There are rules for dog parks. And then there are rules for dog parks in the holidays, when your local fluff fest is overrun by screaming children, a hundred foreign dogs who don’t appear to know how to bum-sniff politely, and more officious rangers than you can shake an off-leash sign at. Hands up if you know the feeling all too well and want to brush up on your dog park know-how for next time? Hell yes.

In our humble experience, the main problem with a dog park in the holidays is this: Not everyone is as responsible as you are. Add crowds and a bit of road rage to the mix, and what goes at your usually civil dog park can include some drastically altered unwritten rules — all dependant on other dog owners nearby.

When the population of the local dog park multiplies because of holiday travel, you need to be more alert for unusual dangers. Many people have their dogs at the park for the first time, and unlike you, they may not have bothered to read the signs. They may not care about the rules and regulations, or they may know nothing about pet friendly areas in general. You need to be alert for people like this, and be ready to intervene on your dog’s behalf if things become too dangerous.

If this isn’t your normal dog park, take some time to read the signs before entering. Every dog park will have different rules and regulations. Some might require council-issued poo bags to be used in place of home (and possibly non-biodegradable) versions, or request that new park users keep their dog on a leash when meeting other dog owners. Certain breeds of dogs may be discouraged from using dog parks in some council areas, and often animals under a certain age are cautioned against entering. Whatever the signs say and however silly you think they sound, always obey the posted rules at pet-friendly areas, even if others aren’t.

You should be constantly alert while at the dog park. Many other owners don’t understand the importance of bringing only healthy, fit animals to the park to play. Some may even bring intact males or females who are on heat to the park, which can cause disasters… and all happen in seconds. You may not be able to control other people’s actions, but you can control what animals you allow your dog to be around in this pet-friendly place.

If at any point in time you should deem an animal unsafe, intervene and remove your dog from the park immediately. That said, we try and exercise some patience and understanding in dog parks during the holidays… If you see someone doing the wrong thing, resist the temptation to yell abuse across the cricket nets and kill them with kindness instead — like offering them a poo bag from your personal supply to clean up their pooch’s mess with.

After all, you never know when you’ll be the new bitch in someone else’s park.

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