Dog parks can be a great way to social your dog. But they can also be unsafe if proper measure aren't taken. The following tips are to help you keep your dog safe and happy at the park.
- KNOW YOUR DOG - Not all dogs enjoy meeting new dogs. Don't overwhelm your dog by letting him meet too many dogs at once. If your dog has not interacted regularly with other dogs, perform a test run in a controlled environment to find out how he will react to unfamiliar dogs.
- KEEP YOUR DOG HEALTHY - Be sure your dog isn't vulnerable to picking up infections from other dogs by keeping him up to date on his vaccinations and worming medications.
- OBSERVE - Consider visiting the park without your dog for the first time to familiarize yourself with the park and the dogs that play there. Before bringing your dog inside the park, spend a few minutes watching the other dogs and how they interact before you decide to allow your dog inside.
- START OUT SLOW - The first few visits to the dog park should be short, no longer than 15 minutes. Slowly increase the length of your stays as your dog becomes more comfortable with the dog park atmosphere.
- CHOSE A TIME THAT IS LESS BUSY - Weekday evenings are peak, high-traffic times at dog parks. Weekends and holidays tend to be busy all day long.
- CLOSELY SUPERVISE YOUR DOG - Don't get distracted while talking to other owners. Keep an eye on your dog at all times to make sure his interactions with other dogs are safe. Watch his body language to help you avoid any trouble before it begins. Watching his actions also enables you to quick;y clean up after your pet, which is both courteous and appreciated.
- LET YOUR DOG OFF LEASH AS SOON AS YOU ENTER UNLEASHED AREAS - Mixing leashed and unleashed dogs can create a hostile situation. A leashed dog cannot make the choice his natural instinct tells him to "fight or flight" - if he cannot take flight, he may have to fight.
- POTENTIAL HAZARDS - Be aware of potential hazards that may be in the park, such as toxic chemicals, garbage or noxious plants. Be sure to wash any chemicals, such as fertilizer or pesticides, off your dog's feet and legs to ensure they aren't licked and ingested.
- LEAVE CHILDREN AT HOME - Don't bring children with you to the dog park. You will not safely be able to watch your kids and your dog at the same time. Dogs and children both frighten and excite easily - and react differently - creating a dangerous atmosphere.
- LEAVE SMALL PUPPIES AT HOME - Puppies less than four months old aren't fully immunized yet and are at higher risk for contracting diseases. They are also very vulnerable to being traumatized by another dog's aggressive behavior.
- DO NOT BRING TOYS OR FOOD - Most parks are already littered with balls and toys that other people have brought. Rewarding your dog with treats or giving him toys in front of other dogs can create jealousy and aggression.
- BODY LANGUAGE - Educate yourself about dog body language and communication signals so you can tell the difference between fear, play and anger.
- KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE - Keep your dog's welfare a top priority. You should remove your dog from the park if he:
- Is being threatened or bullied
- Seems fearful
- Begins to display aggressive behavior by becoming overexcited or threatening toward other dogs
- Begins panting heavily
- Seems overly tired.
- DO NOT PHYSICALLY INTERVENE IN A DOG FIGHT - Never 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.
- PREVENT INJURIES - Be aware of the signs of a possible dog fight before it might happen. If your dog injures a person or dog, give your name and phone number to the injured party. Report to law enforcement authorities any handlers who refuse to take liability for damages/injuries and who are endangering the safety of others.
- Bark Busters Home Dog Training
Renee Jackson from Canine Craze also shared some valuable dog behavior and safety tips which were captured at the Ankeny Dog Park Open House event on June 18, 2011
Last updated: 3/1/2012 2:52:45 PM