THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF DOG PARKS

Dog parks are a familiar destination for many people who live in an urban or suburban neighborhood. As a dog owner, you want to let your pet get exercise and socialize your dog with other dogs and people. While a dog park presents a good opportunity for meeting those goals, they can also be dangerous for you or your pet if you don’t know proper dog park etiquette. Follow these simple guidelines to ensure you both have a fun time at the dog park.

Keep the Park Clean

Good sanitation is important to promote a healthy play area. Diseases and parasites can be spread from dog waste, and dogs aren’t careful about where they step or roll. Make sure you bring waste bags with you and monitor your dog to pick up after it. While you’re at it, you can bring spare bags and offer them to other pet owners who aren’t as prepared.

Know When to Bring Your Dog

If you have a puppy, you’ll need to wait until it is over 12 weeks old. Puppies should have completed their preliminary vaccinations by that time, and will be protected from disease as they play with other dogs.

If your female dog is in heat, stay away from the parks. Nothing can cause a fight faster than unneutered males competing for your dog’s attention. And, your dog could be injured in the scuffle.

Leave Treats and Snacks at Home

Competing for food is another way dogs may quickly start a fight. Don’t bring treats for your dog to the dog park. Similarly, if you plan to sit on a bench and munch on your favorite snack, you’ll invite too much interest from your dog and others. It’s best to leave all food at home.

Supervise Your Dog at All Times

If you frequent a dog park often enough you’ll probably get to know the other dog owners. It can be tempting to spend your time chatting with friends. That’s not a good idea in the dog park. Many dogs play well together, but there’s always the possibility of conflict. Focus on your dog while you’re at the park.

Look for Signs of Bullying

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Very dominant dogs can sometimes bully other dogs to maintain their role as a pack leader. A bully may knock other dogs off their feet, chase them for long periods of time, or growl in an aggressive way. A bully will usually look stiff rather than relaxed, and could have hair standing up on their backs. If you see your dog bullying another, or if your dog is a bully, be prepared to step in before a fight starts.

Help Your Dog Resolve Differences

When you keep a sharp eye on your dog, you can step in if you see a problem developing. Some people think that dogs will resolve their own disputes if given enough time. However, that rarely works. Consider that you have a number of dogs who don’t know each other well in a stimulating environment. Don’t wait – the odds are that if one or more dogs is picking on your dog, you’ll need to remove your pet from that situation.

Don’t Bring Toys Unless Your Dog Shares Well

You know whether your dog shares. Does your dog return the ball to you to throw again, or does it guard the ball excessively? If you or another family member take one of your dog’s toys, does it just go do something else, or is your dog aggressive in getting the toy back? If your dog won’t share, leave the toys at home.

Don’t Pick Up Your Dog

It’s tempting to pick up your dog to remove it from a less than playful situation. However, that can result in larger dogs jumping on you to get their “toy” back. Keep your dog’s feet on the ground.

Let the Play Begin!

A dog park is a place for dogs to run free off the leash, get some exercise, and practice playing with other dogs and showing respect for human beings. If you use good dog park etiquette, you and your dog will have a great time.

It’s also a good idea to stop at a dog bathing station after your park visit. You can let your dog get as dirty as it wants knowing that you can make sure it arrives home shining clean.

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