Let me start by saying: A lot of people are very against dog parks and I can completely understand why. A quick trip to the dog park can either be a time filled with lots of fun and great socialization or it can go horribly wrong. You never know if your pup is going to pick up a bad habit, if an aggressive dog will harm your canine kid, or if the other dogs are up-to-date on their vaccines. That’s not to mention the area can be a breeding ground for disease.
With that said, when Diego was younger, I used to take him to the dog park at least once a week. At that time, we really valued the park because we didn’t have a backyard of our own and I was new to the area (so I didn’t know a lot of people). Our park trips helped Diego exert his energy and we both made new friends.
If you’re planning on taking your furkid to your local dog park, here are some safety tips that can help make your experience go smoothly.
1) Check Your Pup’s Vaccine Records
Since there’s no way to know if the other dogs at the park are vaccinated and healthy, I strongly encourage you to make sure your pooch is up to date on his shots. If you are cautious about over-vaccinating (I know I am), make sure to titer your dog before visiting the park.
2) Teach Your Dog Basic Commands
Since anything could happen at a dog park, it’s important that you have good communication with your canine kid and he knows the basic commands: come, sit, stay, and leave it. If you’re still in the training phase, check out this article for helpful tips!
3) Pack For The Occasion
Before hopping in the car and driving down to the park, there are a few things that you should pack:
- Your dog’s leash
- Poop bags (in case the dispensers are empty)
- Water bottle
- Water bowl (I was never a fan of Diego sharing a water bowl with strange dogs so I preferred to pack my own)
- Frisby or ball
- Whistle (this is totally optional, but it could come in handy to get your dogs attention or distract a dog during tense times)
4) Pick The Right Park
Before you take your precious pooch into an off-leash fenced park, take a few minutes to scan the area. Check for the following:
- The fence should have a double-gated entry for security. This helps to cut down on dogs possibly bolting off and escaping.
- There should be a separate area for large dogs and small dogs.
- Make sure people are obeying the large dog/small dog side. In the park I used to visit, I would occasionally see people bring their very large dog into the small dog section. When this happened, I would leave because I didn’t feel 100% comfortable.
- Check for well-stocked poop bag dispensers and garbage cans scattered throughout the park.
- Also, make sure puppy parents are actually using them and picking up after their canine kid leaves a present. Dog poop is known to host a multitude of parasites, bacteria, and viruses. Some of those poop piles could contain hookworms, tapeworms, roundworms, whipworms, coccidia, giardia, E. coli, and parvovirus (just to name a few). Get this—just one gram of dog feces can have up to 23 million coliform bacteria. You want to make sure dog poop is picked up immediately because once these parasites contaminate the soil they can remain for months and even years! Find out more HERE!
- Check for a water fountain. After all of that running around your little one is going to need to hydrate!
5) Check Out The Other Dogs
Every time you arrive at the dog park, take a few minutes to check out the other dogs before entering with your pup. If you notice an aggressive dog inside the fenced area, turn around and go home – a little playtime isn’t worth the risk. I say this from experience — my Chihuahua got attacked once and it wasn’t a pleasant experience (obviously)!
6) Always Keep An Eye On Your Pooch
When you’re at the dog park, it’s very easy to get caught up talking to fellow dog moms and petting other dogs. Trust me, the park is a great place to meet people! However, don’t let this distraction keep you from watching over your dog.
A few other reasons you want to keep a close eye on your pooch:
- Someone may have forgotten to close the fence gate
- Your dog may need a drink of water
- Your dog may have gone to the bathroom and you need to clean it up
- Maybe your dog stepped in something he shouldn’t have!
- Your dog may not be having any fun and wants to leave
- An aggressive dog can always enter the park and a fight can break out in a split second. If you notice another dog growling at your dog (or your dog is growling at another dog), try to stay calm, clap your hands to get his attention, and call out his name with the basic “come” command. Either move to another section of the park or leave.
Looking for ways to socialize your dog that doesn’t include the dog park? Check out these 7 ideas!