to greet people by sitting politely or call him away from them before he can jump or body slam them.

Scenario 7:

Probably the number one reason dogs get into trouble at the park is that people stand around and ignore them. Behind their back, multiple small altercations are happening or the dog’s being rude and other dogs are just too polite or friendly to fend him off.

What should you do to prevent your dog from being a dog park menace?

Luckily the trick to keeping your dog out of trouble at the park is simple.

It sounds easy and it really is. If you can train these two vital skills and supervise your dog, then you and your dog and the other park participants will be happier and everyone will get along better.

Stay tuned for the next blog about proper dog play!

Download the free poster on Dog Park Etiquette.

Comments Leave a Comment

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 05:59 AM

Great article, I share your frustration while in the dog park and love your animations and sense of humor, BOL! I put out a two part series regarding dog park etiquette that you may be interested in reading. http://www.funpawcare.com/2012/08/08/dog-park-etiquette/ & http://www.funpawcare.com/2012/08/12/dog-park-etiquette-part-two/ Russell Hartstein CPDT

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 09:42 AM

While I agree that all dogs need to have a good recall for the issue of toy stealing, sometimes the dog park is not the place to bring a dog that is ball crazy, esp one that doesn't share well. Smaller fenced areas is one. Responsibility is on both owners, not just the toy stealer. We've had huge issues with this in some of our local parks.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 11:20 AM

i think its a lot to expect from a dog not to want to share other dogs toys and play with toys being thrown around. i think its better etiquette for the person bringing the toy to be OK with other dogs sharing it. I say, as long as someone is playing with it then that makes me happy. The problem is some dogs are defensive of their toys so your asking for trouble bringing a toy in the first place, especially if your dog is possessive of their own toys. dogs playing together IS the point of the dog park in my opinion as well as the people that I meet at the park for play time. Learning to be a social dog is just as important as being a polite dog.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 12:45 PM

Probably a good article but I stopped reading once you threw out the derogatory term "retarded". That term is unacceptable. Being of Asian decent, I'm sure you have had to deal with this situation yourself on occasions, when people used racial terms that were cruel. It is hurtful.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 12:54 PM

If your dog is there to play with you and with toys, then you probably shouldn't be in the dog park. You can do that somewhere else.
The dog park is a place for dog interaction, in fact toys should not even be brought, and if they are they are fair game for anyboby.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 01:26 PM

I'm not surprised that you'd have an issue with this at your local dog parks since a majority of dogs at these parks don't have a solid come when called, like to tail and jump on other dogs who are playing, and many tend to steal toys. Imagine if kids went primarily to playgrounds where people stole their toys and ran over their space when playing. It wouldn't take long for some kids to resort to aggression. Others would just be passive and cry. Of course if a child learns to resort to aggression, the parents should help them learn to deal with the situation better—if there are only playgrounds where other kids are rude then that means their kids shouldn't go. That's too bad of course and now, even though they weren't the primary cause, they are the ones losing out. If you're saying that dogs that love to play fetch and have gotten possessive because so many of the other dogs at the dog park are rude, maybe the treatment at the park has gotten so bad that that is what they have to do. But MOST likely it's the other dogs (and their owners) who have created the situation by needing to run up to this fetching dog. It's just harder for people to recognize when their dog was the problem if their dog is not growling and lunging.

If other dogs have NOT done this and the fetching dog has a tendency to rush out 5-10 feet to dog just standing around. that's a different story. But I find that to be rare.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 01:31 PM

In parks with responsible owners, dogs don't have to hog the entire field. For all of those who say the dog park is an "everything goes" place, I 'd like to know if any of you have control over your dogs. Because if you did this would be a non-issue. I'm guessing those who disagree about dog-park/off-leash area etiquette also believe that people who don't' want to get jumped on or knocked down should not enter a dog park.


And you think that your kids should be able to interfere in games that other kids are playing. Like if kids in a yard are playing handball or four-square other kids should be able to butt right in without taking a turn or asking.

