Ready for a romp at the dog park?
Dogs relish in a good romping at the dog park. In fact, a dog park is a great way to provide exercise, maintain socialization, and make new friends (both pup and hooman)! However, they can also pose a risk to your pup’s health and safety. Before you and your four-legged BFFL frolic away for some outdoor fun, check out this blog that outlines how to keep your dog safe at the dog park.
BEFORE YOU GO
1. Ensure your dog is current on vaccines and preventatives.
Dogs can pick up contagious diseases at the park, many of which can be fatal … not to mention ticks, fleas, and several intestinal parasites. For your dog’s safety, and the safety of other four-legged friends, make sure they’re current on vaccinations and preventatives before they go.
2. Consider your dog’s age (and special needs).
While a new puppy is exciting to take on adventures, a dog park isn’t the safest environment. A young puppy hasn’t fully developed an immune system or social skills necessary to safely romp around the park. To ensure their safety, wait a few months until your puppy’s learned basic commands, has had all required vaccinations, and has learned some socialization skills with other pups in a controlled environment.
Have a dog with special needs? The dog park may not be the safest environment for them either. Dog parks are teeming with stimulation and energy that could overwhelm, confuse, or cause them to become agitated or riddled with stress. We recommend consulting your veterinarian to see what’s best for your special pup.
3. Work on basic commands.
Before heading to the dog park, be sure your pup understands basic commands like:
- Leave it
These basic commands are imperative to ensure a safe trip to the dog park. A dog venturing into the park will need to consistently recognize your voice and obey these commands. When using commands, speak calmly but firmly. Becoming angry and shouting can increase the risk of aggressive behavior in other dogs nearby.
4. Work on socialization skills.
Dog parks can be overwhelming for an under-socialized dog. Before you go, focus on socializing your pup with a small group of well-mannered dogs and their owners in a controlled environment like a fenced-in back yard.
5. Consider your dog’s size.
If your dog is small, a park with lots of large dog visitors may overwhelm them and pose additional risk to their safety. Consider dog parks that have designated small and large areas.
6. Have proper and current identification.
To ensure maximum safety at the dog park, always, always have more than one form of identification on your dog (i.e. tag and microchip) with current contact information. A tag with your phone number is great, but a microchip is also highly recommended, acting as a permanent form of identification. Microchips also ensure your pet can be safely returned in the event they’re lost or stolen.
7. Choose the right park for your pet.
You know your dog better than anyone else. Consider your dog’s size, disposition, socialization, energy, and fears. Scout your area or county for a dog park that fits your dog’s needs. A less crowded dog park is always the safest. Don’t hesitate to reach out to friends or family who are also dog owners. This is an easy way to find the right park for your pooch.
WHAT TO BRING
Don’t be one of those pet parents. 💩 happens. Pick up your dog’s waste and dispose of it in the nearest garbage bin. Why? Here are 7 reasons to scoop the poop.
Harness and leash
An incident at the dog park could happen at any time. Always have your pup’s harness and leash on hand in the event you need to reattach and go quickly. Additionally, ensure your dog is properly leashed as you enter and exit the dog park.
Water and water bowl
Always bring water for your dog. If possible, avoid relying on communal dog park water bowls—they’re a cesspool for diseases such as:
- Kennel Cough
- Canine papilloma virus
- Parvo and Canine Influenza Virus
One dog at a time
If you have more than one dog, take turns bringing them to play. Trying to watch more than one dog at once can cause distractions and increase the risk of a ruh-roh.
Airhorns are loud and startling, making them a great (and safe) way to break up a scuffle.
WHILE AT THE PARK
- Ensure gates and fencing are closed properly while entering and leaving.
- Pick up your dog’s 💩 (seriously).
- Keep your dog’s leash and harness on hand.
- Put distractions away—like your phone.
- Don’t serve your dog treats around other dogs, as this can increase the risk of resource guarding aggression.
- Choose the most appropriate side for your dog’s size if the park has a small and large section.
- Remain aware of your dog’s (and other dogs’) body language. Be prepared to step in and mitigate if problems arise. When your dog lets you know they’ve had enough and it’s time to go, listen to those cues.
If you’re reading this, we know you want what’s best for your pet’s health and safety. If you’re unsure if the dog park is a safe environment for your dog, or visa versa, consult your veterinarian.
Let’s be real: Dog safety starts with the owner. But the unexpected can still happen! Dog parks are great fun but can also be dangerous. When you enroll your pup in Companion Protect® pet insurance, however, you can have peace of mind knowing your dog will be covered for any unexpected accident, injury, or illness resulting from a trip to the dog park.
Shayne has a few years experience in digital marketing, content creation and animal care, with her previous role as New Media Intern at The Humane League. In her free-time she loves to cycle (with her dog on her back) and practice yoga. A social cause she cares about is climate change, the welfare of factory farmed animals, and racial equality. Her favorite food is vegan mac & cheese.