07 May The Dog Park: What you should know before you go
The dog park can be a great place to let your fur baby run and play. But it also poses some dangers you may not have considered. Follow these tips to make sure your visit is a happy and healthy one.
Getting Your Fur Baby Ready for the Dog Park
A lot of prep work goes into a successful trip to the dog park. The first and most important step is making sure your dog is current on all vaccinations and other vet care, like flea, tick, and heartworm prevention. Most dog parks post rules that state all visiting dogs must be vaccinated. But, not all parks verify shot records upon entry. When your dog interacts with other animals, there’s a chance they’re being exposed to infections, infestations, or diseases. Their chances of becoming sick greatly decrease when they’re current on vaccinations and preventative care.
Your dog should also respond to basic commands like “sit”, “stay”, and “come” before you take them to the park. If your fur baby does not respond to these basic commands, minor situations with other dogs at the park could quickly escalate into problems.
The dog park should not be the first place your dog interacts with other dogs. Socialization with other animals should start in an environment you can control, like your apartment. Keep your fur baby leashed during the initial introduction and pay attention to their body language. If they show signs of fear (shaking, cowering, or lowering their ears or tail) or aggression (raising ears or tail, broad shoulder stance, growling), they are not ready for the sometimes overstimulating environment at the dog park. Build their social skills using these tips from the Animal Humane Society. When their behavior toward other animals improves, it’s safe to take them to the park.
Learn the Layout
Leave your dog at home the first time you visit the dog park. Walk the perimeter of the grounds and make sure the fences are secure. If the park is open, make note of the traffic on the surrounding streets and any businesses, schools, or churches that may sometimes draw large, noisy crowds of people.
Once you’ve surveyed the perimeter, spend some time strolling through the park itself. Make sure the grounds are well maintained. Tall grass and weeds harbor biting, itchy pests like fleas and ticks. Make note of any low areas where standing water accumulates after rain. Standing water draws mosquitos, and some mosquitos carry life threatening heartworms. Poorly maintained parks aren’t a safe place for your dog.
Drive by the dog park at different times of the day. Pay attention to the park’s busy and slow times. Plan your dog’s first visit for a low-traffic time, so they can familiarize themselves with the new environment before getting to know new friends.
Sometimes, life gets busy and we don’t have time to spoil our fur babies with trips to the dog park. Hire a dog walker to make sure your dog still gets all the exercise they need.