Fun day, fun play: dog park etiquette from your dog

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Fun day, fun play: dog park etiquette from your dog

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Eric Champlin
Sometimes it's great to just be a dog: a fun-filled day at the Piedmont Park Dog Park.

Hi! I'm Jake.

I'm a black lab puppy, and I'm usually in one of two states: sleeping, or exploding with energy. I'm addicted to treats, naps, chasing squirrels and hiking, and when I'm not eating, sleeping, squirreling or hiking, I love nothing more than an afternoon at the dog park.

Dog parks are a blast! They're a great place to let my pure puppy energy loose, stretch my legs and socialize with friends. I love the opportunity to act like a dog, hang out with other dogs and chase the pack.

Dogs are pack animals, and we thrive on company. We cherish the exuberance of running with a pack: ears flying, paws bounding, and slobber flying. It just feels so good.

But sometimes when we're having a blast, things get out of control: paws get tangled and someone gets trampled. Before you know it, someone is grouchy, teeth are bared and haunches are raised. This is when we need your help; when we hit the park, exploding with excitement, our judgment can get a little clouded. Sometimes we need a little human intervention to keep the park a fun experience for everyone.

Here are some tips for a fun-filled (and safe) day at the dog park:

Pregame

Teach me to come when called, "leave it" and sit, even in the heat of the moment. If things get rough, I might need you to tell me what you want me to do. And I need to learn to listen, even if that playful poodle is rallying me for more.

If I'm not feeling well or I'm injured, let's skip the park until I feel better. I don't want to be "that guy" who gets all the other dogs sick, or put myself in worse shape.

Let's leave our family's human kids at home. They're small. They might get stuck in a tussle, or get run down in one of my boisterous sprints with my buddies.

When we get to the park, let's scope out the scene before we commit. I'll be bummed if we have to leave before I get to play, but I'd rather skip the park if bullies are hanging out or the play is just a little too rough.

Keep an eye on me

I know you love your phone, but let's spend some quality time together! Your Facebook feed can wait for a few; live in the moment, like I do, and have fun watching me with my friends. Please keep an eye on me to be sure I'm playing nicely and not acting completely unruly.

If I get overly exuberant, please don't ignore me as I repeatedly jump and slobber on other people or if I go overboard with roughhousing in the pack. If I'm playing too rambunctiously, or if another dog is acting aggressively toward me, distract me and lead me to another section of the park. If it continues, let's just leave. We can always come back, later today or another day.

If for some reason I don't warm up to the park and I'm standing with my tail tucked, hiding behind you, I'm probably not having a great time. If I'm fearful, I might do something both of us might regret. Let's try again another day when I'm feeling more social.

A pack for everyone

Some dogs are uber-social and love huge, energetic groups of friends. Some dogs prefer to chill in smaller, quieter groups. If I start wandering into one of those quieter groups, please coax me back to my pack so the quiet guys can enjoy the park, too.

Keep me cool

Amped-up exercise in sunshine and heat could leave me dehydrated quickly. Watch to make sure I'm taking water bowl breaks. And when temperatures are sweltering, let's leave before I get totally worn out.

Accidents happen

I admit: sometimes it's no accident. Regardless, please be responsible and pick up after me if I "go". It's really embarrassing to be "that guy" whose human pretends not to see what's happening. It's humiliating, and really gross when someone inevitably steps in it. Please just pick it up!

Unclip before we go in

Let me off my leash in the double-gated area. That's what they're there for. If I stay leashed and we enter the park, I might feel intimidated by the off-leash dogs, and my leash might lead to a tense situation.

While my harness helps keep me from going completely squirrel-crazy on the walk to the park, please remove it before we go through the gate. It might get caught in one of my exuberant leaps or tussles, and a tangle could hurt me or another dog.

I admit: I'm not perfect

I know you love me. But please don't be "that" parent: if another dog owner complains about my behavior, apologize and give me a time out on the quiet side of the park. If I won't settle down, let's just go. I know I act too rowdy sometimes, and I'm here to make friends, not enemies.

If I start becoming an issue every time we visit the park, let's find somewhere else to play. I'm a young pup, and I crave social time with other dogs. But as I get older, I may not love the vibe of the park or the large packs of playful puppies. That's OK; we had our fun while it lasted! Let's look for a quieter place to play.

Hit the trail

If I'm having a bad time or not getting along with a few of the dogs, maybe the park isn't my thing today. But I'd still love to get outside for some new smells, new sights and some great exercise. Let's grab my leash and explore one of Georgia's many dog-friendly trails for some great outdoor fun together.

Skip the car

Let's walk to the park! I can burn off some energy on the way so I'm not so bursting-with-energy when we arrive. Remember to bring a water dish and water bottle for the walk home: I'll probably be pretty dehydrated from my absolutely amazing day at the park. And hey, thanks for taking me. I had a blast and can't wait to do it again.

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