Most dogs enjoy an off-leash romp at the park. Dogs are very social animals, and a dog park can be a fun place to take your pooch.Accidents and dog fights do happen at dog parks, but by following a few safety tips, you can lessen the chances of a bad day at the park.
Check out the park ahead of time; dogless. Try and feel the vibe, the rules, and see how busy it is. Be sure it has a double-gated entry and that the fencing is high enough to keep the dogs in. There should be separate areas for small dogs and big dogs. Check to see if it has water available and if people are watching their dogs.
Do not take a dog to a dog park that has poor social skills or is shy or nervous, that’s a recipe for disaster. Dog parks are not for puppies, and you need to go carefully with older dogs too, they are more apt to be injured.
Make sure your first few visits are during off hours, so your dog gets used to off-leash play. Be sure to watch both your dog and the others for signs of aggression. Because canine play often looks and sounds aggressive, you need to know exactly what to watch for. The second link at the end of this article goes over what play and aggression can look like.
Even the sweetest dogs can escalate during play, so after a few minutes of energetic play call your dog away and let him settle down a bit.
Here are a few more tips:
- Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
- No choke or prong collars, flat nylon or leather only.
- Bring poopy bags to pick up after your buddy.
- Remove your dog’s leash inside the park; leash aggression is common at dog parks.
- If water isn’t available, bring your own.
- Have treats but don’t feed other dogs unless you ask their people.
- If a fight breaks out, do NOT get in the middle of it. Throw a coat or blanket on the fight or turn the hose on the fighters. Often an air horn will stop a dogfight (they make small airhorns, but they are still loud!)
- Don’t bring young kids to the park and don’t play with other dogs unless you ask.
- Remember not all dogs love a dog park, so if your dog is showing signs that they are uncomfortable, just take them home.
As your Pet Sitter I’m required to complete 30 biannual CEU course hours. I recently completed a course entitled “What Petsitters Need to Know about Insurance” which noted the most common claims were for health costs related to bites (to pet professionals and owners) resulted from dog fights. They reinforced not trying to stop dog fights physically.
Try a local park after you’ve checked it out and see if your canine companion enjoys it, but watch your dog at the park just like you would watch your child.