Everyone loves the dog park. It’s useful for socialization if you’ve only got one pup, and it’s fun for your dog and you alike: a joyous madness of barking, chasing, running, and leaping. But there’s also a lot to worry about.
To make sure the both of you have a good time, you have to keep safe — with your own dog, and from other dogs and dog owners. There are a lot of ways you can do that, and plenty of common sense precautions you can take at the dog park.
Don’t Bring An Unaltered Dog
Females in heat can increase the conflicts between other dogs, says Vet Street, and up the risk of unintentional puppies. As for unaltered males, they tend to be in more danger from their neutered counterparts, who can act with extreme aggression towards them. My enormous German Shepherd is only two, and remains unaltered as of yet to prevent bone density problems later in life. I keep him on total dog park ban. I recommend you do the same to your uncut boy.
Choose A Small Dog/Big Dog Park
A 100 lb. German Shepherd may be all fun and games, but it easily could hurt a 10 lb. dachshund in play. Big dogs, especially sighthounds, may also see smaller dogs as prey items rather than fellow canines. And if you biggie has never been around tiny dogs, you simply don’t know how he’ll react: and the dog park, with someone else’s dog, is not the place to find out. Of course, this goes both ways — if you’ve got a smaller dog, there’s no need to find out what happens around the big boys.
Follow Leash Rules
Don’t take it off in the parking lot. Would you take your dog’s leash off in any other parking lot? Don’t remove it in any other designated leash area: your dog might rush up to a leashed dog and frighten them into aggressive behavior, because dogs are meant to meet off-leash, not on. And when you come to the holding pen that directs you to remove your dog’s leash, do it, for the same reasons. Dogs have an intricate dance they do to introduce each other. Letting your leash muddle it up is a recipe for canine aggression and reactivity.
Leave Your Stuff
Take only the minimum amount of things that you need into the park. That’s going to vary, depending on you and your dog, but it’s easy to say that you don’t need that giant mom purse. Leave it locked in the trunk and carry a wrist wallet instead. This prevents theft and gives you free hands to deal with your pup.
Bring A Water Bowl
According to WebMD, parasites can be spread through feces and shared water bowls. You don’t want those nasties in your dog’s system, so keep him away from the communal watering hole. They make easy-collapsing fabric bowls for just this purpose.
You can chat a bit, but keep your eyes on your pooch. Make sure he isn’t exhibiting anti-social behavior — playing too roughly, for example, humping other dogs (a big no), or worst of all, fighting. Just in case, make sure you may want to have some kind of deterrent or an airhorn on hand to break up fights — you should not be doing this by hand, which will end with getting bitten. It’s best to get a read on all the dogs in the park. If they seem overly aggressive or reactive, pull your dog pronto. This is supposed to be fun, not stressful.
Bring A Trained Dog
Your dog should have a rock-solid sit, leave it, and recall to go to the dog park — with a recall being the most important. This is not the time to test his training. And according to Mother Nature Network, make sure you take off all prong collars and harnesses before you let him loose — a simple collar is enough. These are where most dogs direct their nips and nibbles, and can lead to their teeth getting caught. If a dog can’t get loose, it can hurt them — think broken teeth — or precipitate a gargantuan dog fight that’s really hard to break up.
Leave Little Kids At Home
They can get knocked over, injured, or seen as potential prey items. Even older kids should be supervised as carefully as the dog (in fact, out of all my children, I’d only feel comfortable bringing my oldest to a dog park, and he’s 8).
Leave At The First Sign Of Trouble
Have you seen an aggressive dog? Aggression from your dog? Play that’s getting too rough, owners not supervising their pets, or dogs that won’t leave you alone for your treats? It’s time to go. Any signs of fear or discomfort in your dog should be taken very, very seriously: that’s when things start to go downhill.
Dog parks can be fun. Be safe. Follow the rules. Don’t bring your dog’s prized stuffies and expect him to share. Have a deterrent to break up fights, and make sure your dog comes when called. But most of all: if it’s no longer fun for you or your dog, it’s time to leave.