For Peace of Mind When Your Pet Stays Behind

Dog Park Safety & Etiquette

— By Judy Kimbler

Taking your dog to the dog park can be a wonderful experience.  While watching dogs enjoying time together, you can’t help but be inspired by their energy, good naturedness, and the pure joy they feel at being alive in the moment.  Nearly every town has a leash free dog park.  These facilities, often fenced for safety, allow dogs to run freely, to play with their humans and other dogs.  So, if your pooch is friendly and comfortable around other dogs and people, he’ll have a great time frolicking with his canine buddies.  Take advantage of dog parks on a regular basis and enjoy a happier, healthier pet.

The Benefits of Visiting Dog Parks

Exercise is easy at the park

Dogs need and enjoy adequate exercise. Dog parks offer large areas for canines to run and play freely. Pets who may not exercise much at home are more motivated to do so at dog parks because of the added social element – other dogs to play with. Also, owners can play ball or Frisbee with their pets at the dog park.

Socialization with other dogs at the park

Many dog owners own only one dog. Canines are social pack animals and thrive on interacting with other dogs. The dog park offers opportunities for your pet to socialize with different breeds, sizes, and numbers of dogs. If you’ve ever watched dogs in a group, they have a way of working out a social order, even as dogs leave and new dogs come in to the dog park.

Socialization with other humans at the park

Dogs benefit from interacting with people other than their owners. Other true dog lovers will enjoy getting to know your pooch and will even call him by name whenever he visits the dog park.

Connecting with other dog owners at the park

Taking your pooch to the dog park is great way to make your own connections with other dog-loving people. Conversations naturally occur regarding all things canine: interesting facts about different breeds and behavior, the best dog food, veterinarian, groomer and pet sitter.

Follow These Steps for a Fun and Safe Time at the Dog Park

In Preparation:

Make sure your dogs shots are all up to date

Unfortunately not all dog owners take proper care of their dogs, and some may bring their pet to the dog park without their proper vaccinations. The only thing you can do to keep your dog from picking up an unwanted illness is to keep their vaccinations and flea/tick treatments up to date. It may not prevent them from picking up some illness either minor or serious – but at least you are decreasing the odds of that happening.

PUPPIES: Make sure your pup is at least four months old and vaccinated. If you bring an unvaccinated puppy to the dog park you are putting them at risk of getting potentially fatal diseases.

Train & Socialize Your Dog

Basic training in voice commands and simple hand signals must precede the first trip to the dog park. A dog should come when called before he is turned loose among others of his kind. Even in a fenced pet park, it’s dangerous to release a dog that will not come or stay at your call.

If your dog is not used to being around other dogs, it might be a good idea to enroll him in a canine socialization class before his first visit to a dog park to avoid problems.

Know Your Dog’s Temperament.

Some dogs simply aren’t suited to socializing with large groups of dogs. If yours is nervous, fearful around people or other dogs a dog park may not be a good recreation choice.  If your dog is aggressive toward people or other dogs, it is unsafe for public play and thus should not be brought to a dog park.

Visit the Park Prior to Bringing Your Dog

This initial inspection offers an opportunity to check fence lines, rest rooms, parking options, and other facility features.  Read the posted rules and note whether or not they are being observed.  Note the hours and days of operation. For your dog’s first few trips, it’s wise to avoid peak park usage times.

Know Your Dogs’ Limits

If your dog is shy, when you arrive, go to an area of the park where there are only a few dogs rather than a large pack otherwise your dog may be overwhelmed.  Eventually they will move into an area with more or fewer dogs on their own based on their comfort level.

Know the difference between dog play and fighting

Not all growling, tumbling and nipping are outright aggression. Dogs may play rough. Examples of aggressive behavior: baring of teeth, non-play growling, lunging, snapping and biting. Dogs telegraph their intents by barking and body language.  Warning signs of aggression or excessive confidence: a direct sustained stare, mounting and mouthing, etc. A keen owner can spot trouble before it escalates into danger.

A hard chase can trigger an unwanted outcome.  If you’ve ever seen a nature show where a pack of animals brings down an antelope, you know how to spot a chase that has become too serious. Assertive or defensive dogs will let the group know they’re crossing the line by snapping or lunging at their chasers. Shyer, more submissive dogs may roll over, run under a bush, or run to their handler.  Either way, the dog is calling a time-out, and the group should listen. Take your dog aside if he’s over-excited and won’t give up the chase. When he calms down, let him go back to playing. Or if it’s your dog that’s playing the antelope, shoo the “hunters” away.  The other owners should respect the hint and call their dogs away.

Some dogs seem to want to pick a fight. They’ll place their paw on the other dog’s neck or jab at them with their muzzle. It’s similar to what happens when a chase gets too serious, but it happens one-on-one. Either the victim is going to feel harassed or intimidated and not have any fun, or the victim is going to stand up for himself with his teeth. It’s better to nip the whole thing in the bud. When you see these situations, call your dog away until the other dog is engaged in a new game and will leave your dog alone. Or, if it’s the other way around, call your dog away and distract him with a new game so he’ll leave the other dog alone.

