Warm weather to dog owners, like me, means that it’s time to get stir-crazy dogs out of the house and into the dog park.

Let them run out the pent-up energy that winter has laid at their feet. Thankfully, Richmond has several off-leash dog parks for you to choose from. And while all of these are uniquely different, the common courtesy rules that come with their use are not. I wanted to take a second to just gently remind all dog owners of what they are.

Recently, while I was at the dog park enjoying a sunny afternoon, I was witness to a very sad incident. A gentleman brought his unaltered male dog into a very crowded dog park. This was by no means a small dog and it almost immediately began mounting other dogs.

Several people asked the man, quite politely, to remove the dog from the park as it was not allowed. The man proceeded to get very upset and the shouting done by him was quite unnecessary. He felt that he was being personally attacked because of the breed of his dog. This was completely untrue.

What it broke down to is that intact males are more likely to mount other dogs, which generally leads to fighting among the animals. Please, if you have an intact male dog, do not bring them to any dog park. There are signs posted, quite clearly, indicating they are not allowed. It helps to keep the peace.

Another incident that my neighbor related to me happened on a separate day at a different park. My neighbor, his three dogs and several other people with their dogs were hanging out with no incidents. While he was sitting there, a young woman arrived with her dog.

The dog seemed fine at first, but after several minutes, he proceeded to become aggressive and bite one of the other dogs. Nothing serious, but an aggression issue none the less. The girl scolded him and then released him back into the population. He then proceeded to bite my neighbor’s dog. At this time, she took the dog out of the big dog area and brought him into the little dog area where he got into yet another altercation.

By this point several people demanded she leave and not return. If your dog shows any sign of aggression, such as fighting or snapping at other dogs, remove them from the park right away. By staying, you are only compounding whatever the dog’s issue is. You are helping no one and could find yourself in serious trouble if your dog hurts another dog. Aggression has no place at the dog park.

Something else that I see that drives me insane is people who ignore their dog at the dog park. What I mean by that is they arrive, unleash their dog and that is the last they deal with it until it is time to go. As a dog owner, you are responsible to clean up your dog’s waste. This is true even in the confines of a dog park. By ignoring your dog, you will miss it not only going to the bathroom, but also mounting and perhaps even showing aggressive behavior. Please keep track of your dog not only for its safety, but in order to help keep the parks clean.

The second part to that is just a common courtesy thing. Dog parks are a social atmosphere. It is a place for people to communicate with each other just as much as their dogs do. If you sit there with your face buried in a book or your eyes glued to a cellphone then you are missing a key part of the dynamic. Try to use the dog park to be social. You will be surprised by the people you meet.

In general, just remember that the safety of your dog should always be your main concern. Keep a roving eye on your dog while it enjoys the time spent at the dog park just being a dog. You will both be better off if you do.

Nick Lattanzio is the owner of a 4-year-old Doberman and an avid dog park enthusiast. He is the writer and photographer of Going Out In Richmond ( Follow him on Twitter @goingoutinRVA

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