Dog parks are a great place to meet other dog parents and have fun with your pup, but it's important to stay alert. Here's why.
So, you think you’re ready to bring your dog on their first off-leash trip to the park? Before grabbing their leash and heading to the car, make sure you are prepared for the obstacles that may be presented on this new adventure.
Vaccinations & Health
First things first! Regardless of age, all dogs should be up-to-date with their vaccinations before going to the dog park. For puppies, vets recommend waiting until a pup has received all rounds of core vaccines before visiting any areas that are frequented by other dogs. Unvaccinated and undervaccinated puppies are especially susceptible to a nasty number of doggy diseases.
Avoid taking your dog out if they are feeling unwell, or if they have come into heat!
For many owners, the greatest appeal of a dog park is that it is a fenced area where their dog can run and play without worrying that your dog may run off. This is definitely a pro to fenced dog parks, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it's the best idea to let a dog run free without teaching a proper recall first. Having a good recall with your dog will ensure that you can call your dog off of potentially dangerous situations that may arise at the park. If dogs in the park get in a scuffle, you want to be confident that you can call your dog off the situation so they don’t get involved in the dog park drama. Safety reasons aside, it’ll be easier when it comes time to leave the park if you don’t have to chase down your dog who isn’t quite ready to go home.
Know Your Dogs Sociability
If your dog or puppy has had scuffles with other dogs in the past, it might not be the best idea to put them in a situation where they may have negative encounters with unknown dogs. Not every dog will be a dog park dog, and that is perfectly OK! Dog sociability is a spectrum, some dogs may crave social interaction with other canine friends, but others would prefer to take a stroll in the park with just you and a ball.
Here are some characteristics of the different types of dog sociability to help identify where your dog may be:
Choose the Right Park
Parks will all vary in the amenities they offer for your furry friend, so check ahead of time if you are looking for something specific. It can be important to know if there are small dog and large dog areas, or if there is a wash station to hose your pup off before leaving. We live in the day and age of dog park bars, so that might be something fun to check out while unwinding on the weekend!
Keep an Eye Out and a Leash Handy
Dog parks are a great place to mingle and meet other dog parents, but be sure to keep a watchful eye on your pup and their surroundings. Being able to intervene when things start to get rough can mean the difference between a fight breaking out or tension between dogs diffusing. This is also important to keep things respectful, we don’t want Fido humping a new prospective friend- that’s just rude. Have a leash nearby in case a situation does unexpectedly escalate and the dogs need to be quickly separated.
Pick Up the Poop!
Nobody likes stepping in poo, keep the parks clean and pick up after your dog! Even if you forget your own bags, there should be plenty of clean up stations nearby.
Weigh the Risks
We’ve all heard dog park horror stories. As much as it stinks to think about the unthinkable, before taking your dog to the park know that some situations are out of your control. Unfortunately, dog fights are a regular occurrence at off-leash dog parks. If you are a paranoid helicopter dog parent or if you have a dog-selective dog, there are other alternatives to dog parks without compromising on fun. Apps like Sniffspot allow owners to rent private dog parks to hang out with their dog and human pals. This is a great way to get a secure fenced-in spot to play, but without the risk of unfriendly pups showing up. Some Sniffspot parks even have amenities like pools or ponds for your dogs to beat the heat in.
Whatever path you choose for your dog’s off-leash enjoyment, just remember to be safe and have fun!