IF A DOG FIGHT BREAKS OUT:  NEVER get between fighting dogs.

The most affectionate dog can become fierce when instincts kick in during a fight. Many well-meaning dog lovers have suffered critical injuries, simply trying to break up dog fights.  Instead, try to distract them with a loud noise from a whistle or bike horn etc, or to spray battling dogs with water

Experienced dog handlers work in pairs, grabbing the hind legs of fighting dogs to separate them.

If injuries occur, dog handlers must exchange names and phone numbers, in case follow-up is needed after medical attention is sought. Bite-and-run injuries should be reported.



Bring Dogs That Respond to Simple Commands such as “sit, stay, come and leave it”. Be aware, however, that dogs are usually excited to be at the park.  Use discretion when practicing certain commands such as coming when called. Since commands should only been given when they can be enforced, do so only when you must, such as removing your pet from a tense situation or when it is time to leave the park.

Bring Water and a Bowl:  There may be a communal water bowl available but why take the chance.  Other dogs at the park may be ill or not be properly vaccinated. By bringing your own water and a dish, you are decreasing the chance that they will come home with an illness.

Obey the Posted Rules

Observe the Scene Before Entering. If rules are not being followed, your safety and the safety of your dog could be in jeopardy.

Obey the Law: Keep your dog on leash until you have entered staging area. Most dog parks have a double gated area to take your dog off-leash before you are both actually in the park. Take your dog off-leash in this area.  Keep your leash with you.

Remove Choke/Training Collars: Leave only a well fitted collar complete with identification and license tags.  During play, training collars can be dangerous because they can get caught on something and potentially strangle your dog.

Make Sure Your Dog’s Collar or Harness is Fitted Properly: You may need to quickly get a hold of your dog to avoid a dangerous situation.  A slipped collar or a backed out of harness is useless.

Minimize Distractions:  Dog lovers tend to socialize at the park; you need to pay attention to the goings on and watch your dog vigilantly. Don’t bring reading material. Keep your cell phone stashed. Accidents happen too fast for you to be lackadaisical.

Never Leave Your Dog Unsupervised in the dog park and always know where they are and what they are doing.

Use Discretion When Practicing Commands:  Be aware that dogs are usually excited to be at the park.  Commands should only been given when they can be enforced.  Reserve the command “come” for removing your pet from a tense situation or when it’s time for you to depart.

Intervene Immediately at the First Sign of Trouble so the situation does not escalate.

Leave If :

Your Dog Is Causing TroubleIf your dog provokes a fight, it’s an instant out.  If you find yourself continually fussing at your dog to “play nice,” it’s probably time to cut your losses and go home.

Your Dog Isn’t Having Fun: the dog park environment isn’t every dog’s cup of tea.

Your Dog Has Had Enough: Exit on a happy note

Clean Up Your Dog’s Droppings. Pooper scooping is essential to keeping the dog park open. If you leave the poop in place, dog-haters in the neighborhood will unite to inform local politicians that dogs are dirty and their owners are irresponsible. And if you leave the poop, they’re right!  It’s ok to tell other owners that their dogs have pooped. It’s a little embarrassing to inform a stranger that their dog has pooped, but most owners are more embarrassed if they’re caught not picking up.  Many facilities offer collection bags and garbage bins but bring a supply of bags with you just in case the dispensers are empty.

If Your Dog Digs a Hole, Fill It


Don’t Bring Aggressive or Unsocialized Dogs: Be willing to admit your dog is not “dog park” material, you’re not alone.

Don’t Bring A Sick Dog:  You wouldn’t want your dog to pick up an illness from another dog at the dog park and neither do other owners.  A sick or parasite-infested dog can easily spread his condition to others during play.

Don’t Bring More Dogs Than You Can Handle

Don’t Bring Unfixed Male Dogs or Females In Heat

Don’t Bring Food/Treats For Yourself or Your Dog: Stick to water, leave scented beverages, out.  Unshared food and treats can initiate multi-dog battles.

Don’t Bring Children: The dog park is no place for young children. Reserve dog park trips for pets only, trying to babysit at the same time is distracting and dangerous.  Keep your focus on your dog at the DOG park.

Don’t Enter The Park With Your Dog On Leash:  If you exit the staging area and enter the park with your dog leashed, you are potentially creating a number of problems. First, you may be affecting your dog’s body language. When a dog is pulling on leash, all their body is going forward and they are telling other dogs they are a challenge even if they don’t actually intend to be. Second, by keeping your dog on-leash when all the other dogs are off-leash, you are putting your dog at an enormous disadvantage. If your dog feels the need to get away from the onslaught of dogs, he has no way to. Being unable to get away, he may feel the need to defend himself.

