How do I prepare my dog (and myself) for a safe trip to an off-leash dog park?

Category: Fall 2018, Pet Friendly San Diego 491 0

Some great ways to prepare yourself prior to visiting a dog park and/or dog beach are to learn about dog park dos and don’ts, what to look for in regard to healthy play versus unhealthy play, proper dog park etiquette, and ensuring that you have a solid recall on your dog.

San Diego Dog Park Map.

The Dos & Don’ts of  Dog Park Etiquette

Dog parks are a great place for your pup to play, exercise and socialize off leash. But badly behaved dogs can ruin the experience for people and pets alike, and in worst-case scenarios can traumatize or injure others. Tragically, a fatal dog-on-dog attack led to the closure of the Oceanside Dog Park, which San Diego Humane Society has since converted to a behavior and rehabilitation center for shelter pets. But there are some easy steps dog owners can take to ensure their trip is a walk in the (dog) park.


… close the gates. Most parks have two gates, creating a small entry area before the park proper. Remove your dog’s leash between the first and second gate.

… play nice. If your dog starts growling or barking excessively, use vocal recall, a toy or some other form of positive distraction to re­direct his attention.

… clean up after your pet. Don’t expect the park to have bags available; bring a couple with you just in case.

… bring water. Dogs tend to keep playing long past the point of physical exhaustion or overheating.

… bring identification and make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations. There has been a spike in the number of canine parvovirus cases recently; keeping your dog’s vaccinations current can reduce his risk of infection.

… pay attention. You’re responsible for your dog’s safety and behavior—don’t ignore him in favor of a phone call or a chat with another owner.

… think twice about bringing your kids. Some dogs don’t do well around children, and vice versa.

… bring your dog to the park regularly. The more exposure he has to other people and pets, the more comfortable he will be.


… let your dog off leash in an area not designated as such. Loose dogs in public areas can cause problems for park-goers and leave owners facing a hefty fine.

… hang out near the entrance when new dogs are coming in. Dogs don’t like groups of other dogs coming at them, and can feel confined, anxious and uncomfortable if they’re still on leash when other dogs aren’t.

… bring squeaky toys, even if they’re your pup’s favorite. Squeaky toys can rile up every dog in the park.

… take treats or food of any kind into the park. Food can make some dogs aggressive toward one another.

… take puppies younger than 6 months, especially if they haven’t had all their shots.

… grab your dog’s collar if he gets into a scuffle. If you need to break up a fight, grab your dog’s back legs and lift up like a wheelbarrow to get him out of the situation. 

… force your dog to be social. Not all dogs are social butterflies. Watch for signs that he may be feeling uncomfortable. If he stays glued to your side or hides under a bench, try to coax him out, but remember: A trip to the park is supposed to be a positive experience. If he feels intimidated or anxious, come back another time.


Whom do I contact for help?

During the Day:

Residents in SDHS’s jurisdiction can email their concerns to, submit a form to field services via or call 619-299-7012 during business hours.

After Hours:

San Diego City:
619-531-2000 or 858-484-3154

Camp Pendleton Animal Control:

Coronado Animal Services:

Chula Vista/ Lemon Grove:

El Cajon Animal Control:

La Mesa:

National City Animal Control:

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