Where can you find tails? tongues? fire hydrants? obstacle courses? and mutt mitts all in one? A dog park of course! Dog parks are rapidly becoming the "place to be" for both humans and dogs. As fun and liberating as a dog park can be, there are potential hazards you should keep in mind before entering these doggy heavens.
Dog parks are a place where your dogs can romp and play off leash therefore, it is crucial to make sure you are attending a park that is secure and enclosed. Unless you are absolutely certain the park is fenced in, keep your dog on a leash. Dogs play very strenuously in dog parks and water is an absolute necessity – if there is no water available, it is very possible that dogs may suffer from heatstroke, which can be fatal. Carry bottled water just in case the dog park you're attending doesn't have available drinking water. Another important feature in a well made dog park, is ENOUGH SPACE! If dogs become too crowded, it is much easier for a “bully” or a pack of dogs to corner and harass another dog. Fights tend to break out more often under crowded conditions. Most parks will have some kind of information board that will give you details about the park, make sure you take the time to familiarize yourself with park rules.
OK. This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: always clean up your dog's poop. Some dog owners think that because they are in a dog park, a bit of poop here and there is OK to leave behind. Not so. Most infectious diseases and intestinal parasites are passed through feces so it's imperative to clean after your pet so the "bum bugs"stay away. Luckily most dog parks have what's called a "Mutt Mitt" station. A Mutt Mitt is a puncture resistant doggy bag that makes picking up after your pet that much less messy and yucky. Do keep in mind that these "Mutt Mitt" stations aren't required at dog parks, so just in case, bring your own doggy bags.
Every dog that steps paw in a dog park should be thoroughly vaccinated. Can we ensure that every dog at these parks are? Unfortunately no, which means it's up TO YOU as a responsible pet owner to do so. Rabies and Distemper-Parvo are just two of the necessary vaccines. Your pet should also be immunized against Leptospirosis. A disease that causes kidney failure resulting in death. Lepto can be contagious to humans and spread through urine, with such an abundance of this at dog parks, it is crucial to get this vaccine boostered annually. If you hear your dog coughing or in respiratory discomfort it could of picked up kennel cough, which is a highly contagious upper respiratory problem in dogs. The Bordetella vaccine is extremely important in this type of setting. Keeping your pet on flea and heart worm prevention are other safeguards you need to have if attending dog parks. There are just some of the potential medical hazards which can be passed from dog to dog, even dogs to people at dog parks. This doesn't mean you shouldn't go to a dog park any more than your kids shouldn't attend school, but it's important to know what the risks are, mostly because they are preventable.
When you take your dog to a dog park or any other setting where there are other dogs, you have a responsibility to make sure he or she practices acceptable social behavior. As with many situations, much of the negative behavior that happens with dogs at dog parks is due to the lack of involvement of their owners. Even though it is a free environment and the dogs are enjoying themselves, owners still need to watch and understand their dog and his body language so that they can head off any altercations that may be brewing. Dogs sometimes respond aggressively to people or animals they do not know. A minor offense is usually nothing to worry about, especially if your dog responds to your command by changing its behavior. But if your dog is growling or harassing other dogs despite your reprimands, immediately leash it and leave the dog park. Your dog will undoubtedly protest, but the safety and happiness of all dog park visitors depends on your swift response. It's really not just how your dog behaves at the dog park, more importantly it's how YOU behave at the dog park. Don't dig your nose in your IPhone or chat with other dog owners without first paying CLOSE attention to your dog. Be responsible, for the sake of you, others and especially your furry friend.