You'll also see in the next blog how this "fun" uncontrolled play that your dogs are showing (dogs where owners have no control) can detrimentally affect your OWN dog as well as others. On the other hand this poor play does keep dog trainers and behaviorists earning $$ when these dogs develop problems that were influenced by behaviors they practiced (or had practiced on them) at the off leash dog park with poorly behaved dogs.


When the responsible owners are at the park, the park is a place that can be shared. Multiple people are playing fetch and some dogs are playing with each other. dogs-humans can interact in different appropriate ways where they are not interfering with the fun of others just like in a regular human park multiple unrelated humans can be interacting generally without someone coming over and disturbing their fun (e.g. bullying them off the basketball court, stealing their softball if they are playing catch. etc.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 01:46 PM

Hi Dr. Yin
Could be a better article if you - as a well educated professional did not use words like
RETARDED
How offensive - all value in this article is lost.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 03:45 PM

We run South Suburban Chihuahua group in Chicago. We frequent a nearby off-leash park which has a large side for big dogs, and another for small. Someone stole the signs long ago, so sometimes there are big dogs on both sides. Sometimes people see a mix of under 25lbs dogs playing and bring their large dog because their dog likes to play with the little dogs. The problem with this is that a lot of little dogs are scared of big dogs and of course - while the owner might try to be nice - we certainly do not want any altercations. So we politely mention that our dogs are scared of big dogs and some people do go back to the bigger dog side - but that's not everyone. One of our members had their chihuahua-mix attacked by a larger dog after the owner assured the chihuahua owner that their dog liked little dogs and would not harm it. Well, the large dog bit the little dog's neck and the owner took their large dog, got in their car and left. In all the commotion, someone luckily had the presence of mind to take down their license plate number. The member took their bleeding dog to the vet and the police followed up with the person who left the scene. Posters like Dr. Yin's help educate the local communities on park etiquette. One thing we also get irritated by is people who leave their water bottles or jugs everywhere in the park. Perhaps for the 'next' dog - but truth is, some dogs carry disease, and no one knows what was in the water they were drinking. We bring our own bowls and water and leave with our own bowls and water. We wish everyone would do this too.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 07:04 PM

I think my editor left that word in because it makes the point of how rude and condescending the person was. He didn't say the words but he meant them. However, since the word may be hurtful, it has now been changed in this article to "stupid" and I will refrain from using it elsewhere.

I think the point of this change and the entire article are the same— It is that behavior of others may not bother the human or dog who is behaving in that manner, but it can be irritating, hurtful or bothersome to others. As a result, if we care about others we should adjust our behavior (in the case of the dog park issues that means training our dog) accordingly—even if it's not convenient (because it requires training or practice or thought).

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 09:09 PM

I agree that owners need to have control over their dogs in dog parks, for certain situations. However, dog parks are one of those "enter at your own risk" places. If you have a dog that you know does not react well to situations commonly found in dog parks, why on earth would you bring them? It is not just the responsibility of other owners to control their friendly/polite dogs but also the responsibility of owners who know their dog can be reactive and prevent things from happening, or even simply stress, by not attending them. You can find fenced in areas elsewhere to work on behavior modification and ask a friend if you can use their dog for controlled introduction and play if that is your goal. But to expect others to restrict their dogs movements the entire time they are supposed to be playing is rude and considering the behavior of most dog owners, very unlikely.

I'm glad the word "retarded" was removed as I would have found that offensive also. As someone educating people on political correctness in dog behavior, I expect more out of you!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 09:51 PM

As a dog trainer who frequents dog parks regularly with my dog, I completely agree with all of the guidelines illustrated in this poster. My dog is very social with other dogs, has a good come when called away from other dogs (even when playing), and is as happy to interact with me as he is to run and play. The dog park is not just a place for him to run wild; its a place for him to have fun, strengthen his bond with me, socialize with other dogs in a respectful manner, and get some exercise. I, personally, don't want a dog who will just run off and pretend that I don't exist as soon as he gets to the park. What would that say about our relationship? That I'm not much fun. I can call him away from playing with dogs and he is more than happy to stay with me and play with a toy or do tricks. He also will stop playing on his own in order to come check in with me, then go back to playing again.

