Playing It Safe: How to Enjoy Dog Parks Safely

Going to the park is one of your dog’s favorite activities, but it can be a challenge for some owners to observe dog park safety. Old dogs, dogs that are in heat, or pets that are feeling sick might not find it the best place to be. 

So, are dog parks good for dogs?

Yes! If you want your pet to safely enjoy the dog park, you can follow these tips so you and your pet will have a great time. 

Know what Dogplay Looks Like

Most owners know when their dog wants to play, but when it comes to playing with other dogs, it can be difficult to tell. Play styles for dogs vary, especially when it comes to size. 

Dogplay is essential for teaching dogs proper socialization so pet owners must recognize the basics of dogplay:

  • It is voluntary.
  • Your dog finds it pleasurable.
  • It’s a rewarding activity.
  • Playing should be for its own sake and nothing else.
  • Play must take place in benign, non-violent situations.

If your dog’s actions fit these criteria, then you know that they are indulging in dogplay. 

Off-leash dog parks have some requirements and rules regarding health, pet size, leashes, and toys.

Checklist Before Going Out

For the sake of dog park safety, you need to do a few things before heading out. 

Do a health check.

Check your dog for illnesses or if they are in heat. Diseases can spread quickly while a dog in heat can create unnecessary tension between animals in the park. Your dog should also be fully vaccinated; most dog parks will require some proof of this.

Ensure that your dog can follow basic commands.

Your dog should know how to follow basic commands such as “stay”, “come,” and “go.” Having a properly trained dog is one of the best ways to practice dog park safety.

Consider what to bring to the park.

Bring things that will help you protect your dog and help it stay comfortable. Pack a leash, a water bottle, poop bags, and even an air horn or whistle to break up a fight. It’s also best not to bring your dog’s favorite toys as dogs are territorial and possessive. Interest in its toys can start a fight. 

In addition, it’s best to leave treats at home. Even if you have healthy treats like persimmons, they can get other dogs excited which other owners won’t appreciate. (Are persimmons safe for dogs? Find out here.)

Your dog should know how to follow basic commands such as “stay,” “come,” and “go.” Having a properly trained dog is one of the best ways to protect it in a dog park. 

Know the rules of the dog park.

Off-leash dog parks have certain requirements and rules regarding health, pet size, leashes, and toys. Make sure you understand these rules and follow them. Any unruly or aggressive behavior won’t be tolerated and could get your pet banned.

What To Do at the Dog Park

When you arrive at the dog park, check if there are openings or possible escape routes that your dog could run towards. Another aspect of dog park safety is to see if the fence is high enough to prevent your dog from running away. 

Are dog parks safe for your pet? Do a routine check before bringing your dog or removing your dog’s leash.

Choose an area where dogs of the same size can play.

Dogs can be enthusiastic and energetic, and they can play rough. If you have a small dog, it’s best to choose a dog park where they are separated by size.

So, when can puppies go to the dog park?

It’s best to take a puppy to a dog park once it has completed all its vaccines. This is roughly around 17 weeks old. Any younger and your pup would lack the necessary shots and be at risk of catching an illness.

Keep playtime short or break it up. 

It’s best to cut your dog’s playtime to around 10 to 15 minutes. This ensures that it will not become over excited and behave badly. Incorporate a small walk or a sniffing activity to break up playtime. 

Breaks are also natural tension relievers that can calm dogs down and help them refocus their energies. 

Keep an eye on your pet.

Always watch your pet’s behavior. Their body language reveals a lot about what they might do in the next few seconds. You cannot be distracted or leave your dog alone. Doing this will help you remove your dog from a potentially dangerous situation. 

Take one dog at a time.

If you have more than one dog, it’s best to take only one dog at a time. It’s much easier to focus on one dog and respond properly in any situation.

Never get in the middle of a fight.

If a fight occurs, use loud noises or a water spray to distract the dogs. Putting yourself in the middle of a fight could result in injury. 

Recognize when your dog wants to leave.

Dogs have body clocks too. Once they feel tired, they can become sensitive or behave differently. Learn to recognize these signs and leave before your pet reaches its limit. 

Have Fun by Keeping Safe

Taking care of a dog means ensuring that it’s properly socialized and well-behaved not just among people, but also in the presence of other dogs. Taking these precautions will help ensure that you and your pet will have a fun day outside without any mishaps.

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