Eight Simple Rules for the Dog Park

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Photo by Fransisco Montes

Now that spring's here, Houston's dog parks will see more action, and it's important that we all be mindful of each other so going to the park is a pleasant experience for both two- and four-legged visitors.

Parks already have basic regulations, and some, like Johnny Steele Dog Park, have extra regulations, like a one-hour time limit and two-dog maximum. But here are some unwritten rules that everyone should keep in mind, so that we can avoid any faux paws (HEY-OH!).

Don't Keep Your Dog on a Leash

We've seen people keep their pooches on leashes well after they've entered the park, and that can invite trouble. According to the ASPCA, "many dogs lunge and bark at other dogs when on-leash, a behavior that trainers call 'leash reactivity.'" Butt-sniffing -- the traditional canine handshake -- is extremely difficult when one is hindered by a leash. You're at a park for a reason, so let Fido free.

Don't Bring Doggie or People Treats

Leave the Beggin' Strips at home. Ditto the Whataburger. It's a huge distraction, plus you don't want to knock a dieting dog off the wagon.

Keep Your Eye on Your Dog

There's nothing wrong with playing Words With Friends or tweeting about your recent Starbucks experience while you're at the park. But in between moments of self-absorption, it's important that you at least know where your dog is. You don't need to be a helicopter parent, but if Ol' Shep gets to humping strangers, try to at least be within shouting distance.

Dress Appropriately

Wear whatever you want to the park, but don't get flustered if your fancy frock gets a paw-print. Dogs do not recognize haute couture. A crotch is a crotch, and that snout is gonna go where it's gonna go. And if you wear expensive shoes, you run the risk of stepping in something left behind by the Non-Picker-Uppers. You don't have to wear sackcloth and ashes, but you should just assume you'll leave a little dirtier than when you arrived.  

Pick Up Your (Dog's) Poop!

The Fecal Felon. The Turd Turncoat. Public Enemy No. 2. Whatever you choose to call them, these non-picker-uppers are among the park's most offensive denizens. Sure, picking up a warm, steaming pile does not rank high on a dog owner's list of pleasures, but it's part of the job. Just imagine if no one cleaned up after his or her pooch -- what kind of world would that be? A shitty one. That's what kind.

Don't Bring a Cat

This one's just obvious.

Don't Bring a Small Dog into the Big Dog Area and Flip Out if Your Dog Gets Squashed

There's a reason you bought a small dog. We don't know what that reason is, but we assume you had one. Maybe you live in a walk-in closet. And it's wonderful that some parks are split into big dog and little dog sections. And it's great if you want your little guy to socialize with a wide variety of pooches -- but don't overreact if a mastiff or St. Bernard accidentally knocks over Little Lord Barkleroy or mistakes him for an unusual breed of squirrel.

Remember That Your Dog Is Not an Ornament

This is related to the above. We've seen more than one owner go berserk if their dog starts rough-housing at the park. These people tend to flip out if their dog acts like an actual dog and not a four-legged accessory. We feel sorry for those dogs. They remind us of parents who ship their kids to Choate and always expect them to wear blazers.


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