There are many pet owners who take their pups for a romp in the park, both responsible and irresponsible when it comes to dog park safety. As a pet owner, I steer away from these establishments, however for those who choose to visit off-leash play sites, here are some safety pointers.
Dog parks are a great way to provide your pup with exercise and to utilize their socialization skills. They provide owners with a place to allow the release of puppy energy from perhaps being indoors all day, or living without a backyard. It is important to scope out the dog park before heading there with your pooch. Take note of the cleanliness of the park, if there is accessible water for dogs to drink, are there areas for small and large dogs to play separately with a double-gated entry, and how attentive are the owners to their dogs’ whereabouts and behaviors.
There are risks when allowing your dog to play and dog park safety is something to keep in mind. While wild dogs join together in packs, more socialized dogs may not always be ready to step into a playing field of unknown paws. As people do not mix and mingle with every person they meet on the street, dogs may not be ready to mix and mingle with ‘strangers’ either. Dog aggression can come out at any given time, as every situation that presents itself is generally always different. Pet owners often say, “My dog has never bitten anyone.” There’s a first time for everything. The risks that can happen at the dog park according to Dr. Becker of Healthy Pets include:
- sprains and soft tissue injuries
- lacerations or bite wounds
- a kennel cough or upper respiratory infection
- insect bites
- hyperthermia or heat stroke
In 2015, one pet insurance company reportedly paid out more than $10 million on dog park-related medical conditions, with soft tissue injury and sprains topping the list at 24,000 claims.
One of the biggest pet peeves when it comes to dog park safety is the presence of inattentive owners. As owners tend to let their dog run free around the park, it is important for them to also make their pet follow commands. A dogs behavior can get out of hand as they sense the freedom they have. Once a pup who would come when called will now ignore their owner and be disobedient. This is the fault of the owner for allowing the pet to play without intervention. Also, owners that do not pay attention to their dogs will also miss their signs of aggression, submission, and lack of feeling safe if their pup is being bullied. This can be harmful to the pet-parent relationship as the pup is looking to their owner for protection.
One thing that is real is leash frustration. We have all either seen or experienced that dog who pulls the owner who is holding their leash down the street. As the pup continues to pull, the owner continues to pull back, commanding the dog to stop. These behaviors are a catch-22 as this only gets the pup more and more excited to enter the dog park. This excitement, however, may result in something more physical, as in a dog fight.
- Do check out the entrance before entering to make sure dogs aren’t congregating there.
- Do pay close attention to your dog’s play style, interrupting if necessary to calm your dog down.
- Do move around the park so that you can keep an eye on your dog.
- Do remove your dog if they appear afraid.
- Do remove your dog if it is bullying others.
- Do respect your dog’s wish to leave.
- Do leave special toys at home to avoid resource guarding problems.
- Do know how to break up a dog fight by pulling the hind legs of each pet to separate them.
- Do not allow your dog to enter the park if there is a “gang” right next to the entrance.
- Do not believe that dogs can “work it out” if you just let them do so.
- Do not stand in one area at the park and chat with other owners without watching your own dog.
- Do not let your frightened dog remain in the park and hope things get better.
- Do not listen to other attendees in the park, who may not understand your dog’s needs.
- Do not assume a dog is aggressive when it is only trying to communicate its discomfort.
- Do not bring food into the park.
- Do not bring a dog who is sick or in heat to the park as this can cause aggression.
Pin Paws provides pet insurance to protect your pocketbook should something happen at the dog park, also providing a way for you to store all veterinarian records online in your pet’s profile. That way, should something happen at the dog park, you have immediate access to all medical records, most importantly their rabies vaccination.