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Monday, May 13, 2013

Dog Parks: The "Good", The "Bad", The "Ugly"

Have you ever driven past a dog park and thought "wow, that looks like fun for my dog".  Dog parks can be fun but they can also be dangerous and unhealthy for your beloved furbabies.

I personally do not take my dog to the dog park.  I worry about the other dogs, but I also worry about the pet parents.  Some pet parents are oblivious to what their pets are doing so in the case of fights and bites they seem quite shocked and unprepared when something like that happens.  Most pet parents I have seen there treat their dog park like their local cafe and just let their kids "run" wild while they sit at the tables and sip their coffee.  This scares me !

I also do not take my clients dogs to the dog park.  Since they are under my care I would hate for something bad to happen.

This does not mean you shouldn't take your dog to a dog park.  If everyone follows the rules and pays attention, a dog park can be a fun experience for both you and your dog.

Below I have listed some great tips to follow before you decide to venture out to your nearest dog park:

Check out the dog park before your dog's first trip.
Are the dog park’s rules posted in a prominent spot? Do visitors follow them (pick up poop promptly, watch their dogs closely, don’t allow young children in the park, etc.)? Do the grounds look well-tended? Are there separate enclosures for small and large dogs?

Keep your dog current on all vaccinations.
No pet should be allowed to interact with other canines at the dog park without up-to-date immunizations and vaccinations. Worming, flea, and tick treatments are also prudent. A sick or parasite-infested dog can easily spread his condition to others during play.  Also, don't forget to get your dog vaccinated for Kennel Cough.  Your dog does not have to be in a kennel to get Kennel Cough.  This can be passed between dogs anywhere.  Most dog parks require proof of vaccination before being allowed a "sticker" and inside the dog park.

Train your dog first.
Basic training in voice commands and simple hand signals must precede the first trip to the dog park. A dog should come when called before he is turned loose among others of his kind.  Many pet owners use remote-controlled collars as added insurance for dog park excursions.

Leave toys, treats, and children out.
Balls, flying disks, and other dog biscuits can incite fighting.  Little kids may not be strong or savvy enough to steer clear of rough dog play. It's safer to reserve dog park trips for pets only, rather than trying to babysit at the same time.

Avoid peak dog park times.
Dogs grow rowdiest in herds. Visit dog parks during less crowded times, at least for your first trips. Weekdays are ideal, as dog parks are popular on weekends, holidays, and evenings.

Observe the dogs at the park as you arrive.
Are the dogs playing nicely? Is there a comfortable ratio of about two dogs for everyone one person? If even one dog appears to be acting aggressively or the park feels crowded, come back later.

Watch your dog vigilantly.
Although dog lovers tend to socialize at the park, you must keep an eye on your pet at all times for his and your safety.
Know the difference between dog play and fighting.
Not all growling, tumbling and nipping are outright aggression. Dogs may play rough. Still, you need to be able to spot trouble before it escalates into danger.  For safety's sake, young puppies don't belong at dog parks, they are vulnerable to larger, aggressive dogs. It's better to wait until puppies are several months old and have completed their series of shots before taking them to the dog park.

Don't jump into a dog fight.
The most affectionate dog can become fierce when instincts kick in during a fight. Many well-meaning dog lovers have suffered critical injuries, simply trying to break up dog fights.  Experienced dog trainers work in pairs, grabbing the hind legs of fighting dogs to separate them. A safer method for most is to blow bike horns or spray battling dogs with water misters.  If injuries occur, dog handlers must exchange names and phone numbers, in case follow-up is needed after medical attention is sought. Bite-and-run injuries should be reported.

And the most important tip, if you are not comfortable at the dog park, leave and go home.  It is not worth jeopardizing you or your dogs safety. 

Your dog is happy playing with you no matter where you are at ! 

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