Best Practices

The Barkyard at LaSalle Park offers many benefits to dogs and their owners. Our success requires that visitors monitor their dog’s behavior, collect and dispose of dog feces in provided waste baskets, and immediately remove aggressive dogs from the park.

Is The Barkyard for your dog?

If your dog has behavior or aggression problems, doesn’t come when called, or is afraid of other dogs, then The Barkyard is probably not the right place for your dog.

If your dog is less than four months old, or has not had all the proper vaccinations, you’ll have to wait until (s)he’s older.

Un-spayed females and un-neutered males do not belong at The Barkyard.

If your dog currently has fleas or any other infectious parasites, do not bring him to the park until you’ve eliminated them.

General safety tips

  • Make your first visit to The Barkyard without your dog. Read the posted rules and see how the park is laid out.
  • If your pet has never been to a dog park, visit when the park is not so busy, preferably during weekday mornings. The Barkyard tends to be very busy on weekday evenings and all day on weekends. Watch your dog to see how she interacts with other dogs. Her first few times may be a bit stressful, so keep your visits short and upbeat. Gradually work toward longer visits. Besides, first-timer dogs will tire very quickly due to the unusual amount of exercise they’ll get.
  • Keep your dog on-leash until you arrive at the gate. Dogs must be leashed when walking up to the gate entrance, and upon leaving the park.
  • Close the gate behind you. While considerate people will hold a door open for someone entering behind them, don’t do this at the dog park, or a dog could slip past you and run away.
  • Remove your pet’s leash as soon as you arrive inside the gate. Mixing leashed and unleashed dogs can make for a very dangerous situation. Leashed dogs and their owners may display body language and behavior that can be interpreted as threatening to free dogs, and may provoke the free dog to respond defensively.
  • Keep walking while you’re in the park. Walking defuses defensive behaviors and helps keep The Barkyard a neutral territory for your dog. This just means he is more likely to pass by another dog easily. Limit the time you spend standing or sitting and chatting. When people congregate, some dogs may become protective of their people and their space, making scuffles more likely.
  • Be aware that all dogs are different and may have different play styles. Educate yourself about canine behavior. Sometimes what you believe is a rambunctious dog is just a different style of dog play. Always respect other dog owners wishes if they are not comfortable with your dog’s interactions. Move to another area of the park for a little while. However, if your dog is bullying, mounting, stalking or just having a bad day, it’s time to leave. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Safety should always be your primary concern.
  • Supervise your animal! Not all dogs like meeting new dogs. If your dog has not regularly interacted with other dogs, find out how he will react before forcing him to meet unfamiliar dogs. And don’t be embarrassed if it’s your dog exhibiting the bad behavior; other owners understand—we’ve all been there.
  • Recognize when your pet is not behaving, and remove him.
  • It’s best to prevent a dogfight before it happens. See the “How to Avoid a Dogfight” and “Dog Body Language 101” sections later in this document.

What you should bring to The Barkyard

  • A leash
  • A collar with your dog’s identification attached
  • Proof of vaccination (especially rabies)
  • At least two poop bags
  • A first-aid kit (this can be left in your car)
  • Citronella spray

What you should not bring to The Barkyard

  • Food or drinks
  • Rawhides and pig ears
  • Choke, prong or spike collars (can injure dogs—or people—when playing)
  • Glass containers
  • Cigarettes
  • Pepper spray
  • Dog treats (it’s best not to bring them, but if you must, please do not give treats to any dog other than your own)
  • Litter

The Barkyard vaccination requirements

Rabies, Distemper and Parvovirus vaccinations are required for all dogs to enter The Barkyard. Bordatella and Leptospirosis vaccinations are recommended. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations.

Typical vaccination schedule recommended by many area veterinarians:

RABIES: All dogs in New York State are required to be vaccinated against rabies. The first vaccine is given when the dog is 12 weeks old, with a booster given one year later. After that, the vaccination is updated every three years.

DHLPP (Distemper / Hepatitis / Leptospirosis / Parvovirus / Parainfluenza): A minimum of two vaccinations are given at eight weeks or older. Puppies must be vaccinated at four-week intervals until they are 20 weeks of age. Adult dogs receive yearly boosters. Many veterinarians use a combination vaccine, which is known as DHLPP.

BORDATELLA (Kennel Cough or Canine Cough): One vaccination is given within one year for all dogs.

TITERS: “Titering” is the practice of testing a blood sample from your dog to determine if there is still enough concentration of antibodies present to keep him safe from disease. Recent research has shown that many dog vaccinations last longer than the minimum one year. If you are following a titer protocol with your veterinarian, you should carry proof of titer just as someone else must provide proof of his or her dog’s vaccinations.

Dog Body-Language 101

This section is not designed to cover everything a dog can communicate, but to give you some indicators to watch for in your pet and other dogs. Keep in mind that many of these are very subtle, and most people are not even aware their dogs are displaying any of these behaviors. Also, keep them in context—dogs growl at each other and at you when they play.