While rude and uncontrollable dogs do not upset my dog, I do want to limit his interactions with them because they can cause him to become overly aroused if they try to play roughly with him. And when he is overly aroused in one situation, it can affect him in other situations. Such as if he were to get scared, if he had practice that day being overly aroused, he might bark or growl at something that scared him. But if he has been under threshold all day, he doesn't react to scary situations and it is much easier to DS/CC him. So while I cannot control the other dogs, I can easily call my dog away from those types of dogs and keep him entertained by interacting with me instead. Or redirect his attention to a more appropriate dog. This article doesn't say you have to control other dogs, but by having good control over your own dog, you can keep him out of trouble.

As far as bringing toys and treats to the park, I can call my dog away from those things. I wouldn't want other dogs to make him feel like he needs to protect a resource, so I don't want him to make other dogs feel that way. If you can't call your dog away from a toy at the park, how are you going to be able to call your dog away from a dog fight or if he escapes out of the front door? Again, its not about controlling what other people do at the park, its about being responsible about your own dog in order to keep him safe and happy.

My dog can safely coexist at the dog park with all different kinds of dogs, with different temperaments and training levels. But that is because I have put the work in to be able to keep him out of trouble.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/24 at 10:54 PM


I agree that if people have aggressive dogs or highly fearful dogs, a dog park isn't a place to be. However, in the situation above, realize that if it had been kids playing soccer in the multi-use park, those dogs would have also been racing through the soccer practice and probably knocking kids down. When there's soccer practice on that field, only the people who have dogs behaved enough to stay on a 1/3 portion of the field go. It's hardly restricting a dog's movement to ask them to leave a 10 or 20 yard area free.

Also the same thing would and could have happened at a regular on-leash park (the dog I brought who was fearful of dogs torpedoing towards him was on a long leash). In fact it commonly happens at regular on-leash parks where dog are off-leash and uncontrolled.

The idea of "Enter at your owner risk," is an interesting subject though. Imagine a playgrounds for kids that said,Enter at your own risk.... or Watch out, big kids may run 100 yards to your part of the play ground bully you before you even have a chance to leave". Hopefully the goal of society is to improve situations, not just go with the status quo and suffer the problems is creates.Pet owners often have to fight hard to get off leash areas (including multi-use parks) because the problems that this "Enter AT Your Own Risk"-attitude creates for both dogs and people in the parks.

On another note:

What many owners don't realize is that many dogs who are "normal" end up learning bad habits and even becoming aggressive because of encounters at the dog park. (Now imagine the sign: beware--by playing at this park, your kid may learn to be swear, steal, and get into fights if he hangs out with the other kids here. But he can also have a lot of fun playing too).

For instance some dogs learn to be possessive because other dogs take their toys and don't share them back. e.g. it's not sharing if one dog is playing fetch and the other one steals it and won't give it back to anyone to toss again. And if you have brought 5 toys for other dogs it never fails that the toy stealer will want he whichever one another dog is playing fetch with. And not only do they steal the toys but they destroy them.

Other dogs learn to be defensive aggressive because they are pounced on, lunged at, and some become aggressive because they have been allowed to play in overly aroused manner. Arousal and aggression are on a continuum.

I have treated a number of of client dogs who have been "normal" and become aggressive to dogs in general after certain types of episodes at the park. (not just the dog park, but other off-leash AND on leash areas where dogs are off-leash and uncontrolled).

The interesting part is that it is NOT that hard to train your dog to play and interact politely at the park if you know how. And the skills can prevent a lot of other problem situations too. My dog is ball "crazy" and he can still play at the park (multi-use or dog park) when other dogs are playing with toys because he has a good come when called. This is important also because when we are participating in other sport such as agility it would be inappropriate for him to run after another dog's toy in that situation too (or a toy some dog is playing with across the street, etc). In fact even my 80 year old parents' young ACD can play fetch, play with other dogs, fetch, and come when called at the park away from trouble. That's just part of safe dog handling skills and learning to keep your dog out of situations that can make another dog defensives (and that can actually harm your own dog behaviorally).

