With longer, warmer, spring days ahead, dog parks get crowded with pet-parents and their dogs. While these parks can be a great place to let your canine companion romp freely, chase balls and socialize with other dogs, it does come with some risks. Here are 10 tips how to keep your dog safe when visiting a dog park.
Before You Go
1. Is your dog a dog-park-dog? It is important to recognize that not all dogs share a love for the dog park. If your dog is fearful, acts aggressive or threatening to other dogs or people, then opt to take your companion on another outdoor activity instead.
Behavior technician, Zoe Knox says “Dog parks are for dogs who are already social and enjoy the company of multiple other dogs. Dog parks should not be used as a tool to attempt to socialize your adult dog. If you would like to work on your dog’s social skills that should be done under the guidance of a positive reinforcement trainer in a controlled setting.”
2. Obedience. Does your dog respond to basic commands in highly distracting environments? For his safety and that of others, your dog must be as reliable and responsive as possible to basic commands such as come, leave it, stay and sit.
3. Got a high energy dog? Take a 10-15 minute walk to help release pent up, excess energy before entering the dog park. The extra energy release will help your dog behave a bit more politely to other dog park visitors.
4. The best dog parks. Our Behavior team recommends visiting dog parks that have wide open, enclosed spaces instead of smaller neighborhood gated parks. Favorites include Cherry Creek Park or Chatfield Park south of Denver and Bear Creek Park in Colorado Springs.
At the Park
5. Bring the essentials. Always make sure you bring water, a bowl and poop bags. Bring a cell phone in case of emergency. Don’t bring treats or toys, these can cause a squabble with dogs at the park. Be sure to keep your eyes on your dog, not your phone.
6. Be mindful of the weather. During summer, avoid the dog park during the warmest hours of the day 10 a.m.–4 p.m. as it is easy for dogs to suffer heat exhaustion.
7. Be observant! If your dog exhibits signs of fear, starts growling, bullies other dogs or becomes over-reactive, use the command come to call him back to you and leave the park for the day. Check out DogDecoder.com for a good start to understanding rude and polite dog play.
8. If a fight occurs “The best tool to have on hand in case of a dog fight is Spray Shield, a citronella spray that is safe to spray at the dogs in the event of a fight” says Zoe Knox, behavior technician. “It startles them, giving you time to pull the dogs away. Never grab dogs by the collar if they are in a fight, it substantially increases the risk of the dog redirecting on to you, causing injury. Never use pepper spray, as it can not only harm the dogs, but yourself.”
9. Balls, Frisbees and other toys. Bringing toys to the park is always a risk. Even if your dog shares nicely, you never know about the other visitors. Additionally, a fast-running dog playing fetch is an easy target to get other dogs overly aroused in a chase game that the fetch playing dog does not want to be a part of.
10. Stay hydrated. Offer your dog lots of water to drink before you leave the park.
Most importantly: know your dog. He may prefer spending time with YOU, not other dogs. Fortunately, in Colorado, we have many other wonderful outdoor options. A walk, run or hike may be a more enjoyable experience for your four-legged companion than a visit to the local dog park.
For more about the pros and cons about visiting the dog park, check out this Dog Park Etiquette article written by Dumb Friends League behavior technician, Kayla Fratt.
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