Is your dog in some need of well-deserved exercise and socialization? It’s time for the dog park! While the dog park can be a great place to let your dog run around and make new friends, it can also harbor diseases and potential dangers to your pet. How can you make sure your dog has a great time and is protected from illness? We found some great tips for before, during, and after your visit.
Choosing the Best Dog Park for Your Dog
There are many dog parks all over the nation, each with its own unique features and amenities. Find the perfect park for your pup according to his or her needs!
Leash vs off-leash- Some dog parks require that your dog is on a leash the entire time that they are at the park. On the other hand, there are parks that are completely off-leash, and then some that have areas for both. If your dog is timid and afraid of other dogs, a leashed park might be the best option for you, as other dogs can not run up to your pup. If your dog loves to explore, try a park where he or she can roam freely!
Small vs large- Bigger parks are better for larger breeds, as they have more room to run around. Smaller parks are a good idea for smaller dogs, especially if they are wary of larger breeds. Additionally, if you are nervous about losing sight of your dog, you may want to try a smaller park where your dog is also within sight.
Obstacle courses- Some parks have obstacle courses and mazes set up for dogs to explore. These can be a great addition to a park and engage your pup in mental and physical activities.
Wilderness vs fenced- Dog parks can either be out in the wilderness or in a fenced-in area. Natural parks that are in the trees may have ponds for your dog to swim in the water, along with rugged trails for dogs to roam. Fenced-in areas tend to be smaller in size and either composed of dirt or grass without ponds and trails.
Other amenities- Most parks have shaded areas, whether it be trees or umbrellas, and most will include at least one fenced-in area to keep dogs safely contained while off-leash. You may want to choose a park with benches for you to sit and watch your pet, and one with water for when your dog gets thirsty. Additionally, most parks provide doggie bags and a trash can to keep the park clean and preserved for others.
Dog Park Rules
Each city has its own rules for the dog park that are typically displayed on the fence or gate. Common rules include:
- Pet parents are responsible for their pets. Take responsibility for your pet’s behavior!
- Dogs must be socialized and not aggressive towards strangers or other dogs.
- Pick up after your dog.
- Make sure your dog is vaccinated.
- Female dogs in heat should be left at home- her presence can cause fights in male dogs.
- No food. Some dogs do not have good manners or become aggressive when food is around.
- No small children. Some dogs are not well-behaved with unfamiliar children, and they may not tolerate being touched or having their tails pulled.
- Always have a leash ready just in case.
- Always have a collar with identification tags on your dog.
Interacting with other dogs
Now that you have identified the perfect dog park for your pet, make sure that your dog is well-behaved and is trained to obey your verbal commands before you head into a situation with other dogs. Your dog should not be aggressive towards other animals or people, and he or she should be comfortable around larger and smaller animals.
Once at the dog park, always use caution when introducing your dog to other dogs. Ask the other dog owners if their pets are friendly before allowing the pups to interact together. Introduce your dog to the other animals while on-leash if possible. This allows you to control the pace of the interaction and to have control over your dog in case things do not go smoothly. Keep in mind, some pet parents may just be looking for time to share along with their dog and do not want to interact with others at this time.
Dog Parks and Disease
Even though dog parks are great for exercise and socialization, these confined areas can harbor disease. The concentration of many animals in one place makes it very easy for the spread of pathogens and parasites. Parasitic worms including roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and tapeworms lay eggs that are then excreted in a dog’s feces.
When a healthy dog eats infected feces or contaminated soil, the healthy dog becomes infected. If a dog poops at the dog park, make sure your own pup stays far away from the feces! Fleas and rodents can also transmit parasitic worms, so be on the lookout if you take your dog to a dog park that is in a forested area.
It’s also best to always have a collapsible water dish or portable pet water bottle with you in case your dog gets thirsty. Allowing your dog to drink from stagnant pools of water, like puddles, or public water bowls puts them at a higher risk for contracting parasites and diseases. If you’re looking for good-quality, travel-friendly, and leak-proof portable pet water bottles, you can view some here!
Heartworms are spread by mosquitoes and can cause coughing, lethargy, difficulty breathing, heart disease and death. Try to avoid muggy areas where mosquitoes tend to hang out. To be safe, you can also bring a pet-safe insect repellant every time you take your pooch out. That way no matter where you end up going, you have something to keep those pesky bugs away from your pet. Check out our top picks here!
Other Common Diseases Found In Dog Parks
1. Canine Parvovirus: This disease is very contagious and attacks the gastrointestinal system, causing fever, vomiting and severe diarrhea. It is spread by direct contact between dogs, as well as by contaminated feces and on surfaces. Parvo can survive in the soil for years, so make sure your dog does not dig up the ground!
2. Canine Distemper: Puppies and dogs become infected with the virus from the air or from respiratory secretions of infected dogs. Infected animals typically develop runny eyes, fever, nose secretions, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, or seizures.
Wondering What You Can Do to Keep Your Dog Safe and Healthy at the Dog Park?
1. Keep your dog away from dog feces. Like we mentioned above, many deadly diseases and parasites are transferred from an infected dog’s poop, so try to divert your dog as much as possible!
2. Make sure your dog is vaccinated! This is your dog’s best defense against parasitic worms and other diseases such as Canine Parvovirus and Canine Distemper.
3. Stay off your phone and pay attention to your dog! Make sure that your dog is not behaving badly, but also make sure that he or she is not getting into feces, digging up dirt that could have parasites, or getting too close to other dogs, to avoid touching bodily fluids.
After the Park
Once you return home from the dog park, give your dog water to re-hydrate. Some dogs will lap up an entire bowl and make themselves sick, so make sure your dog does not over-drink.
Additionally, give your dog lots of praise for their good behavior. They may think you are punishing them by leaving the dog park, so make sure that they get a reward and don’t feel punished for listening to your commands!
Dog parks are a great place to socialize your dog and provide them with a safe place for exercise, however, these areas may pose a risk to your dog’s health and well-being. Take the proper precautions to make sure that your dog does not get into anything potentially harmful, and that they are playing safely!