News | 22 November 2022
Share on social

Dog park etiquette: What you and your pooch need to know!

We want you and your doggo to have a paw-sitive time at your local dog park, so we’ve had a chat to Canine Health and Welfare Officer Rhea Hurley from Dogs New Zealand about dog park etiquette and how you can make the most out of your next adventure in Wellington.

A dog and toddler.

You’re barking up the wrong tree

Before you go to a dog park for the first time, your puppy or dog needs to be fully vaccinated. 

Since your dog will be in a social environment, you should only bring them when they are fully protected. If they don’t, you’re barking up the wrong tree and you may need to wait until all vaccinations are complete.

It’s also important to monitor your dog’s health before you go to the park, says Rhea.

“Dogs should have their annual check-ups and vaccinations (or titre tests) for parvovirus, distemper, and the components of canine cough. Your local vet can help with how often and which vaccines are necessary. The risk is to your dog but also others so please do not take your dogs if they have coughing, sneezing or an upset stomach.”

Please be paw-lite

At the dog park, your furry friends will be interacting with other doggos and this can be overwhelming for both animals and humans. 

If your dog doesn’t warm up as easily to other dogs, remember that you don’t have to take them off-leash because it’s an open area. You can also use a long line to keep your dog under control.

Rhea says that being in control has two factors.

“Make sure you have a reliable recall and keep an eye on what your dog is doing. Make sure if you let you dog off-lead when others are using the park that you can reliably call you dog back 100 percent of the time. Even if you’re in an off-lead park, people have the right to be in there without your dog running up to them. 

“If a new dog enters the park, check with the owner before letting your dog approach. If you are meeting your dog owner friends, make sure you continue to watch your dog. They could be become overwhelmed with other dogs, being a bit of a bully, or leave a poo that needs to be picked up. Walking around the park while you are chatting can be a good way to facilitate this. Don’t bring food or treats for other dogs either, you don’t want any competition or give a dog something that they can’t eat.” 


Quit hounding me!

People can be introverted and extroverted, and the same goes for our furry friends. Not every dog wants attention from other humans, and not every dog is comfortable being around new dogs. 

If you know your dog gets a bit anxious, you can tie a yellow ribbon to its collar or lead to signal to others that they need a little extra space. Any yellow ribbon will do the trick. 

It’s important to respect your dog's boundaries, and to communicate these boundaries to others.

A yellow-ribboned dog might be old, disabled, injured; they might be anxious around other dogs or people.

Dogs communicate their feelings through their body language – they can communicate feelings of anxiety through a range of behaviours:

  • cowering in fear
  • brows furrowed with flat ears
  • licking lips (even when there is no food nearby)
  • pacing and moving away
  • seeming hyperalert or restless
  • excessive barking.

Read more about the yellow ribbon campaign on our website.

Having a ball!

Dog parks are an excellent opportunity for dogs to train, exercise and socialise. Remember that while you may know what your dog is doing, another doggo could be seriously focused on learning some tricks and shouldn't be interrupted. 

Be mindful of the behaviours of your dog and others and communicate with other owners, says Rhea.

“Owners should be very careful about training in a dog park as treats and toys could cause a fight, especially if a random dog comes running up to get the food. We tend to recommend not taking toys and throwing them in dog parks too.

“Dog owners should keep leads on their dog when entering and leaving dog parks as these can be areas where dogs train. Also, someone could have the door open at the wrong moment.” 

Dog owners are encouraged to apply to the Council for responsible dog owner status. Council recognised responsible dog owners will pay a reduced re-registration fee for their dogs.  Find out about our responsible dog owner discount, or email for more information.

Check out locations for dog parks in Wellington on our website.