Dog Park Etiquette

Off lead dog parks are a great place to safely exercise your small friend. They are fully fenced and allow your small friend to run and play to their heart’s content. Your small friend can enjoy playing with their doggy mates, continue to improve their socialisation skills, and it is a great place for human friends to meet other dog lovers. We are pleased to now have a brand new dog park in Forde, with hopes of more of the same to come.

Going to a dog park should be an enjoyable experience for all involved. As dog parks are a new thing for Canberrans it is understandable that not all of us are aware of “dog park etiquette”. By remembering a few simple guidelines you can ensure everyone’s day at the park remains fun.

1. Make sure you take the essentials along with you.

a. A Durable Lead
Even though the dog park itself is off lead, while you are not in a designated off lead zone all dogs, by law, must be on lead for their safety and the safety of others.
b. Poo Bags
The presence of dog droppings is not nice and prevents other dog park users from enjoying these public places safely and hygienically. In the ACT it is an offence to not clean up after your small friend or have the equipment to do so. It is important to pay attention to what your small friend is doing and clean up after them as soon as required. In doing so you are helping stop the spread of disease including intestinal parasites, as well as keeping everyone’s shoes clean.
c. A Towel
Having a towel handy is great for cleaning off dirty paws (or getting rid of any slobber other small friends may have left behind on your small friend) before your small friend gets back into your car.
d. Water
Some dog parks have a water tap. However you may still need a bowl for your small friend to drink out of. Small Friends Veterinary Hospital advises that water is only offered to your small friend outside of the park to avoid potential conflict – not all dogs are good at sharing!

2. No toys are required – the park provides all the entertainment your small friend needs!
It is best to leave your small friend‘s toys at home. Your small friend will probably be too busy playing with other pups to take any interest in their toys and generally dogs are not the best at sharing their property. Your small friend will find plenty to occupy themselves at the park without the need for toys.

3. Only go to the park if your dog is healthy.
Dog parks provide a wonderful environment for socialisation but the close contact your small friend will experience with other dogs also provides a wonderful environment to spread germs. By ensuring your small friend‘s vaccination and worming schedules are up to date means your dog can enjoy some good clean healthy fun!

Adult dogs need to be vaccinated yearly and wormed, with an all-wormer, every three months.

It is best to avoid bringing puppies until they have completed their course of puppy vaccinations, to ensure they are fully protected. Small Friends Veterinary Hospital recommends waiting two weeks after your puppy’s final booster vaccination to allow for full immunity before socialising with unknown dogs.

If your small friend is generally unwell it is important that you seek veterinary advice before taking them to the dog park. This is important for the health of your and other small friends. In the close confines of a dog park it is very easy for illness to spread. To arrange a consultation please phone Small Friends Veterinary Hospital on 6262 2233.

4. Only take your dog to the park if you know they are ‘good’ with people and animals.
Socialising with other dogs is wonderful for your small friend. It provides great stimulation, entertainment and exercise but it is not something that should begin in adulthood. How to act around other dogs is a learned behaviour and not something a dog naturally knows. It is an imperative stage of your puppy’s development and one of the most important reasons to take part in puppy classes.

Most dog owners know if their small friend is ‘good’ around other dogs or people. It is recommended that any dogs that exhibit anti-social or aggressive behaviour towards other dogs or people (including children) should not be taken to the dog park. If your dog displays behavioural problems towards dogs or people please phone Small Friends Veterinary Hospital on 6262 2233 to arrange a consultation.

5. A dog park is not the place for entire adult dogs.
It is not recommended that entire adult dogs go to dog parks. Playtime can deteriorate into dominating behaviour, unwanted sexual advances and even fights in the presence of an entire male or an entire female in heat. Your puppy can reach sexual maturity from the age of 4 months onward. It is important that from this time until you have your small friend desexed, you pay particular attention to their behaviour and well being. If your female puppy shows signs of being “in season” or your male puppy shows interest in female dogs it is best to stay out of the dog park until they have been desexed.

In accordance with the Domestic Animals Act ACT 2000, and the changes to that Act that have come into effect as of May 2008, all dogs are to be desexed by 6 months of age. If you don’t intend to desex your small friend you are required to apply to the ACT Government for a Sexually Entire Animal Permit. For further information and prices for this permit please go to

6. Be sure to supervise children.
Children can find the dog park just as entertaining as dogs, although it is important to ensure you have enough adults to supervise both children and dogs closely. Keep in mind that not all dogs at the park regularly interact with children therefore you can’t always be sure as to how other small friends will react to them.It is just as important that children that visit the dog park know how to interact with dogs.

Agility equipment at the dog park is there for dogs, not the children. Dogs frequently urinate and defecate in the park and on the equipment, which presents a potential health risk to you and your children. Remember good hygiene if you do take your children to the dog park.

7. The gate is a very important part of the dog park.
Double-gated systems are an excellent design and make coming and going much easier as well as reducing the chance of an escapee. These systems rely on having at least one gate closed AT ALL TIMES. Should you experience difficulty entering or exiting the dog park, it is best to ask owners to secure their small friend before opening the gate.

Some small friends will rush up to investigate any new comers to the park as soon as they are through the gate. In these situations rather than staying put, move on and remove your dog’s lead as soon as you can. Being swamped by excited off lead dogs can make your small friend feel cornered or threatened, and may make your dog worry about protecting you. As nice as a big welcome is for owners, there have been altercations around the gate area when an owner stops and waits with their small friend, or leaves their small friend on their lead whilst saying hello to the other dogs. The aim is to get in safely, take your dog off the lead and walk away to let them have their fun!

Remove Gentle Leaders, Halti’s, loose-fitting collars or doggy clothing as teeth and nails can get caught and result in damage or injury.

8. Keep your eye on your small friend.
Always keep your eye on your small friend as dog play can sometimes get out of hand. Occasionally intervention is required to put an end to a scuffle. It is very important to be careful that you don’t injure yourself in the process.

Be aware of your own small friend’s actions, if your small friend becomes too boisterous and unruly, put their lead back on, leave the park, and come back another time.

With these tips under your small friend’s collar you are both bound to enjoy the dog park to the fullest. Enjoy!