Dog Park Dos and Don’ts

Head of the Class Dog Training LLC 

Winchester, VA

Winchester's Premium Professional Pet Training

Exercise is just as important for your pup as it is for you, and there’s no better way to get good exercise than a day at the dog park. Having enough exercise can alleviate your dog’s anxiety, help eliminate negative behaviors like chewing and keep your dog at a healthy weight so he or she can enjoy a long life.

While most dog parks have plenty of room for running and romping, there is certain etiquette you should know before embarking on your day out at the dog park. To keep your dog and other dogs safe and happy, pay heed to these dos and don’ts for the dog park.


  • Take a trip to the vet prior to visiting the dog park. Your dog should be totally up-to-date on vaccines, and it’s a good idea to consult with the vet about your dog’s general health before your outing at the park.
  • Be aware of your dog’s surroundings. Take a look around to make sure there are no health or behavior issues that are going to endanger your dog.
  • Clean up after your dog. Keep the space free of bio and other kinds of waste so everyone can play without worrying about stepping in someone else’s mess.
  • Keep a close eye on your pup while he or she is playing. If play gets too rough, interrupt and redirect your dog’s attention elsewhere. If your dog is being bullied or taught bad manners, it’s probably time to leave.
  • See if there’s an expert on staff. Only a select few dog parks will be staffed, but if there is someone there who is familiar with dog behavior, this is a huge bonus.
  • Leave special toys at home to avoid conflicts with other dogs, as your dog will guard his or her toy.
  • Read the rules and policies that are posted before entering, and follow them.
  • Keep small dogs in the small dog area, and large dogs in the large dog area.
  • Keep things moving. Walk around with your dog and keep the group moving along. This will make fights less likely. Dogs gathering in groups can lead to trouble.


  • Bring puppies that are under 4 months old to the dog park.
  • Take your sensitive or uncomfortable dog to the dog park. If your dog wishes to leave, let him or her leave.
  • Bring unneutered male dogs or female dogs in heat to the park.
  • Let your dog off the leash if he or she will not follow verbal cues.
  • Allow your dog to run in a loose pack or bully other dogs.
  • Allow your dog to run unsupervised.
  • Let your dog enter a dog park where there are many dogs congregating near the entrance.
  • See a conflict between dogs and allow it to happen, thinking the dogs will work things out on their own.
  • Assume a dog trying to indicate his or her discomfort is an aggressive dog.
  • Take food into the dog park.
  • Take small children into the park.
  • Allow your dog to hang out near the entrance where arousal levels are highly charged.

Things to Keep In Mind

  • Similar dog breeds have similar play styles. Similar aged dogs will have comparable amounts of energy to play.
  • Some dogs may not be comfortable around dogs with a large size difference from themselves.
  • The dog park can be an extremely fun day out for you and your pup, but remember, do not let your guard down. Stay alert and keep an eye on your dog at all times.

Are you concerned about your dog’s behavior in the park? Maybe it’s time for some dog training. Take a peek at our variety of programs, and contact us for more information.

-Lisa Marino

Lisa Marino, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, PMCT, has taken her varied teaching experiences and applied them to helping owners understand and train their beloved four-legged family members. She has more than four years’ experience leading group dog training classes at Best Paw Forward in Hartland, WI, and opened Head of the Class Dog Training LLC in Winchester, VA in 2012, where she conducts group classes and private lessons, as well as helps owners to modify their dogs' problem behaviors.

Lisa earned her CPDT-KA in 2012, is a 2015 graduate of the prestigious Karen Pryor Academy and is a Pat Miller Certified Trainer.

She has 4 registered therapy dogs and is a Pet Partner Therapy Team Evaluator and a member of HOPE AACR. As a former middle school teacher, she works well with families and children and does school presentations on various dog related topics.