Dog Park Etiquette for You Print
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
May 2017

Let’s bring back common sense and common courtesy

WPix_PetTalk_5-17ho said rules are meant to be broken? Not in the dog park, they aren’t.

Most dog parks have signage posted at entrances that lay out rules for visitors. There are so many rules, in fact, that your eyes could glaze over while reading. But read them you must.

These important guidelines ensure that all dogs and their humans will have pleasant park experiences. Without rules, there is chaos; even one careless act can ruin the fun for others.

The new fenced-in dog park in Miami Shores has a posted sign highlighting 15 rules. Waterways Dog Park in Aventura has six large park signs devoted to rules, including a “Code of Conduct for Dogs and Owners,” which is meant to prevent conflicts between owners and conflicts between dogs. Dog park rules are clearly posted in English and Spanish at Amelia Earhart Dog Park in Hialeah.

“No Pit Bulls Are Allowed” is how Amelia Earhart Dog Park emphasizes the breed ban on its entrance signage. Waterways Dog Park in Aventura posts the county ordinance prohibiting ownership of specific pit bull breeds: “It is illegal in Miami-Dade County to own or keep American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, or any other dog that substantially conforms to any of these breeds’ characteristics as per Miami-Dade County Ordinance, Chapter 5: Section 5-17.”

Some parks don’t have employees on site to enforce the rules. It’s up to owners/handlers to create safe and enjoyable park visits for all. Parks aren’t personal backyards -- they’re for everyone.

Here are my top ten picks of dog park rules. These are among those posted at the new Miami Shores dog park:

Owners must immediately clean up after their pets and fill any holes their pets dig. Dog parks have pet waste stations with bags and receptacles. But you should bring along a spare bag, in case dispensers run out. There’s no excuse for not picking up poop.

Some dogs dig holes on hot days to get cool in the soil; some dig for fun or to escape. Attention should be on your dog(s) at all times.

Dogs must be healthy, vaccinated, dewormed, properly licensed, and wearing a collar with identification at all times. Puppies under four months are prohibited. This rule is important for everyone’s protection. Dogs with current distemper series, bordetella, and county-regulated rabies vaccines have better chances at not contracting contagious illnesses, including parvovirus and kennel cough. Worming and worm preventions focus on parasites like hookworms, roundworms, and deadly heartworms. I would add flea and tick prevention measures to be taken, as well.

Young puppies don’t have full immunity to canine diseases. Wait until they have all their vaccinations before taking them to the park.

Dogs with a known history or exhibit dangerous behavior are prohibited. Animal-aggressive or people-aggressive dogs have no place in an off-leash park. Don’t be in denial about an aggressive dog; this rule is meant to keep visitors safe.

Dogs must be leashed prior to entering and upon leaving. Gates to the area must remain closed at all times. Owners must carry a leash at all times. Dogs shouldn’t be loose in the park’s parking lot, where they can be hit by a car or run away. Gate latches receive a lot of use, making them wonky at times. Don’t forget to lock or shut the gate behind you and to report any necessary repairs to the parks and recreation department or public works. Having quick leash access can stop a crisis in action.

Limit three dogs per person per visit. Personally, I think it’s difficult to handle more than one or two dogs at a time. How can someone supervise three dogs in a large park like five-acre Amelia Earhart?

For the safety of the dogs and other users, no smoking, food, or glass containers allowed in fenced area. I would add, “No littering.” Dogs love to pick up stuff off the ground. Plastic wrappers, Styrofoam cups, gum -- anything that’s carelessly discarded can end up in their intestinal tracts.

Dogs in heat are prohibited. Tempers flare when dogs are in season.

Leaving dogs unattended is prohibited. Remember, a dog park isn’t your backyard. Don’t drop them off and go get coffee. Your presence and attentiveness are necessary for responsible supervision.

Children under the age of ten must stay with adults at all times. Dogs like to chase active children. Keep kids busy, but on benches at the dog park.

This last rule is rule No. 10 at Amelia Earhart Dog Park. It’s my favorite because it says it all: The park is for everyone. Have fun, be safe, and be courteous to others and their dogs.


Janet Goodman is a Miami Shores-based dog trainer, animal-talent wrangler, and principal of Good Dog Bad Dog Inc. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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