Owners take their leashed dogs hiking in Meadowdale Beach park earlier this month. Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times

dogleash1.jpgOwners take their leashed dogs hiking in Meadowdale Beach park earlier this month. Photo by Mark Harrison / The Seattle Times

steveandflavio.jpgSeattle pet behaviorist and author Steve Duno discusses pet etiquette in public parks in the first of a three-part series on pets etiquette and safety/health issues in parks and off-leash areas.

When I take my dog Rico to Magnuson Park’s off-leash dog area, he generally has the time of his life. Save for the occasional grumpy old cur who can’t abide Rico’s swashbuckling ways, he does okay, and usually sleeps well that night. It’s a park for dogs to learn some needed social skills, and exercise their bodies, minds and senses.

But when I take Rico to a regular public park such as Green Lake, a new set of rules must apply. It’s not his place, it’s ours — humans, that is. Rico’s just along for the ride, and must obey a different, more structured set of rules if he’s to get along, and be asked back. And, as his owner, I too must abide by a more comprehensive set of regulations and behaviors, if I’m to be welcomed back.

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Etiquette matters. Who wants to go for a nice walk around Green Lake, only to have a trio of jumpy mutts rush up and make a try for one’s ice cream cone? Or, while walking, step into an unholy mess that should have been picked up and disposed of by a courteous owner? Not me.

In any regular community park, people have dominion. Though dogs can certainly be present (as long as local rules allow), really, it’s a place for people to relax and enjoy themselves. Doing so might certainly involve having one’s trusty dog along, but only if the pet is kept on leash, and made to behave in a civil, non-confrontational manner.

Unfortunately, dog owners sometimes forget etiquette, making public parks a stressful experience, instead of a relaxation. Disobeying leash laws, failing to clean up after their dogs, or even taking antisocial pets into park environs and risking an aggressive event- these are but a few of the etiquette gaffes.