Dog Parks: Safety, Health, and Humans

Dog Parks: Safety, Health, and Humans

Dog parks are a great way to exercise and socialize your dog! There are other dogs to play with, people to meet, and new games to play! But, when we go to the park there are a few rules that should be followed by everyone, and especially by new visitors.

  1. Exercise your dog first. The park should be a fun part of the day, but introducing an over-excited dog into an unknown group can cause problems. Go for a ten to fifteen minute walk or run before entering the park.
  2. Bring water (and be prepared to share). Not every park has faucets for the dogs, so bring some extra water for your pooch.
  3. Do not use the park as a “test zone” for your new dog. This is not the place to “see how he’s gonna do” with other dogs or people. New introductions should always be done in a controlled and safe setting, and control is not always the milestone of the dog park. Additionally, puppies should not be younger than four months to enter the park! Only at this age are they fully vaccinated, and they’re big enough to be properly introduced to any number of stranger dogs (who will react differently to pups than adults).
  4. Don’t bring food. Food attracts a lot of attention and energy at the park, and despite good intentions, you may find yourself in the middle of a dog fight thanks to the bacon strips you brought for your pup.
  5. Ask, “Whose dog is this?” if someone’s dog is being too rough or too excited with your dog. It may feel awkward, but don’t worry about being “that” pet parent. Trust me, the rest of the park is probably wondering where the rude kid’s parents are. Guardians should keep tabs on their dogs and their behavior. Rough play quickly escalates into fights or common injuries when not monitored. (Additionally, don’t be afraid to go get your dog if he or she is the one being unruly. Take him or her aside to a quiet part of the park, and do something just the two of you for a bit. Over-stimulation is a real thing, and it can be helped.)

Side note: Children need to be kept close to parents and under control. Believe it or not, I’ve seen more accidents happen in the dog park when kids are involved than anything. Over-excited children can cause a change in the dogs; and if that child gets knocked down, it’s not always easy to get him or her out from under the happy tails and stomping paws. Children should be told their own rules at the park, including staying close to their guardians and always asking before petting stranger dogs.

Dogs who go to the park should be fully vaccinated and on parasite prevention. Unvaccinated dogs not only run the risk of getting sick, but of contaminating the park for others. When you leave the park, it’s a good idea to use a baby or pet wipe to clean your dog off as well. You’d have your kids wash their hands after a visit to the playground, right? This is the same idea.

Know your community when you go to the park, too. I’ve been in some great clean parks which have a crowd of responsible patrons. I’ve also been in parks that are well-known for fights, unruly dogs, and guardians who would rather be on the phone than making sure their dog is a good addition to the park. If your local park is one of the unruly ones, feel free to contact whoever funds the park or maintains it about getting some guidelines up. Create a watch group, as ridiculous as that may sound, to help keep your park fun and safe.
Dog parks are a great addition to any community. Help keep it fun, safe, and happy for your dog and his pals!