It may seem like a great idea to take your dog to the dog park. The weather is getting better and he can play and socialize with other dogs.
What most dog owners don’t think about is the dog park is there are some hazards lurking in a dog park for both you and your dog, particularly if they allow the dogs to roam off leash. Here some tips to keep both of you safe and well protected at the park.
- Basic commands. Before you even venture to a dog park, make sure your dog responds to the command “come”. Although you can’t control what other dogs may do, it is imperative you have control of your own dog. In fact, you might want to visit the park the first time without your dog so you can familiarize yourself with the park and the dogs that play there. Make sure the park is well maintained and that dog owners clean up after their dogs. Avoid parks that are riddled with weeds, dog poop or mud pits. Keep the first few visits to the dog park short. No longer than 15 minutes. Then you can increase how long you stay as your dog gets more comfortable.
- Closely supervise your dog. It is best not to take your eye off your dog. Try not to get distracted by talking to other dog owners, because in a split second your dog could be facing an aggressive dog. Check your dog’s body language to help you avoid any trouble before it starts. You know your dog better than anyone. Not all dogs love other dogs nor do they socialize well with other dogs.
- Look for potential hazards. Be aware of any potential hazards that may be in the park, such as toxic chemicals, garbage or noxious plants. If the park has just been sprayed for weeds or fertilized, avoid it for at least 24 hours. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on all vaccinations and worm medication.
- Leave small puppies at home. Puppies less than four months old aren’t fully immunized yet and are at a higher risk for contracting diseases. They are extremely vulnerable to being traumatized by another dog’s aggressive behavior. Also, many parks have separate areas for big dogs and small dogs. Many large dogs like to play rough and lunge at all dogs.
- Let your dog off leash as soon as you enter unleashed areas. Mixing leashed and unleashed dogs can lead to a hostile situation. A leashed dog may not know if he is supposed to “fight or flight” – if he cannot take flight, he may have to fight. Also, if you keep him on his leash, he could get his leash tangled up with another dog, and one or both of them could get hurt.
- Know when to leave. Like a good party, you have to take the cue to leave. If your dog is afraid, tired, threatened or overexcited, leave so you both don’t have a bad experience. Keep your dog’s welfare a top priority. As soon as you sense that your dog is not having fun, then it’s time to leave. Dog parks can be a source of over-stimulation for some dogs (like sensitive or shy dogs).
And never, ever reach in to break up fighting dogs. Squirt the dogs in the face with a water bottle or try to distract them by throwing something near them. Never intervene.
Bark Busters wants you and your dog to have a safe and happy experience.