• Dog Park Etiquette: What to Know When Visiting With Your Pup{s}

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    With all of the pet stores, dog-friendly restaurants and bars, trainers, and dog walkers in Hoboken, our dogs may have even better social lives than we do. A frequent hot spot for our dogs is, of course, one of the many dog parks. While dog parks can be a great place to continue your dog’s socialization with other dogs, there are rules, written and unwritten, that all dog park visitors should know.

    Below, a list of things you should keep in mind when bringing your dog to a dog park — written by Wise Animal Rescue Adoption Coordinator {and HG contributor}, Kristina:

    pierre hoboken dog park

    Do not go to the dog park if your dog isn’t dog-friendly

    This might seem like a no-brainer but there is a huge difference between a dog who is dog-friendly enough to go to a dog park and a dog who just likes other dogs. To test this, start of by scheduling playdates and pack walks between your dog and 1-2 other dogs you know that also get along well with other dogs. The dog park is not a place to test how dog-friendly your dog is. Always be aware of your dog’s limitations when it comes to other dogs. If you know your dog prefers not to play with puppies, remove him or her from the dog park when you see a puppy on its way in. In addition, if you know your dog is only good with particular dogs in small group settings, do not bring them to the dog park at all or remove them from the park when it becomes crowded.

    Make sure your dog has good recall

    Recall is being able to get your dog’s attention and getting him or her to come to you in even the most stressful or arousing situations. While you may be able to call for your dog inside the home and he or she always comes, the dog park adds additional stressors and excitement that put your dog in a different state of mind. Work on recall outside the home in many different situations to ensure he or she will be able to listen in a dog park setting. If you do not have access to an enclosed yard to work on recall off-leash, use a large, lead leash {not a retractable leash} in a park setting. This will create some space between you and your dog but will ensure you are following all leash laws and keeping your dog and others around you safe.

    No distracted dog parking!

    Please, never ever sit {or stand for that matter} while on your phone or reading a book, etc. Even though your dog is focused on socializing with other dogs, he or she is still communicating with you at all times. Missing even the smallest signal from your dog while in a dog park can cause a stressful or even dangerous situation to arise. If you frequently go to dog parks, you most likely made dog park friends — other owners who also are in the park at the same time as you and your dog. If you are talking to a fellow dog owner and your dog seems to be getting along, schedule a playdate. It encourages healthy dog behaviors and reinforces positive play.

    Know the signs of stress and fear

    Dogs, unfortunately, will never be able to talk to us but they are always expressing emotions to us in their own way. A dog’s facial expressions and body language can tell you a lot about what’s going on in his or her head. There are many online resources that have quick guides to basic signs of stress and fear in your dog. Some signs of stress and fear include: yawning, wide eyes {often called whale eye}, ears back, cowering/crouching, shaking, panting, drooling, hackles raised, tucked tail. If you see your dog doing any of these, remove them from the dog park — keeping it a happy place is very important.

    READ: Hoboken Dog Brides and Grooms Who Slayed Their Wedding Day

    Pick up after your dog

    This one is pretty self-explanatory. Dog parks are meant to be enjoyed by everyone and no one wants to step in dog poop or have their dog step in dog poop. Be respectful and clean up when your dog goes to the bathroom.

    Do not enter the dog park with your dog still on leash/remove harness

    Entering the dog park with your dog still on leash can cause barrier issues that may result in your dog not feeling comfortable when approached by another dog. In addition, if left on, it can be a hazard to your dog, other dogs, and people walking around as it can get tangled or stepped on. Also, if your dog wears a harness or prong collar, remove it before they enter. It can get caught on another pup when they are playing and hurt your dog and/or the other.

    Know how to properly break up a dog fight

    Unfortunately, fights do break out in dog parks and knowing how to safely break one up is one of the most important things to know. It is a very scary situation and you must remain as calm as possible. Get behind your dog and grab him or her at their hips. The other owner should be doing the same thing from behind their dog. If you cannot pull the dogs apart, grab a stick and jam it between your dogs mouth to open it — do not use your hands! Sometimes dumping water on the dogs can be jarring enough to end the fight, but it is important you are holding onto your dog from his or her hips to regain control and ensure that, once broken apart, the dogs do not try to restart the fight.

