It’s the dog version of a playground! Dog parks are a great opportunity for your four-legged friend to have fun, exercise and socialise in a secure, positive environment.
At the dog park, our dogs are understandably excited and keen to get amongst the interesting smells and play with their friends. It’s up to us humans make sure everyone there is safe and having fun.
To maximise the good times and minimise the risks, here are five things you need to know before going to the dog park.
Not all dogs are suited for dog parks
Unfortunately, not all dogs are suited to hanging out at the dog park. If any of these points relates to your dog, consider some alternative options.
- Aggressive or anxious dogs that may become overstimulated and distressed in an unfamiliar environment with unfamiliar dogs.
- Untrained or uncontrollable dogs that may get too excited and not listen to an owner’s commands when worked up.
- Older dogs or dogs recovering from illness or injury that may snap at others if they’re in pain or experience discomfort in a playful situation.
- Intact female dogs on heat should avoid the dog park so they don’t create fights and distract other dogs.
- Unvaccinated or immuno-compromised dogs.
- All dogs should be fully vaccinated (especially for kennel cough) before attending the dog park as they are common sites for spreading infectious diseases. This is especially true for puppies under 16 weeks of age.
Familiarise yourself with the dog park’s rules
All dog parks have rules and some are specific to certain parks. You can find the rules printed on a sign by the entrance or search the rules on your local council area’s website.
Most parks have a fenced ‘off leash’ area where dogs can be safely contained while off lead. These areas may also have different rules to the on-lead areas of the park.
Before you go to the dog park make sure you’ve ticked these items off the list:
- Make sure your dog is wearing its collar and that the tags are updated in case they escape at any point.
- Keep small children at home. Children are big distraction for dogs, and not every dog at the park will be as cool with your kids as your pet.
- Avoid bringing food as it can be an incentive for other dogs to act aggressively towards you or your pet.
When you’re at the park
You’re off to a great start! You’ve read the rules, you have your collar and leash, and the kids and food are at home. Now that you’re at the park, here are a few tips to remember that will make your and your pet’s lives a lot easier.
- Always pick up after your dog and dispose of any stools appropriately.
- Supervise your dog. Owners are still ultimately responsible for their pet’s behaviour, so it’s important to be near your pet and monitor them closely.
- Have your leash handy, even in an off-leash area, just in case things get out of hand.
- Ask other owners if it’s okay to introduce your dog. Every pet is different, for example, a small Maltese dog might be a bit intimidated to play with an energetic Labrador. It’s important to get consent first.
- When introducing new dogs, have them both start on the leash while they sniff each other. Once they’ve decided to be friends, they can potentially be let off the lead to play together.
What to watch out for at the dog park
The main risk at dog parks is fighting. Fights are usually caused by poor relations between two or more dogs, dogs and other people, or dogs and children.
If everyone follows the rules, dog parks should be a safe environment for you and your pet. Things can change quickly at any stage, so it’s important that you, as the owner and responsible adult, keeps an eye on what’s happening. This way you can respond quickly and appropriately to diffuse any unwanted situations.
TIP: If two or more dogs start to act aggressively towards each other, do NOT get between them! You’ll be putting yourself at risk of injury as well.
For more information on keeping your pets healthy and active, check out othese other blogs:
- Puppy Preschool Essentials
- Keeping your pets happy & safe in lockdown
- A guide to vaccinating your pets
- Senior Pet Advice