Don’t Allow Your Dog To Greet Dogs As They Enter The GatesThe problem here is that dogs in dog parks form loose packs, and they will want to quickly assess where the new dog fits in that pack. This may lead to some conflicts.  Also, the sheer number of dogs at the gate may overwhelm some dogs and could cause some to feel the need to defend themselves.  If your dog is going to the gate as new dogs arrive, either call him off or go get him. Let the new arrivals have a chance to enter the park with a minimum of problems.

Don’t Allow Your Dog To Bully Or Harass Other Dogs:  Look at the dogs your dog is playing with, if they aren’t enjoying it, your dog is being a bully.

Don’t Allow Humping:  Persistent humping is annoying to the recipient and the owner of the dog being humped.  If your dog is humping another dog, intervene and stop the behavior because if the owner doesn’t snap, the dog itself might.  Dogs have personal space, too.

Don’t Pick Up Someone’s Dog Without Permission

Don’t Let Your Dog Park Become A Hostile Place:  It’s not only the dogs that have to behave nicely at the park; owners need to be respectful as well.  Sometimes you’re faced with an owner who doesn’t seem to realize or care that his dog is being obnoxious. It’s not fair, that his dog is ruining the playtime of other dogs.  If the offending owner is not a complete fool, he’ll hear the grumbling of other owners and feel their icy stares. Hopefully he’ll listen to the advice and feedback of  diplomatic owners and take appropriate action to avoid issues in the future.


Overall, a dog park is a remarkable place to bond with your pooch. If you’re vigilant and supervise your dog carefully, you’ll ward off any conflicts and spend many happy hours with the dogs and dog lovers in your neighborhood.


Cardiff State Beach

The beach is located one mile south of Cardiff on Old Highway 101.

Leashed (6’) Dogs are welcome (760) 720-7001





Alga Norte Dog Park

6565 Alicante Road, Zip 92009


Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Areas for small and large dogs

Agility equipment

Ann D. L’Heureux Dog Park

2700 Carlsbad Village Dr., Zip 92008



Hours   8 a.m. – Sunset

13,200 square feet of fenced area





In all areas, dogs must wear a license on their collars

Day After Labor Day through June 15

  • Between 29th Street and Solana Beach border, off-leash dogs are allowed.
  • Between Powerhouse Park and 29th Street, dogs must be leashed. (From dawn to 8 a.m., off-leash dogs are allowed between 25th and 29th streets.)
  • Between Powerhouse Park and 6th Street, dogs must be leashed.

June 16 through Labor Day

  • Between Powerhouse Park and 29th Street, no dogs allowed.
  • Between 29th Street and Solana Beach, off-leash dogs are permitted from dawn to 8 a.m.; dogs must be leashed from 8 a.m. to dawn.
  • From 6th Street to Powerhouse Park, dogs must be leashed year-round.

Powerhouse Park

  • Dogs prohibited in the children’s “Tot Lot” and adjacent grass area south of the beach path at the southern end of the park.
  • Leashed dogs are permitted on all adjacent walkways and sidewalks.



Off-Leash Places to Play!

Maggie Houlihan Memorial Dog Park at Encinitas Community Park

425 Santa Fe Drive, Encinitas.

The approximately 2-acre dog park features areas for small dogs, timid or first time dogs, and a large lawn open to all.

The Dog Park is open from 8am to sunset daily, except for regular cleaning and maintenance on Thursdays from 1-3pm.  Expect temporary posted closures during rainy or wet conditions or for repairs.

Additionally, the City of Encinitas offers four parks and one trail area where your dog can be off-leash during specified hours and days. These parks are Olympus Park, Encinitas Viewpoint Park on “D” Street, Orpheus Park on Orpheus Drive and Sun Vista Park (east) on Avenida La Posta.

Olympus Park:
Olympus Street & Piraeus Street
Olympus Park includes a ¼ acre Dog Park for large and small dogs
Hours: Dawn to dusk

Encinitas Viewpoint Park:
Cornish Drive & D Street
6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday

Sun Vista Park (east):
2011 Avenida La Posta
6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday
3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday

Orpheus Park:
482 Orpheus Drive
6:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday and on Sunday from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.
3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday

Trail Segment 72 (Mountain Vista)
1679 Mountain Vista Drive
Located on City property underneath the SDG&E power lines between Encinitas Blvd. and Mountain Vista Drive, has been designated an off-leash dog area.
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset





4 off leash dog parks 760-744-9000 ext. 3500



Hollandia Park, 12 Mission Hills Court

Montiel Park, 2290 Montiel Rd Zip   92069

San Elijo Dog Park, 1105 Elfin Forrest Rd, Zip 92078

Sunset Park:

            East Entrance   909 Puesta Del Sol

West Entrance   3337 La Mirada Dr.




South Buena Vista Dog Park

1602 Mountain Pass Cir, Zip  92081

(760) 639-6151

Off-leash hours (except holidays)

7:00-10:00 a.m. | every day

3:00 p.m. – dusk | standard time (winter)

4:00 p.m. – dusk | daylight savings time (summer)