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Is the Dog Park Safe for Your Pet?

Dog Park Safety Tips and Rules

-- By Megan Patrick, Staff Writer
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If your pet is well-socialized and enjoys playing with other animals, a trip to the dog park is a great way to help him get some exercise and meet new four-legged friends. But before you head out the door there are several rules and precautions to consider because the dog park isn't for every owner—or every dog.
 
Before You Visit the Dog Park
Because you have no way of knowing the history of the other dogs, it's imperative that your pet be fully vaccinated, which means that puppies should not visit dog parks until they have received all their shots.
 
If you're not sure how your dog will behave around strange animals, the dog park is probably not the best way to find out. Introduce your pet to dogs owned by friends or neighbors in a controlled situation, such as a fenced-in backyard, first. If he handles this closely supervised playtime well, you can be more confident about taking him to the park to be around dogs he doesn't know—and more of them.
 
You Probably Shouldn't Visit a Dog Park if Your Pet:
  • Shows signs of aggression or dominance with other dogs
     
  • Is unpredictable around other animals
     
  • Has a high prey drive for smaller animals
     
  • Doesn't always come when called when distracted or excited
     
  • Is fearful in busy or new situations or around strange or large
    numbers of animals
     
  • Has never been "vetted" as safe for doggy daycare
     
  • Can jump fences
     
  • If you don't feel comfortable reading and interpreting the body language of dogs 
Your First Trip to the Dog Park
On your first visit, keep your dog on the leash and give him a tour of the perimeter. Let him sniff the fence and greet dogs through the fence. If he seems calm, you can take him in. If he shows signs of fear, high levels of excitement or aggression, today isn't the day to enter the fence. If there are other dogs crowding the entrance, wait until they disperse to go inside. If there is a separate fenced entry area, take your dog off the leash before allowing him to enter the park. A leashed dog in a pack of free dogs creates an uneven balance of power that can make your dog a target for aggression.
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About The Author

Megan Patrick Megan Patrick
Megan Lane Patrick has been a professional writer and editor for the past 16 years, and was a chronic dieter for at least 30. A combination of weight-loss surgery, mindful eating and daily exercise finally allowed her to maintain a weight loss of more than 100 pounds. When she's not lifting weights at the gym, you can find her walking shelter dogs as a volunteer for the SPCA.

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