Keeping Your Dog Safe Around Strange Dogs

Dog park trail safety - A Golden Retriever dog running in an empty dog park.

Whether it's a popular dog-friendly trail or a busy dog park, it's crucial to keep your pet safe and comfortable around other dogs. That can be hard to do if your dog hasn't spent a lot of time around strange, sometimes unruly, dogs. So now is the time to get both of you up to speed on dog park trail safety and the doggy manners necessary on crowded trails.

Having a great leash that leaves your hands free is also important when it comes to dog park trail safety. It's hard to fend off another dog (or even unwanted pats from a stranger!) when you've got your hands full managing a leash. A hands-free leash gives you awesome control over your dog while leaving both hands free to handle anything that may come up to spoil your doggy adventure.

Scope Things Out By Yourself First

Before you head to a new dog park or one of those bucket-list dog trails, it's a good idea to check it out for yourself before you bring your best bud along. That way, you can look for potential dangers or problems before your dog finds them for you. Because you know she will!

Is the trail quiet or crowded? Are there potential hazards like cliffs, poison ivy, or rattlesnakes to worry about? The more you know about the location and essential dog park trail safety tips, the more you can relax and enjoy a hike with your best bud.

Dog park trail safety - A Rhodesian Ridgeback dog playing with a stick in a forest.

Doggy Trail Manners

Is that nice, quiet trail you and your dog love to hike becoming crowded with strange people, dogs, and scents? You'll need to ensure your doggo has the trail manners needed to avoid unpleasant encounters on increasingly crowded trails. Here are some dog park trail safety manners to start with: 

  • Does your dog have a rock-solid grasp on "watch me"? This is one of the most important commands he'll ever learn. When he's paying attention to you, he won't be freaking out over all of the new traffic on "his" trail.
  • You'll also want to make sure his heel, sit, stay, and come mastery is on point.
  • Keeping him on a heel at your side will help avoid him being tripped over and frightened. It will also create a bigger roadblock that will steer traffic around the two of you.
  • Remain the calm and confident leader your dog needs now more than ever. Seeing a crowd you weren't expecting on the trail might freak you out a bit. But it's important to handle it in your stride so your dog handles it well, too. Otherwise, it might be time to choose a different trail or pick a quieter time of the day to go for a hike.

When your dog has good trail manners, even a hike on a crowded trail will still be enjoyable.

Dos & Don'ts at the Dog Park

Every day at the dog park is different. That's why you'll want to keep your pup on a leash outside of the park while observing who's there and the vibe of the park at the time. Are people paying more attention to their phones than to their dogs? Is there an aggressive or extremely boisterous dog creating chaos in the park? It might be better to go for a walk or run with your dog rather than risk exposing her to a potentially dangerous or traumatizing experience.

As certified dog trainer Annie Phenix says, "All it takes is one fight or medical injury to create fear in a dog." And that fear can lead to a reactive dog who lives a miserable life. A day at the dog park is hardly worth an injury or a lifetime of misery for both you and your poor pup. So, be flexible with your plans in case the dog park is a no-go at that particular time. 

If you decide that it's a good day for the dog park, be sure to follow good dog park trail safety and etiquette. Stay away from those owners and dogs who aren't following the rules or respecting other dogs.

Observing dog park trail safety - A Rhodesian Ridgeback standing in a forest.

Staying Safe at the Dog Park:

  • Ensure your dog reliably knows basic commands such as watch me, come, sit, stay, and leave it.
  • Bring doggie doo bags and use them. You don't want to be one of those pet parents, do you?
  • Read all of the posted safety rules for that particular dog park trail and follow them to the letter. What's acceptable at one dog park may be a big no-no at another.
  • Always keep your dog leashed as you enter and leave the park. Never leave the gate open any longer than necessary and keep an eye out for those four-legged escape artists who are always looking for an opening.

Keeping Your Dog Safe:

  • Keep your dog's collar or harness and leash handy at all times and be prepared to use them if needed. There are still fun activities you and your dog can do together with a leash while she gets used to being around so many busy dogs. And a leash may help her feel more confident as she gets used to the madhouse of a dog park.
  • Bring your own water and bowl to avoid communicable diseases or parasites. And never, ever take your dog to the park if she's feeling under the weather!
  • Don't give your dog treats when other dogs are nearby. Doing so can trigger resource guarding and possible aggression in both your pet and other equally treat hungry dogs.

Tips for Dog Owners:

  • Put away your phone! You can't know what your pooch is up to if your eyes are glued to a screen.
  • If you have multiple dogs, treat each one to a trip to the dog park separately. For your pet's safety, it's important to keep a sharp eye on her while she's playing. You can't do that if your attention is divided between multiple dogs.
  • Take an air horn to quickly and safely break up a scuffle even from a distance. A good sprinkling of black pepper has the same effect if you're close enough to throw it in the dogs' faces. It's hard for dogs to continue fighting when they're busy sneezing repeatedly!

Dog park trail safety - A Golden Retriever dog biting a stick while in an outdoor dog park.


If you follow these dog park trail safety tips, both you and your dog will enjoy a safe trip to the dog park or a wonderful hike on even a crowded path. To learn more about having fun with your pooch, visit our Dog Blog. And be sure to Send Us a Woof if you have questions on how using a hands-free leash can make every walk or hike more enjoyable for the two of you!

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