Dog parks, in theory, are a fabulous idea. Your pup gets to go play with other dogs, run wild (off his leash, no less), tucker himself out and then come home and promptly pass out. He gains invaluable socialization skills - and you gain a chance to finally talk to that adorable dog owner who lives down the street.
Of course, I say "in theory," because it rarely ever goes this smoothly (and I don't just mean the flirting). Inevitably, someone brings an unruly, rabble-rousing dog into the park - and well, that's just no fun for anyone.
So how do you make sure your dog doesn't become the park pariah or the pooch everyone avoids? These guidelines are a good place to start.
Don't bring an unhealthy dog to the park. This should go without saying, but dogs that aren't up-to-date on vaccinations - or happen to be oozing - don't need to go play. They need to go straight to the vet.
Honestly evaluate your dog's personality. And be as unbiased as possible. A good dog-park dog should be friendly, but not overbearing (or obnoxious). If your dog is even a little aggressive, you might want to avoid putting him in the presence of other people's pets.
Teach your pup some manners. Make sure your dog knows a few basic cues and will listen to you when you give commands. It's important that you can get control of him if need be.
Leave the toys at home. Limit the amount of toys you bring - and don't line your pockets with treats. You don't want your dog getting feisty over food, or possessive over his property.
Leave the kids at home too. Dog parks aren't a good place for small children. Little ones can easily get knocked down or injured by an errant tail wag or a wild rumpus. Not to mention, not all dogs are used to being around kids.
Don't forget the doggy bags. Doggie doody bags, that is. We all know what this rule is about - I see you over there. Don't pretend like you didn't see what your dog just did.
Follow the posted rules. Be respectful of the park rules. Know them. Follow them. It's a pretty good bet they're there for a reason.
What rules did I forget? How do you make your dog park experience a positive one? Share your comments with other readers below.