A Walk in the Park: Creating a Safe and Enjoyable Dog Park Experience
Dog parks can present several benefits for our canine companions. From opportunities to socialize to essential mental and physical engagement, our dogs thoroughly enjoy those daily or weekly dog park excursions. But, there is a caveat: dog parks can also be sources of dog fights and irresponsibility on the part of pet owners.
Whether you’re new to the dog park routine or are simply looking for some tips to make your dog’s social experiences more enjoyable, we will cover some dog park basics that are often overlooked or ignored.
Is Your Dog Ready for the Dog Park?
One of the first and most important questions to ask yourself when considering taking your dog to a dog park is: is my dog ready?
By ready, we mean spayed or neutered, current on all of his or her vaccinations, and having had previous obedience and socialization classes, as well as some experience with strange pets and their owners. If your dog doesn’t know basic commands, for example, he or she may be at risk for escape, dog fights, or getting into unknown substances left behind at the park.
While your pet may be the Queen or King of Manners at home, a sudden introduction to a group dynamic may turn her or him into a bully. Some dogs also experience fear or issues related to resource guarding (protecting you or a coveted Frisbee, for example) when they have not been properly socialized. To be safe rather than sorry, get to know your dog’s social behavior and temperament and ensure he or she gets those valuable training skills needed to keep everyone safe.
Avoid taking young puppies (under 6 months of age), dogs who have not been spayed/neutered, ill or geriatric dogs with mobility challenges, or unvaccinated dogs to an open dog park.
Dog Guardian Etiquette
A great dog park experience doesn’t simply rest with well-behaved pooches. Responsible pet guardians can determine a good dog park experience through responsible dog ownership and general etiquette. To be among the dog park dog owner champions, practice these must-dos before making the dog park a part of your spring routine.
- Clean up after your dog (scoop the poop)
- Gradually introduce your dog to other dogs and their guardians, avoiding the “rush to greet” at the gate or an overly excited (and rude) series of pant leg jumps
- Bring plenty of water, but leave the favorite treats at home – coveted snacks and toys can sometimes instigate a resource guarding situation that leads to aggression
- Observe your pet at all times and step in when you see your pet become fearful or – opposite to this – a bit too domineering (humping is not OK, since it is a show of dominance)
- Avoid advice-giving or punishing other owners’ dogs
- Read up on dog behavior so you can better identify playing behaviors, which might include a bit of barking, tug of war, mouthing, or wrestling, versus more serious forms of aggression or dominance. Never let your dog “bully” another and don’t be afraid to simply remove your dog from the park if you sense he or she isn’t having fun or is fearful.
Please also keep in mind that if your dog is bitten or attacked, it’s important to seek emergency veterinary care. Even if it appears to not be serious, infection and internal injuries that are not visible to the eye need to be ruled out.
Other Socialization Options
Some pet owners prefer skipping the park altogether in favor of doggie daycare or other professionally supervised social situations. Animal Family Veterinary Care Center has such a dog-friendly and fun option at Camp Canine, your dog’s summer camp (complete with slides, tunnels, and two pools!).
Camp Canine is a safe alternative to open dog parks where diseases, parasites, and dog fight dangers are more common. For busy professionals, doggie daycare is a great way to give your dog some much needed social interaction, along with playtime fun, and exercise.
To register your best friend or to learn more, please give us a call.