    Know how your dog does sharing toys

    If your dog is the only pup in the home, you probably do not know how they share toys with other dogs. It is important to know this before entering the dog park because there are frequently balls and frisbees scattered on the ground. If your dog does not like sharing toys and you see some in the park, ask another dog park-goer to remove the toys or do not enter the park. Some dogs prefer not to share and it can instigate a fight.

    See More: Pet Friendly Apartments + Condos in Hoboken

    Don’t bring a sick dog

    As a result of the high volume of dogs that enter the park, it is likely that your dog may get sick from the park at one time or another. Whether it’s from an unvaccinated dog or a dog who just has a virus, diseases are easily contracted by using dog parks. On the flip side, if your dog is sick, please do not bring them to the park {even if it’s just some stomach troubles}. You never know how contagious your dog is and it isn’t fair to the other frequenters of the park and their dogs.

    Go for a walk first

    There is a common misconception that dog parks are the same level of exercise as a walk but they are not. Make sure that you’ve been able to take your dog for a walk and have spent some 1:1 time with him or her before bringing into an off-leash park. Ensure that your dog’s state of mind is not frantic or overly excited otherwise they will bring that energy inside. A dog who has not had a walk before entering the dog park may be too stimulated to be able to play with other dogs in a healthy, respectful manner.

    Do you have any other useful dog park tips? Share with us in the comments!

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    Written by:

    Kristina made Hoboken home four years ago after falling in love with its charm, liveliness, and great restaurants and bars. She decided to turn her passion for this city into her full-time career by becoming a real estate partner at Prime Real Estate Group. In her free time, Kristina is involved in the rescue dog community, volunteering for our local animal shelter, Liberty Humane Society, as well as being the Adoption/Foster Coordinator for Wise Animal Rescue. Her mission is to find properties for people and pets because every dog should have a home and every home should have a dog! If you see Kristina out walking her dogs around the Mile Square, stop her to chat about her two favorite things: real estate and rescues!


    • Great post, though based on these rules, half the dogs and people who frequent the park shouldn’t be in there. People need to pay more attention to their pups and remove all toys. And large playgroups do more harm than good with their overly excited dogs and shitload of toys they bring in. I’ve been to parks in other nearby cities/towns and they all have huge signs with specific rules, I wish Hoboken would follow suit.

      And I agree with Stephanie in above post, kids in dog park are a huge NO! Their energy is way too much and unpredictable for the dog park!

    • This is a great post. One thing to add: Please leave mini tennis balls at home. On several occasions I’ve seen owners of smaller dogs bring tiny balls into Hoboken dog parks. They are a hazard to dogs with bigger mouths who can get a hold of them and accidentally ingest them while running. It happened to my dog recently, and I want to prevent it from happening to other Hoboken pups.

    • Another important note is that when breaking up a dogfight never grab collars – out puts you away risk for a bite- and before using a stick as mentioned above you may want to have citronella spray or an air horn on you, as a startling noise or a blast of citronella at the nose can help dogs release each other if they’re holding on. They also make actual break sticks that you can have handy if these methods fail. They’ll be kinder to your dog’s teeth and sturdier to open their mouths.

    • Excellent article! It’s about time this was discussed in a public forum. Thanks Kristina!!!
      I might add a few things about recognizing certain signals related to dog behavior.
      Also, there are dog to human interactions worth discussing. Based on clients feedback, and my own experience in dog runs throughout the years, there seems to be a wealth of confusion regarding proper etiquette as related to dogs and human interactions. Examples include 1. Dogs jumping on humans 2. Dogs begging for treats and conversely humans giving treats to dogs that are not their own 3. Correcting other humans’ dogs when they fail to
      Would it be possible to do a follow up article?


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