See more of the story

Whether you’re a dog owner in the city or the suburbs, chances are you’re been to a dog park. It is a canine playground, a place where your dog is free to sniff, run around and meet other dogs.

But just as with any other social activity, it’s important to know basic etiquette when your dog is interacting with other dogs and their owners. It’s not just a matter of social formality. Failing to comply can put your dog and other pets at risk.

To ensure that your next trip to the dog park is safe and enjoyable, the American Kennel Club offers the following tips:

Use your judgment

If your puppy is younger than 4 months old, you should avoid dog parks. Puppies this young are susceptible to illness and/or disease. Also, should your dog show signs of illness or a contagious disease, don’t bring it to the park. You don’t want to infect any other dogs.

Keep a close eye on your dog

Watch your dog closely to be sure it is not becoming aggressive with another dog. Do not hesitate to intervene if play starts to get too rough.

Bring a toy

Feel free to bring a ball or other toy to the dog park, but be prepared to lose it. You may not want to bring your dog’s favorite toy if she is possessive over it.

Be courteous

Always pick up after your dog, even if other pet owners are not doing the same.

Don’t bring snacks

Don’t bring food for yourself or your dog. This can be a tease to the other dogs and potentially cause aggressive behavior.

Keep your dog hydrated

Bring a portable water bowl for your dog and offer it water often. Communal water bowls at dog parks carry the risk of communicable illnesses. By bringing your own bowl, you can help prevent illness in your dog.

Stay in designated areas

Many dog parks have separate sections for small and large dogs. Keep your dog in the designated area depending on its size. Even if you feel that your dog behaves well around all sizes of dogs, you don’t want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable.

Stay home with intact dogs

Some dogs can behave aggressively when an intact dog is present, so it is best to avoid the dog park if your dog is not spayed or neutered. Instead, try taking your dog for a long walk, playing with its favorite toy or teaching it a new trick.