Recently I was in a nifty hippy novelty and clothing store. There I ran across a “No Dumping” sign. As tacky as it sounds it is really cute. It is a small metal sculpture of a white dog assuming the position and has “No Dumping” written in red letters on the dog’s midsection.

It made me laugh, so I bought it for my side yard. I have gopher tortoises in my yard and I don’t want them traipsing through the dog feces that some neighbors feel at liberty to leave there. Just because I can’t see over there doesn’t make it right for them to let their dog go potty on my side yard and then not clean it up! This got me thinking about dog park etiquette and safety issues at dog parks.

For the safety of your pet, don’t take your pet to public places (especially high-traffic dog areas such as dog parks) until your dog has had all the required vaccines. Most vets give puppies vaccines every 3 to 4 weeks until they are 16 weeks old. Parvo virus can persist in the soil for a year or more, so an unvaccinated puppy wouldn’t even need to come in contact with a dog that has parvo. This is more for the safety of your pet than etiquette, but I feel I must mention it. We don’t want your new puppy to come down with some dreaded disease. Many infectious diseases are preventable with vaccinations.

If your dog is dog-aggressive, don’t take him to the dog park. Find a quiet isolated area away from other dogs to get exercise. Work with a trainer to get your dog-aggressive dog accustomed to the presence of other dogs. Most people who take their pets to dog parks assume that the other pets are friendly. If your pet has trouble relating, prevent a foreseeable altercation.

If your dog hasn’t been spayed yet and is in season, it is best to avoid the park. She might get unwelcome attention from the fellas! They may not understand that “no means no”. Worse yet, you might be adding to the pet overpopulation situation.

If your dog goes nose to nose with other dogs, do get the kennel cough vaccine prior to going to the dog park. Of course this doesn’t prevent all upper respiratory infections, but it may lessen the severity. If your dog is getting over an upper respiratory infection or viral GI distress, keep your pet away from other pets! Don’t go to public places for at least a week after your pet’s last clinical signs.

Take poop bags. It’s really just common courtesy. Who hasn’t at some point stepped in a pile of dog poop? If we want our cities to provide dog parks, we need to maintain these areas. In December, I am sponsoring the Friends of Jupiter Beach monthly beach cleanup. Dog owners come together the first Saturday of each month to clean up the beach then have a social breakfast. Dog lovers are not only keeping the Jupiter Beaches beautiful, they are going above and beyond to ensure that dogs continue to have access to the beaches.

Don’t take chew toys or bones that might instigate an altercation. Treats are okay, but toys or chews may result in jealousy and theft with repercussions!

If you let your pet off leash at a dog park you are taking a risk. If you have a small dog and let it run with the big dogs, there is a greater chance of the small dog being injured should rough housing get out of control. I personally would keep my pet on leash and only go to the dog park during low dog traffic times.

Have a good time, but be safe!


NOTE: Consult your Veterinarian first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr . Joi Sutton

Dr. Joi Sutton is a 1993 graduate from Oregon State University. She has practiced both in emergency medicine and general practice. Dr. Sutton has done extensive international volunteer work and is the President and Founder of Veterinary Ventures, a nonprofit organization that takes teams of veterinarians to undeveloped countries for humane medical care. She also runs a small animal practice in South Florida.
Dr . Joi Sutton