Dog parks can be a great place to let your pet get exercise and socialize with other pups. With this list of tips, you and your dog can safely enjoy the dog park.

Tip #1: If it is a new park, scope it out with your dog on a leash before releasing him to run. Check to see if it is completely fenced in, if it has a swimming area, and what the other dogs are like.

Tip #2: One of the main controversies with dog parks is the potential for dog fights. It is especially vital for small dog owners to evaluate the other dogs at the park to ensure the safety of their pets. While serious fights are rare, it is important to keep an eye on any size dog.

Tip #3: Know the difference between play fighting and true aggression.  Dogs will rough house, generally with canines of a similar size. Common courtesy should always come into play at a dog park. If your dog or another is getting too aggressive, they should be taken home for the welfare of the other pets there.

Tip #4: Bring towels, a water dish and bottle of water, and several plastic bags. Many dogs will get muddy during their play at the park and towels come in handy to clean them off before letting them in the car again. Some parks provide plastic bags and water dishes, but bags can run out and the water gets dirty quickly so it can be a good idea to bring supplies of your own.

Tip #5: Talk to the other dog owners at the park. They can be a great resource for everything from vets to groomers, and occasionally have great advice about pet owning. The park is a fantastic place to learn about dog related events in the area and maybe arrange play dates or pet sitting for your dog.

Tip #6: Start taking your puppy to dog parks at a young age. Socialization early in life will help your dog get used to other pets and learn to play well. It’s a great way to burn off some of that puppy energy, too!