If you're interested in seeing the consequences inappropriate play (vs appropriate play) and are a veterinarian you can attend my lecture on Dog Parks and Doggie Daycare: Is all Play Safe on VIN next next month and at select seminars next year. Anyone else who is interested in what other trainers— Trish King and Ian Dunbar—may want to read the Dog park Etiquiette article in the links above. A large percentage of trainers tend to avoid dog parks due to the issues it can create in "normal" dogs. I also have upcoming blogs of video that show some problem play and how to fix it.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/25 at 01:22 PM

Debated chiming in on this, but off-leash dog parks are something I am very passionate about. Like many city dwelling, renting, dog owners, I am crazy about my dog, but with the housing market in Vancouver the way it is these days, I realize I will likely never be able to provide him with a fenced in private yard. We love visiting off-leash areas and the dog beach to get his ya-yas out with a vigorous game of fetch.

I think it's a very positive step that people are discussing etiquette, even if we aren't all in 100% agreement. It will help us keep our expectations consistent when visiting these parks, even if it is 'at our own risk'. Parks that are abused by owners, not picking up after their dogs, allowing nuisance barking, digging, etc. get closed, and I'd hate to lose our parks. I think this etiquette is especially important for 'mixed use' parks, like Dallas Road, where people expect to be able to bike, run, play catch, whatever, without being harassed by unruly dogs.

I'll admit that my dog doesn't have a perfect history of perfect behavior, and I think other adopters of 'rescues' or 'pound puppies' of any age will agree that it can be a bit of a journey to getting there. So I think it's important to be accommodating and supportive to other users and utilize the infractions as a training opportunity, for both the dogs and the humans. Instead of 'your dog shouldn't do that' perhaps 'it would be more accommodating to other users if your dog was able to ___." And give them a chance to train their way there. Perhaps even some constructive suggestions to help them get there faster. A lot of these less desirable behaviors are perfectly natural for dogs to exhibit (ie. barking to get the other dogs to play with it), so it may take time for the owner to learn to redirect the dog appropriately. I guess what I'm trying to say is that while these behaviours are NOT OKAY and shouldn't be condoned, they are not unforgivable, either. We are all learning our entire lives, the same probably goes for our dogs. So to suggest that these people shouldn't use the park or are not welcome goes a bit to far, at least to me.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/25 at 09:15 PM

"i think its a lot to expect from a dog not to want to share other dogs toys and play with toys being thrown around. i think its better etiquette for the person bringing the toy to be OK with other dogs sharing it. I say, as long as someone is playing with it then that makes me happy. The problem is some dogs are defensive of their toys so your asking for trouble bringing a toy in the first place, especially if your dog is possessive of their own toys. dogs playing together IS the point of the dog park in my opinion as well as the people that I meet at the park for play time. Learning to be a social dog is just as important as being a polite dog." - Rachel

I agree with the above comment. I think it is unreasonable to equate dogs with children for all the obvious reasons. I can't sit and tell my dog, "now, tennis balls are okay to play with at my house, but if you are at the dog park you have to ask the other dog politely before playing fetch with him or her." That is a conversation that I might be able to have with a child, but to a dog - a tennis ball, is a tennis ball, is a tennis ball. I believe this is why many dog parks do not allow toys at all. When I bring dog toys to the park for my dogs to play with, I expect that other dogs might nab it and play keep away with my dog and I don't mind at all. If my dog nabs another dog's toy, I get her to give it to me and then give it back to the owner.

Also, it is completely normal for dogs to want to wrestle, chase, play, tumble etc. My puppy will let out a quick squweek if another dog accidently gets too rough, and then the other dog usually backs down. That is just how dogs communicate with eachother. It shouldn't be, one squweek and play time is over. That is unreasonable.

