Dog parks are great in concept, however, the unfortunate reality is more often than not, dog parks can cause more harm than good. Even if your dog is lucky enough not to get bullied or attacked, he or she may pick up bad play habits that could potentially get him or her into trouble down the road.
If you must visit a dog park, here are some helpful tips to minimize issues. Also, before you go, download the App “Dog Park Assistant” by renowned trainer Sue Sternberg. It will help you during your visit.
Dog Park Safety Tips
Tip#1: The first time you visit a dog park go without your dog.
This will allow you to get a feel for the general landscape and facilities. Also, go on different days to determine the best day/time for your dog.
Tip#2: Be smart. Don’t just rush in.
Stay off to the side and observe the dogs and their owners before entering the park. If owners aren’t paying attention to their dogs, if there is a bully or too much rough play, don’t risk your dog’s mental or physical safety. It’s not worth it.
Tip#3: Once you determine it’s safe to enter, make a quiet entrance.
If dogs are crowding the gate, don’t go in. Many fights at dog parks occur as a result of improper entry. Let your dog sniff through the gate and wait until the other dogs get bored. Once the coast is clear, make sure your dog is calm. Then quietly enter and take your dog’s leash off just prior to going in.
Tip#4: Pay attention!
No one likes a latte more than me, but it’s just not the right place for a steaming cup of Joe. Cellphones are also not great for this environment. You can’t ensure your dog’s safety if you are distracted. Be in the moment with your dog.
Tip#5: Be your dog’s advocate.
Always stop any questionable interactions. Go with your gut. If it doesn’t seem right, IT ISN”T. Don’t be embarrassed or worry about what other people think about you. Your dog is more important than a stranger’s opinion.
Tip#6: If there is a water source like a pond or lake, make sure it is clean and debris-free.
Also, make sure that the other swimming dogs are using good manners. Some dogs jump on top of other dogs while swimming. This is a potential for disaster. Dogs can and have drowned at dog parks, so be very careful about where and with whom your dog swims.
Tip#7: There is no way of knowing if the other dogs are vaccinated or have good temperaments.
Some dogs may be toy possessive, food or water possessive, or even aggressive. For this reason, it is usually best not to take treats or toys with you. Some dogs are not spayed or neutered, which can be a problem for obvious reasons. There is a risk of injury and illness every time you go to a dog park.
Tip#8: Bring a can of Direct Stop (citronella spray) or a soda can with coins to break up any fights.
Direct Stop is not harmful, it just interrupts the dogs briefly, giving you time to intervene. Shaking a soda can full of coins will also startle the dogs. NEVER, EVER GRAB THE COLLAR OF DOGS THAT ARE FIGHTING. YOU WILL LIKELY BE BITTEN.
Tip#8: Form a group of doggie friends.
If your dog already has some doggie friends or once you meet compatible dogs at the park, schedule times to meet when the park isn’t busy. Or go during off-peak times, so your dog can run with a few other dogs.
Tip#9: Talk to a trainer or research appropriate play behaviors and dog body language.
This way, you’ll know what is healthy and beneficial for your dog and what is not. Don’t allow play to get out of control. Interrupt play regularly, get your dog’s attention, and then let her go back and play.
Tip#10: Practice your obedience.
Dog parks are a great place to add distractions to your training routine.
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