Giving your pooch the chance to get out of the house and socialize with other canine creatures is one of the best ways to ensure that they live a rich and fulfilling life. And while dog parks are a growing trend all around the world, you want to be 100% certain that your mutt will be completely safe while enjoying their time.
We all know that dogs are remarkably social creatures and they can’t be left alone for long periods of time like cats. But sometimes human companionship alone isn’t enough – they need some interaction with their own kind too. A big part of whether or not the dog park is safe depends on the specific place and its safety precautions and facilities. And there are also some things that you can do yourself to make sure your pooch stays safe.
So, let’s start by talking in more detail about why you would want to use a dog park in the first place.
Why Would You Take Your Dog to a Dog Park?
There are a number of different reasons why you would want to take your dog to a park. The most obvious is that they provide a great opportunity for your pooch to socialize with other canine companions. This is particularly important in young dogs who need to learn how to safely interact and communicate with their kind. If your dog doesn’t get enough socialization experience from a young age, this can result in disorders such as depression and anxiety.
Another advantage is the stimulation that your dog can get from this type of environment – both mental and physical. We all know the importance of physical exercise in dogs, and dog parks are wide open spaces where they can get this. But there is also the mental stimulation of being able to explore, experience different sensations, and meet new dogs. Dogs who are more stimulated tend to be more restful creatures who are less prone to bad behavior.
And the other main reason why you would want to visit a dog park is for your benefit. You will get to meet other dog owners – and who knows – perhaps make one or two new friends as well! You also may pick up some useful advice about the ins and outs of being a dog owner.
Risks of a Dog Park
Even though dog parks can be a lot of fun for you and your mutt alike, that’s not to say that there are absolutely no risks involved. Being aware of these risks will help to keep your dog safe from harm, so let’s look at a few of the top ones in more detail right here and now.
Spread of Disease
Just like when a big group of strangers meet and interact, the spread of disease in large groups of dogs is likely to be greater. Keep up with the local news for any reports of outbreaks so you know which areas to avoid. Also, you can make sure that your dog is up to date with all their shots. If your dog has a weakened immune system or is recovering from an illness, it may be better to avoid these areas for a while. Bring along your own collapsible bowl so your dog doesn’t catch an illness from drinking communally. And make sure that you clean up after your dog. Firstly, it is common courtesy, and secondly, dog feces can contain intestinal parasites which can be transmitted to other canines.
Spread of Fleas and Ticks
As well as diseases, other unpleasant things which can be transmitted from one dog to another include parasites like fleas and ticks. When you leave the park, it is always worth giving your dog an inspection to ensure that they are not traipsing them back into your home. If your dog does happen to get fleas or ticks, there are plenty of medication options out there which can help treat the issue. Oils, tablets, and collars are some of the most common choices out there.
Risk of Heatstroke
Be especially wary on hot and humid days to ensure that your dog doesn’t overexert themselves. Many dogs love bounding around so much that they don’t know when to stop. You need to be ready to step in to make that decision for them. Dogs mainly cool themselves down by panting, but this is especially difficult in hot and moist conditions. Make sure that you have plenty of cool water available to prevent dehydration. If possible, find a shady area where your dog can relax and cool off.
Take a look at our review of Dog Cooling Pads.
Dog Park Safety Tips
If you do decide to take your dog to a park, it is important that you do everything that you can to ensure that your dog stays safe. So, in the next section, we will offer a few easy safety tips that you can follow.
Pick the Right Park
Before you take your dog to a park, you should take the time to ensure that you select the right one. Ideally, there should be some clear rules and regulations which you and others can follow. The facilities should also be good including secure fencing, gates, water dispensers and plenty of trash cans where you can throw away waste. Ideally, there should be some seating and shelter where you can rest. And obviously, there needs to be plenty of room for your dog to bound around to their heart’s content.
When you arrive at a new dog park, take the time to have a look around before letting your hound off the leash. You should watch out for areas which have too many dogs or especially aggressive-seeming animals. Also, be wary of owners who seem inattentive. Piles of dog waste lying around should also ring one or two alarm bells.
Teach Your Dog Basic Obedience Commands
If your dog has never undergone any obedience training, you are going to find it much harder to keep them under control. ‘Sit’, ‘stay’, and ‘leave are three of the commands which are going to come in handy – and they could save your dog from getting into a dangerous situation. You also want to have a good idea of how your dog responds to being around other animals. If you have an overly aggressive dog, you are potentially putting other animals at risk, so you may need to take your pet to a behavior specialist to tackle the problem.
Bring the Essentials with You
Before you head to the dog park, it is a good idea to bring some essential supplies with you. These include obvious things like a leash, poop bags, and a dog water bottle. A few snacks and treats can be useful incentives to get your dog to behave properly. If you are worried about your dog getting into a fight, something to break this up such as an air-horn can prove to be invaluable.
Stay on High Alert
When you are socializing with the dog owners, you still need to be observant to ensure that your dog stays safe. As well as keeping an eye on your own pooch, you also need to remain vigilant of the other canines in the area. You should be especially wary of those animals which seem overly excited or aggressive. Learn some of the warning signs to tell if a dog is in an aggressive state. A few of these indicators include a stiff stance, bared teeth, and raised hackles. If your dog seems to be in trouble, your first action should be to call them back over to you. Remain calm and don’t try to intervene by grabbing their collar as this could lead to you getting hurt yourself. It is also a good idea to have your local Animal Control programmed into your phone so you can give them a ring in the event that anything goes wrong.
Put Your Dog in the Right Area
If you have a smaller dog and your dog park has an area specifically for smaller pooches, you should make sure that your dog plays there. This way, you can avoid them getting into potentially dangerous situations with larger animals. Of course, some dogs are aggressive no matter what size they are, so you should always stay on high alert – as mentioned earlier on.
Be Ready to Take Your Dog Away
If your dog seems to be in a strange mood, don’t be afraid to remove them from the dog park environment entirely. You can always visit on another day. A lot of owners have good instincts when it comes to their dogs, so make sure that you follow these rather than ignoring them.
In general, dog parks are safe environments, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. It is important that you find the right park and your pooch is well-trained. And you should always ensure that they are under close supervision at all times.