Bringing your dog to the dog park can seem like a dual-edged sword. On one hand, it’s nice to see dogs playing together and may allow for you and your pet to meet some new friends. On the other hand, one bad experience can change your pup’s life forever. Here’s a checklist of the do’s and dont’s of taking your pet to the dog park!
- Talk to your veterinarian ahead of time: You will want to be sure that your pet is up-to-date on all vaccines and that his or her overall health is good. With so many dogs in one place, canine diseases and parasites can quickly spread from one dog to the next. You will also want to make sure your pet is on monthly flea and heartworm prevention to prevent these parasites from infecting your pet.
- Exercise your dog before hand: While the dog park seems like the perfect place to tire your pet out, it can backfire very easily. If your pet has been cooped up all day and is loaded with energy, taking him or her to an overstimulating dog park can be like lighting the fuse to a stick of dynamite. Burning off that excess energy before heading to the dog park will provide a much better experience for you and your pet.
- Pay attention to your dog: While talking to other pet owners is a chance for us to be social, you must keep tabs on your pet. Keeping an eye on them will keep them safe and out of trouble. (This also means to not be on your phone the whole time while at the dog park.)
- Clean up after your pet: This may seem redundant, but many owners forget to do this. Fecal material can contain a wide variety of diseases that can infect other dogs in the park. Plus, no human wants to step in dog poop. So when keeping an eye on your pet, be sure to clean up after them to.
- Interrupt any rough play: Whether your dog started it or another dog did, be ready to step in on any play that’s getting a bit to rough. Some dogs’ idea of “play” is different than others, and we don’t want any dog to feel threatened or get hurt.
- Put your dog in a “time-out” if he/she is getting too rough: Leashing your dog and taking him or her outside for a few moments to calm down after getting too pushy can benefit your dog as well as the other dogs in the park.
- Bring water: While most parks provide a water supply and bowls, bringing your own is always a good option. Keeping your pet hydrated is key to them having a good experience at the park.
- Check for intact male dogs: While most parks do not allow intact dogs inside, there are often not attendants checking each pet’s medical records or private areas. Intact male dogs are more likely to feel threatened and act more aggressively. Another issue is that if you have a female dog, the intact male may persist on mounting her-which is not what you or your female dog wants.
- Leave if you feel uncomfortable: It does not matter if the discomfort or unsafe feelings are caused by other humans, other dogs, or your own dog in the park. If you believe your dog or yourself is in any kind of danger, leave. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
- Do not bring puppies under 4 month old or unvaccinated dogs to the park: Puppies under 4 months are not old enough to have received all of their vaccinations and are still susceptible to lethal illnesses like parvo, distemper, and more. Unvaccinated dogs regardless of their age are capable of dying from these diseases that may linger in the park even though most of the dogs their are immune due to vaccines.
- Do not bring anxious or aggressive dogs: If your pet is very easily stressed out, the dog park may not be the place for him or her. Lots of other dogs can be very overwhelming and lead to a miserable time for your pet. If you’re not sure how your pet will react, you can try testing out the dog park during off-peak hours or non-optimal weather days when fewer dogs are at the park. If your pet is prone to resource guarding, territorial aggression, or toy aggression, the dog park is not a good place. These behaviors can lead to two (or more) dogs fighting with potential injuries and no one wants their canine family member to get hurt.
- Do not bring an intact dog regardless of gender: It does not matter if your pet is male or female; if he or she is not neutered/spayed, you should not bring him or her to the dog park. It only takes a moment for a female to become pregnant and with all of the homeless dogs in the nation, an unintentional litter is not what you or the dog population needs.
- Do not allow your dog to rush to greet a newcomer at the gate: Being greeted by several stranger dogs can be extremely stressful and downright scary for a newcomer to the dog park. Call your dog away from the enterance when someone new is approaching.
- Do not pick up your dog: A quick, vertical movement of you scooping up your pup can be seen by other dogs as a “treeing behavior” and cause their prey drive to kick in. This can lead to them knocking you over or even biting you. If you need to remove your dog from a situation, you can ask for help from other owners and get both dogs leashed and away from each other.
- Do not use treats with other dogs around: Just because your dog is not food aggressive doesn’t mean every dog at the park is. Using treats will grab the attention of every dog in the park-not just yours-which can lead to chaotic behavior.
We want every pet to have a safe and fun time at the dog park. Here at Sandstone Animal Hospital, we carry all of the vaccines to keep your pet immune from canine diseases like rabies, distemper, parvo, bordetella, leptospirosis, lyme, and more! If you find that your pet is stressed out by the dog park, you can try other activities (like hiking or swimming) instead. Which of these tips will benefit you and your pet the most? Let us know in the comments below!