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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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Don't plan to sit on a bench and read a book or talk on the phone while your dog roams the park. You'll need to supervise your dog at all times to make sure he's being friendly with the other animals and people in the park. If he's being picked on or bullying a smaller dog, remove him from the situation by putting him back on the leash and taking him to a quiet corner or out of the park. You can try a timeout by having him sit quietly for a few minutes. If that doesn't help, you'll need to call it a day and try again some other time.
 
The key to a good dog park experience is to understand how dogs communicate and play with each other, which can be quite loud and seemingly aggressive at times. Dog play includes nipping, wrestling and chasing, but the body posture will be loose rather than tense. Playing animals will take pauses to catch their breath and switch roles, the chaser becoming the chased. When playtime starts to get aggressive, look for signs such as lips pulled back to expose teeth, ears pulled back tight to the head, ruffled hair along the neck and back, tails that are sticking up (attentive or aggressive) or tucked under (fear) instead of wagging, and a tense posture. It's better to redirect your dog's attention before the situation escalates. If you can't handle the idea of your pet tussling with another animal, then the dog park isn't a good choice for you.
 
Dog Park Safety
Be sure there is a clean water source at any park you visit or plan on bringing your own water to keep your dog well hydrated. If the weather is particularly hot, make sure your pet takes plenty of water breaks and has a shaded area to take rests.

If you go to the dog park often, you will witness other dogs—possibly even your own—in dog fight at some point. Most dog fights are not serious, and they rarely cause actual harm to either animal. How you behave during the situation can make all the difference in the outcome. The best way to prevent serious issues from arising is to always play close attention to how your dog is behaving and to make sure he's been trained to come when called no matter what else is going on. If your dog does get into a fight, remain calm. Jumping into the fray likely will end up with you being unintentionally injured, possibly by your own pet. Instead, take the following steps:
  • Clap your hands loudly to distract the dogs and call your dog away from the other animal.
     
  • Carry a small air horn with you to create an even bigger distraction.
     
  • If there's a water hose nearby, spray the animals to redirect their attention.
     
  • Do not grab your pet by the collar! That is the most likely way to end up getting bitten yourself. The ASPCA recommends that both pet owners work together simultaneously to break up the fight by taking their dogs by the back legs (at the top, just under the hips) and moving them backward away from each other, like pulling a wheelbarrow. Immediately leash your dog and remove him from the park.
     
  • Inspect your pet for injuries and provide proper medical care if needed.
Basic Dog Park Etiquette
The number one rule of dog parks is always pick up after your pet. No one wants to accidentally step in dog poop, and, if even a few pet parents are careless, the ground quickly can become a landmine of messes. Most dog parks provide clean-up bags, but bring your own just in case. Even if your dog already relieved himself prior to arriving, bring a bag just in case. Exercise and excitement can bring on an unexpected bowel movement!
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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. As a SparkPeople editor, she’s able to combine her love of writing with her passion for health and fitness to help other people achieve their goals. 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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