Join Club

Healthy Paws: Dog Park 101

Editor’s Note: Healthy Paws is a column sponsored and written by the owners of Clarendon Animal Care, a full-service, general practice veterinary clinic and winner of a 2017 Arlington Chamber of Commerce Best Business Award. The clinic is located 3000 10th Street N., Suite B. and can be reached at 703-997-9776.

The dog park is a super fun place to bring your puppy for exercise and socialization with other dogs, but there are some things to keep in mind before heading out to the park with your pup.

First of all, not all dogs should go to a dog park:

  • Dogs that are under 4 months of age are too young. Dog parks put them at risk for contracting infectious diseases and parasites. Young puppies can also be at higher risk for injury when playing with older and stronger dogs. If a puppy has a bad experience at the dog park, they can also learn to be afraid of other dogs. That said, socialization for puppies is very important for their development, but best to introduce them to dogs you know well (friends, family or neighbors) and in one-on-one or smaller settings or at a puppy kindergarten class.
  • Dogs that are reactive around other dogs should keep away from the park. Reactive behavior (growling, biting or lunging) is a sign of fear in dogs. If a dog is acting this way towards other dogs in a park, this means they are scared and want to be away from the dogs. If these signs are ignored, this can progress to causing a fight and injuries between dogs and ultimately worsen their fear long term. Some dogs may do better with dogs their own size, if this is the case, look for parks with a “small dog” and “big dog” area.
  • Dogs that cannot be let off a leash should stick to walks. When dogs interact off-leash they are able to exhibit normal canine behavior. Being on leash can cause a dog to feel restricted and can limit normal canine interaction, potentially leading to stress and fear.
  • Female dogs in heat should take a break from the dog park. This is to avoid unwanted attention from male dogs, particularly intact males, as this could lead to an accidental pregnancy.
  • Dogs that are sick should stay home and recover. This may seem pretty obvious, but dogs that are showing gastrointestinal symptoms or coughing, runny nose, or excessive sneezing, could have infectious diseases they could spread to other dogs.
  • Dogs that are not up to date on vaccines should wait until they get all of their shots. If you aren’t sure if your dog has all of the vaccines it needs for the park, reach out to your veterinarian for advice.

Before you head to the Dog Park:

  • Make sure your dog is trained in some basic commands — most importantly a “come when called” command so you can always redirect your dogs attention and get them to come to you when needed.
  • Check the weather. Prolonged exercise in hot temperatures can cause heat stroke in dogs, even if they have water available. If it’s a particularly warm day, plan to go to the dog park in the early morning or after it cools off in the evening to avoid excessive heat.
  • Consider bringing a few helpful items — including water, ball or toys for fetch, and poop bags, in case these aren’t available at the park. Just know that toys will likely be shared and may go missing — so don’t bring anything you or your dog is attached to.

Basic Dog Park Etiquette:

  • Intervene when play between dogs gets too rough or a pack is ganging up on a dog. This is best done by simply calling your dog away to redirect their attention.
  • Pick up all of the poops and dispose of properly.
  • Don’t let your dog hump another dog… it’s just not nice and a little awkward for everyone.
  • Take off the leash — that’s the point, right? Most parks have convenient double gates that allow for easy leash removal.
  • Pay attention! It’s best to avoid talking or texting on your phone and just enjoy the view of your pup having a great time with his or her friends. If you are distracted you could not be aware of tense situations brewing and miss an opportunity to intervene and avoid problems between dogs.
  • Don’t carry your dog around the park. This is a very unnatural way for dogs to interact and can lead to fear and reactivity. Picking up your dog can also tempt other dogs to jump up on you, a very bad situation overall. If your dog doesn’t do well on all fours, then it’s best to leave the park and try again another day.

Avoid having treats or food. Dogs will smell it and you might have more friends than you want following you around. Also, some dogs have food allergy, while others are reactive to other dogs when food makes an appearance, so best to leave the food out of your dog park experience.

Recent Stories

Morning Notes

Pentagon City Rotating Restaurant Reopens — “Skydome, a unique rotating restaurant, has reopened atop the DoubleTree by Hilton Crystal City Hotel in Arlington. The restaurant, which closed during the COVID-19…

Good Thursday evening, Arlington. Today we published articles that were read a total of 21133 times… so far. 📈 Top stories The following are the most-read articles for today —…

This past week saw 22 homes sold in Arlington. The least expensive condo, single-family home or townhouse sale over the past seven days was $275,000 while the most expensive was…

Many parents of children at Key Elementary School are outraged at the way a possible threat of gun violence by a student was handled by administrators.

The Arlington-Aachen High School exchange is returning this summer and currently accepting applicants.

The sister-city partnership started in 1993 by the Arlington Sister Cities Association, which seeks to promote Arlington’s international profile through a variety of exchanges in education, commerce, culture and the arts. The exchange, scheduled June 17th to July 4th, includes a two-week homestay in Aachen plus three days in Berlin. Knowledge of the German language is not required for the trip.

Former participants have this to say:

_”The Aachen exchange was an eye-opening experience where I was fully immersed in the life of a German student. I loved biking through the countryside to Belgium, having gelato and picnics in the town square, and hanging out with my German host student’s friends. My first time out of the country, the Aachen exchange taught me to keep an open mind, because you never know what could be a life changing experience.” – Kelly M._

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Learn about the new assessment of Arlington’s urban tree canopy and the many ecological and social benefits trees provide. Staff from the Green Infrastructure Center (GIC) will share study results and compare canopy cover for different areas of Arlington.The webinar will include assessments of ecosystem services such as stormwater mitigation, air quality, carbon uptake, and urban heat islands. For background on Arlington trees see the “Tree Benefits: Growing Arlington’s Urban Forest” presentation at

Please register in advance to assure your place at the webinar,

About the Arlington County Civic Federation: The Arlington County Civic Federation (“ACCF”) is a not-for-profit corporation which provides a forum for civic groups to discuss, debate, inform, advocate and provide oversight on important community issues, on a non-partisan basis. Its members include over ninety civic groups representing a broad cross-section of the community. Communications, resolutions and feedback are regularly provided to the Arlington County Government.

The next meeting is on Tuesday, February 21,2023 at 7 pm. This meeting is open to the public and will be hybrid, in-person and virtually through Zoom. Part of the agenda will be a discussion and vote on a resolution “To Restore Public Confidence in Arlington County’s Governance”. For more information on ACCF and this meeting, go to

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Valentine Pop-Up at George Mason University

Valentine gifts for someone special or for yourself are here at George Mason University from noon -4pm on February 14, 2023. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Kingsbury Chocolates, find a handmade bag from Karina Gaull, pick up treats from Village

Standup Comedy Showcase Starring Matt Ruby (Comedy Central)

Dead Horse Comedy Productions brings together top comedians from the DMV and beyond for a live standup comedy show!

Matt Ruby, Headliner

Matt Ruby is a comedian, writer, and filmmaker from New York City. His comedy has been filmed by


Subscribe to our mailing list