Signs of a happy dog include:

  • A relaxed, happy expression
  • Relaxed body posture
  • Ears relaxed and at the side of the head
  • Lying with one paw tucked under the body
  • Enthusiastic tail wags
  • Easy panting
  • A play bow (front end touching the ground with paws extended, rear end high up in the air with tail wagging)

Signs of a dog who has suddenly become interested include:

  • Ears forward
  • Mouth closed
  • Eyes focused

Signs of extreme interest or arousal include:

  • Dog putting most of his weight on his front paws (body leaning forward)
  • Eyes intense
  • Body tense
  • Tail high (may or may not be wagging)
  • Slow, deliberate tail wag

Dog trainers explain how anxiety triggers the following “calming behaviors,” because the dog is trying to defuse the situation and tell the other dogs “I don’t mean any harm” or “I am scared”:

Signs of an anxious dog include:

  • Yawning when he’s not tired
  • Licking her lips when there’s no food around
  • Sudden scratching or biting at a body part
  • Sudden sniffing of the ground or an object on the ground
  • A shaking-off motion when he’s not wet or dirty
  • Moving away
  • Turning his head away
  • Raising one paw
  • Rolling over and showing her belly (means “please don’t hurt me”)
  • Tail between his legs (he can be standing, walking or running)
  • Ears flat against the head (or sideways for ears that normally stand up)
  • Hiding behind a person or object
  • “Whale-eye” (you see the whites of the dog’s eyes)

Signs of aggression include:

  • Raising a lip to show teeth*
  • Growling (not in play)*
  • Snarling*
  • Air snap (a snap and miss—the dog deliberately means to miss, but he may not miss the next time)
  • Aggressive barking that won’t stop when you ask the dog to be quiet
  • Lunging (not in play)
  • Biting (not in play)
  • Deliberately urinating on another dog or person
  • Raising his tail straight up (this would be hard to see with curly tailed breeds)
  • Constant mounting
  • Stalking and chasing
  • Grabbing another dog by the collar or neck and bringing him to the ground

* These are also actions a dog may take when another dog is pestering, mounting or stalking him, and the pestered dog most likely has already shown some calming behaviors to tell the other dog “leave me alone,” which the other dog is ignoring. If the pestered dog is yours, it’s time to intervene. Move between the dogs and lead your dog away. If it’s your dog showing these signs, remove him from the park. If this happens regularly, contact a professional obedience instructor or behaviorist for help.

Signs that a dog may be preparing to bite include:

  • Freezing, becoming stiff
  • Standing with front legs wide apart, head low and looking straight at another dog or person (there is no “happiness” in the look)
  • Curling of the lip to show teeth (especially if he keeps it curled)
  • Continued growling, snarling or lunging

Watch your dog at play and see if you can spot these indicators. If you’re a good dog watcher, you’ve already picked up on your dog’s emotional state and can intervene to protect your dog at the appropriate times.

Remember those Golden Rules your mother taught you? Many of them apply to dogs as well, especially this one: staring is rude. Stop hard stares between dogs by simply walking between them to break their eye contact.

For more information, visit Doggone Safe, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing dog bites.

Children and dogs

It’s difficult to supervise children and dogs in the same environment. Also, not all dogs are comfortable around children. Many weren’t raised around kids and can become stressed or aroused when there are little kids who toddle and scream in high-pitched tones. Babies worn in carriers or backpacks can be a lure for curious dogs to jump up and investigate them. They’re also at the same eye level as many dogs, which can unwittingly cause a dog to feel challenged.

First and foremost, The Barkyard is a dog park. Our rules are clear: Bring children at your own risk. Children under 15 must be supervised by an adult, and children under 11 are not permitted. If you must bring your child, be sure he or she is within arm’s reach at all times. Also, please leave snacks, stuffed animals and juice boxes at home. Keep the kids out of the way of zooming dogs. Finally, never allow your child to pet any dog without the owner’s permission.

How to avoid a dog fight

It’s best to prevent a dog fight before it happens. Learn four warning signs:

  1. Posture:A dog’s body language can be very overt or extremely subtle, communicating fear, anger, submission or excitement. Learn to read and respond to your pet’s and other dogs’ body language. See the “Dog Body Language 101” section.
  2. Packing: More than three dogs packed together can cause problems. If your dog is part of the pack, break it up by gently leading your dog to another area of the park.
  3. Possession: Whether it’s you, a ball, or a treat, most dogs protect what is theirs. It’s natural, but it can cause problems. Learn the signs of “guarding” behavior.
  4. Provoking: If your dog is continually bothering other dogs, it’s time to leave. There can be many reasons why this happens, but instead of trying to figure that out, remove your dog and come back another time.

What to do if a dog fight occurs

  1. If there is a scuffle, don’t reach your hand out to break up fighting dogs. You could be bitten. Also, the scuffle could be over in the blink of an eye. However, if it isn’t…
  2. Stay calm. It’s easy to get upset if your dog is injured in a dogfight. Emotions bubble up automatically, so try to remain as calm as possible. Yelling and arguing will only add to the frenzy.
  3. Distract the dogs and divert their attention immediately. Squirt water into the dogs’ faces with a water bottle, or throw a jacket over their heads. If your dog is one of the fighters, you can try grabbing his tail. Don’t grab his collar; he could turn around and bite you.
  4. If your dog is not in the fight, make sure he does not join in. Take your dog’s collar quickly and gently, or clip his leash on and lead him away from the fight.
  5. When warranted, exchange contact information with the other dog owners. If you can’t because you must attend to your dog, designate someone else to get the information. Owners are liable for injuries or damage caused by their dogs. This includes injury to another dog or human, no matter how it started.