Dog parks are a popular solution for ever-growing cities with ever more restrictive leash laws. And you’ll find that taking your pet to the dog park has many benefits, including social interaction (for both of you), plus physical and mental stimulation. Some dog parks are even known for building strong communities.
Unfortunately, although dog parks are supposed to be fun, oftentimes they’re not. The outcome can sometimes be dangerous and even have the potential to “ruin” your dog. But if you keep these five tips in mind, you can ensure a safe environment for your pet and avoid traumas that could interrupt development or cause bad habits to set in.
Tip #1: Check to See If the Park Is Right for You and Your Dog
I recommend visiting the dog park before deciding to let your dog run off leash and engage in playtime with other dogs. Just like when we visit new neighborhoods and towns, we need to be aware of the individuals who hang out at the dog park. Next, take into consideration your own pet. Is your dog shy around other animals, or does he or she enjoy the extra energy and activity they offer? Is the dog park fenced off? If so, is the fence high enough to keep your dog from jumping it? Does the dog park seem overcrowded? Is there shade? Is your dog too small for this dog park? Once you determine the dog park is the right fit, take it slow. Possibly walk your dog before entering the park to decrease the buildup of energy from the drive, the confinement of being home all day, and the excitement of leaving the house. Make sure you take water, poop bags, and a leash. Try to avoid treats and toys as they can invite possessive or aggressive behavior and unwanted pawing and begging.
Tip #2: Pay Attention
Once inside the park, your main responsibility is to pay attention, not only to your dog but also to the other dogs at the park. Notice their body language. A relaxed dog will have the ears up rather than forward, head held high, mouth slightly open with tongue exposed, tail down and relaxed. Some red flags to look for when it comes to a dominant or aggressive behavior are a wrinkled nose, curled lips, visible teeth and gums, raised and bristled tail, and erect hair on the back. These are all signals that it’s a good time to remove your dog from the situation. If small enough, simply pick him or her up. If your dog is fearful or assertive, you may notice the body is lowered, the hair on the back is standing up, the tail is tucked, the pupils are dilated, and the ears are back. At this point your dog isn’t happy and isn’t enjoying the dog park. It’s time to leave.
Tip #3: Know When to Avoid the Dog Park
Puppies under the age of six months that haven’t been vaccinated or socialized shouldn’t be at the dog park. At this age they’re very hard to control, and their immune system isn’t developed enough for this kind of exposure. If your female dog is in heat, definitely don’t bring her to the dog park. She’ll be preyed upon, and she may even cause aggressive behavior among other dogs. It’s best to leave her at home during those two to three weeks.
Tip #4: Know How to Handle a Dog Fight
Despite our best efforts, fights do occasionally break out at the dog park. Make sure you’re ready. Instead of jumping right in and grabbing your beloved dog, give it a moment. Most dog fights end as quickly as they start. However, if it goes on for a few seconds, try to separate the animals with a hose, water pistol, or stick. Whatever you do, don’t step in with your hands as you’re sure to get bit. If the dogs are still fighting after about three seconds, you and the other owners should approach your dogs from the rear. If you grab them by the back legs at the top of the hip line and lift them up like a wheelbarrow, you can move them back without getting bit. Don’t reach for the collar if your dog can accidentally bite you.
Tip #5: Be Considerate of Others
It’s simply good manners to scoop up after your dog does his or her business. A lot of diseases and parasites live in dog feces that other dogs can come in contact with if they touch it, role in it, or even, unfortunately, eat it. If your dog likes to dig, discourage this practice and fill in any holes he or she may have already dug. Leave the two-legged kiddos at home, both for their safety and the safety of any dogs that aren’t accustomed to small children.
Whether or not the dog park is right for you and your pet, the most important thing is your dog’s health. A happy dog is a healthy dog. This starts with a well-balanced diet and supplements from Standard Process that support the nutritional gap we see too often in our pets’ food intake. I recommend Canine Immune System Support to provide nutritional and biochemical support for healthy immune cells and tissues and optimal immune system function. Along with that, I recommend Canine Whole Body Support to provide general multisystem support for daily maintenance of all body systems, with an emphasis on a healthy endocrine system. It’s an excellent nutritional foundation for use with all other system-support formulas. Together, these two products make for a great combination of nutritional support for any dog that goes frolicking at the dog park.