The Humane Society of the United States reports that thirty-nine percent of U.S. households own at least one dog.

That's a lot of homeowners with doggies. Many neighborhoods and communities have dog parks, where your canine can play unleashed with other dogs. What, though, is proper dog park etiquette?

First and foremost, obey the posted rules. Some parks will have separate areas for large and small dogs. This is to help prevent injuries. Other parks may have days they are closed for maintenance. Be respectful of the community's rules.

Next, keep an eye on your dog. Just like you need to watch your children at a local playground, you should keep an eye on your dog. There may be everything from scuffles to mud puddles to avoid.

This also means learning how to read your dog's body language. Dogs tell about their mental state through the way they hold their ears, tail, and head. Over time you will learn to recognize when your dog feels threatened or is trying to threaten.. By learning your dog's body language, you can prevent fights.

If you have a young puppy, resist bringing them to the park until they are at least 4 months old. Dogs have a way of swarming puppies. Your young lad may lack the social skills he needs to be safe in this environment.

Dogs that aren't fixed are fine to bring, but should also be watched carefully. Being natural can make your dog a target. Additionally, you may be surprised to find that your dog is more aggressive with other dogs than you would have guessed. The exception to bringing natural dogs to a park is females who are in heat. Never bring an in heat female to a park. Most parks have explicit rules against this.

Cleaning up after your dog is not only respectful, it also helps to prevent the spread of disease. Nobody wants to pick up after their dog, but it has to happen. Be sure to bring your own doggie bags if the park does not provide them.

You might be tempted to bring your children to a dog park on a family outing. Don't. Children don't have the experience to understand that not all dog like kids. A dog park is just that. A park for dogs, not children. Many children don't know to stay out a dog's face and to keep their hands off strange dogs.

Finally, don't bring sick or unvaccinated dogs to a park. This can spread disease quickly. If your dog has had a contagious illness, be sure to get the go ahead from a veterinary professional before socializing.

Stick with these basics and have a great time at the dog park!

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