If someone has a fearful, or fear aggressive dog, perhaps they should be the ones working out their behavior issues with a trained professional before embarking on playing in a dog park. And often times, it is having over protective parents that causes dogs to develop anxiety and fear aggression issues.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/25 at 10:45 PM

K- You should read Dr. Yin's above comments,. I believe your concerns are addressed there.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/26 at 12:22 PM

I agree with Dr. Yin wholeheartedly. I am a little dismayed at some people's comments - indicating that if one knows one's dog is afraid one should not bring them to the park. So essentially, they are saying that the small dogs are the ones with the issues because they are afraid of big dogs (per my previous post). As Dr. Yin mentions - no one likes to be ambushed, people or animals. Dogs (and people) can get hurt this way. Like the chihuahua mix at the dog park I mentioned in my post. We've also had other incidents in Chicago in a dog beach where two smaller dogs in the past 4 years have been killed by bigger dogs. Yes, killed - not just hurt bloody like the one in our group. In both cases the small dogs were either laying on blankets or non comfrontational and they were ambushed. One of these large dogs belonged to a police officer who fled the scene - but was caught by people's camera phones. So - I think as Dr. Yin mentions, education, teaching polite behaviour is needed here. I don't have a problem with dogs running around and having fun - but people need to watch their dogs the whole time (not texting, having their back to - or assuming that everyone/person or animal enjoys being run into). Our family has a big dog too - and we let him play - but we keep him on the large dog side and we stay vigilant and around the entire time.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/26 at 04:26 PM

I am glad you wrote this article. I have stopped taking my dog to dog parks due to the inconsiderate owners that have no control over their dogs. Mine is always on a leash, but the last time I was there she was charged by two large dogs. The owner did nothing, meantime I was bruised as they lunged at her,
( I had scooped her up in my arms to protect her). Unbelievably rude and ignorant owner about sums it up.

Jeannie

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/26 at 06:37 PM

I think people are conflating several issues. Fundamentally, I can't understand why anyone would disagree that the BEST scenario involves: 1) dogs with solid recalls and vigilant owners 2) dogs whose focus is not stealing others' toys but, rather, being able to focus on their owners 3) socializing that does not involve rowdy play but rather calm, brief meetings. After all, arousal and aggression are on the same spectrum, and behaviorists/trainers are all too familiar with the reactivity and aggression that often stem from inappropriate dog park play. And this is what we need to realize. Inappropriate dog park experiences often exacerbate, if not directly cause, aggressive and reactive behaviors. My dog was deeply affected by bad experiences, and this is why I wholeheartedly believe in the etiquette poster.

The first issue seems to be that people think these guidelines are too restrictive. But read them again. Not one of these guidelines suggests that dogs are meant to be isolated and that their "every movement should be controlled". Actually, the blog recommends allowing polite and calm greetings with the dog under complete verbal control, such that he will come when called reliably. It reduces the risk of prolonged, uncontrolled greetings that stress the dogs out. Is this unnecessarily restrictive? Not at all. This isn't suggesting that dogs CAN'T socialize with one another. Rather, it's saying that socializing should always be calm and controlled and that owners should recall their dogs before trouble occurs. Who can argue with that? These etiquette rules are simply attempting to provide some semblance of calm and structure to the ridiculous chaos that often occurs in dog parks.

The second issue seems to stem from a mentality that dog parks are meant for rowdy, rambunctious play and to "let the dogs sort it out themselves". And, to this, I can only say: Well, I hope your dog never develops arousal, reactivity, or aggression issues because it is this type of mentality that has lead to the sudden influx of dogs arriving at behaviorists' offices with dog-park-exacerbated fear aggression/reactivity. Arousal and aggression are on the same continuum and it only takes one bad experience - one inappropriate toy stealing, one overly rough tumble, one defensive snap - to push a nervous dog into a fear aggressive dog. Because we cannot reason with dogs with words, we also should not expect them to "just sort it out themselves". When two animals are playing roughly, we cannot expect them to think clearly and "sort it out". They won't. Most dogs in these situations have adrenaline rushing and their impulse control neural circuitry is likely underdeveloped. So, that puppy squeak that is supposed to signal "Stop, you're hurting me!" will sound like "Wounded-animal-must-bite-more!!" to an overly aroused dog. So, the responsible and ethical thing to do is to prevent rowdy, unchecked play from occurring at all. If we prevent dog parks from becoming free-for-alls and we nix the idea of "Well, just let them sort it out", dog parks CAN become areas of positive, structured socialization and relaxed fun. The onus is on us, responsible dog owners, to heed the recommendations of these well thought out etiquette rules and to ensure that our actions do not harm others. It's not just the responsible thing to do. It's the right thing to do.

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