Dog parks are an excellent way for your dog to get some freedom, exercise, and playtime with doggie friends. Here are some tips to make sure your dog park visits are a safe and fun experience for everyone.
The first rule is simple: if your dog does not like other dogs, then it does not belong in a dog park! The dog park is not an appropriate place to socialize fearful or aggressive dogs. Rather, the overwhelming experience will just reinforce to your dog that other dogs are scary and no fun to be around.
Dogs that frequent the dog park should be up-to-date on vaccines. Flea prevention and regular deworming is also a must. Make sure to pick up after your dog immediately to prevent the transmission of intestinal parasites from fecal material.
Before entering the dog park, take a moment to observe what is going on. If you are uncomfortable with the dynamic of the dogs inside, return at another time. Your dog’s first dog park visit should be at a quiet time. This will prevent your dog from being overwhelmed. It is dog park etiquette to call your dog away from the entrance when new dogs enter so that the new dog is not greeted by a mob causing it to feel threatened.
Puppies should not go to dog parks. Puppies will be at risk of picking up parasites and diseases like parvovirus, since they are not fully vaccinated and have immature immune systems. As well, puppies will not be fluent in ‘dog speak’ and may inadvertently cause fights when they are rude to older dogs. A puppy’s smaller stature and immature musculoskeletal system make them prone to injury when rough-housing with larger dogs. If a puppy has a bad experience with other dogs during their sensitive period they may grow up not liking dogs at all. The best way to socialize your puppy with other dogs is at a positive-reinforcement based puppy class where play and control exercises are balanced. Another good way to socialize your puppy is with friendly, well-behaved dogs belonging to friends and family members.
Your dog should come reliably whenever you call him before you even consider taking your dog to the dog park. It is embarrassing and frustrating to have to chase your dog all over the park when it’s time to leave!
Never take your eyes off of your dog. If your dog is being bullied or being a bully he or she should leave the park. Not all dogs like each other. If a particular mix of dogs is not working out, it is best to leave before there is a problem. We regularly treat minor bite wounds from dog park disagreements, but if there is a large size difference between dogs, more serious injuries can be incurred.
Have fun with your dog at the dog park, but remember to keep safety in mind.