Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe at the Dog Park

Lindsey ZimmermanDog Health

Is your dog a social dog? Does he/she like to schmooze with other dogs? Not all dogs do. In fact, many dogs are afraid to go to the dog park because of the personalities of the dogs at the park. That’s okay because the dog park is not necessarily the safest place for dogs.

Why Dog Parks Can Be Dangerous
If you’ve ever visited an elementary school playground, you know there can be some bullies. The same hold true for dog parks. There may be untrained dogs, dogs that are aggressive and dogs that are too fearful. Then when you have big dogs and small dogs mixed together it’s a recipe for disaster.

Then there’s pet parents not watching their dogs or supervising their kids and trying to feed their dog with a pack of other dogs around. The last time I visited a dog park one of the parents brought a special treat and a special toy for their dog and was mad when the other dogs got ahold of it.

Or how about the dog owner who tries and feeds your pooch? That’s a big no no, because my dog has some allergies and is on a special diet.

See why a visit to a dog park can get dangerous?

It doesn’t need to be. Here are some tips to help keep your pet safe and happy at your local dog park.

  1. Short visits. If you’re visiting a new dog park, keep your visit short and choose a time where the park is not full. Observe your dog’s body language to make sure he/she is relaxed. This will allow you to make sure your dog is comfortable.
  2. Purpose of your visit. Dog parks should be a supplement to a dog’s daily activity and socialization, not the primary source of it. It may seem easier for you to get your dog’s exercise at a park versus you having to walk him yourself, but it actually takes a lot of focus on your part to keep him safe at the park.
  3. Be careful off leash. Never have your dog restrained by a leash in an unleashed area. This can cause stress in a leashed dog and he’ll feel worried and have no other option but to act aggressively. If you feel your dog is able to handle the park situation, unleash him as soon as you enter an unleashed area, and keep a close eye on him at all times, especially around other dogs and children.
  4. Don’t bring babies or puppies to the dog park. If you bring a baby to a dog park, your attention has to be divided between your dog and your baby. Dog parks can be a dangerous place for small children who might be too friendly with strange dogs. If your pup is not fully vaccinated, she is at risk of picking up a disease at any dog park. A traumatic experience from an adult dog can create fears in a young pup that could last a life time. Keep your puppy safe and understand the risks of subjecting her to a dog park for socialization purposes.
  5. Analyze your dog’s personality. Be honest. You know your dog’s strengths and weaknesses. When she gets in a group is she outgoing or shy? Is she afraid in certain situations? Know how your dog reacts with other dogs. Although you won’t be able to predict every situation, look for the triggers that the behavior may be starting and how to deflate the situation.
  6. Don’t overdo it. Know the signs that your dog is tired, and if he is being bullied or is acting like a bully. If your dog has a bad experience, this could lead to future behavior issues such as dog aggression. Don’t ruin the day by pushing your dog too far. You can come back another time.

Going to a dog park should be a fun experience but there are dog park pros and cons. Know how to make it a safe one as well!