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Knowing the rules, training your dog, and always keeping an eye open are some of the dog park safety tips that can keep visits to your local dog park fun and carefree.
In 2019, there were 810 dog parks located in the 100 largest U.S. cities. Add in the parks in smaller cities and towns and there are well over 1,000 dog parks in the United States.
Dog parks give our canine besties the chance to socialize with other dogs. And, give them a safe space to exercise and play. But like anything else to do with dogs, a safe and enjoyable experience at the dog park isn’t always guaranteed.
In 2016, Nationwide found that policyholders spent $10.5 million to treat their dogs’ park-related injuries and illnesses.
But just because there are dog park dangers doesn’t mean you and your pup need to avoid them altogether.
Dog park safety rules usually include things like age and size restrictions, vaccination requirements, and behavior guidelines.
If you’ve never been to a particular dog park before, experts recommend visiting without your dog first to check it out. What are the park’s rules and regulations? Do the owners seem to be following them? Are the owners attentive?
The answers to these questions will help you determine if that dog park is right for your pooch.
Additionally, small puppies can get hurt by larger dogs. Even those that mean no harm can accidentally injure a small puppy during a bout of tumbling.
(Learn the signs of dehydration in dogs.)
But, like the above, to keep your dog healthy after a visit to the dog park, skip the communal water source and bring your own bowl. Sometimes sharing isn’t caring.
Speaking of water on a hot summer day, remember to limit your dog’s intake to small amounts at any given time. Too much drinking all at once can lead to bloat, especially in large dogs.
In case it’s not obvious, here’s a “hot” dog park tip for you. A dog in heat is the last thing anyone wants at a dog park. You risk an unplanned pregnancy. Plus, there’s every chance some of the male dogs will become aggressive.
Instead, put your dog through socialization training before you visit a dog park for the first time. This should be done with a trainer or in a group class so that your pup learns what is and is not acceptable when interacting with other dogs.
Your dog should also know basic obedience commands like come and stay.
Whenever possible, try to visit dog parks with separate areas for large and small dogs. As mentioned above, big dogs can hurt small dogs without any intention of doing so. A Saint Bernard just can’t help his size when playing with a small Chihuahua. To keep everyone safe, it’s better to keep large and small dogs separate.
To make the experience as enjoyable as possible, you must be on the lookout for anything that might go sideways. Whether that’s keeping an eye on a dog that looks like he might bite or watching out for signs of heat exhaustion in your pup on a hot day.
If you notice there’s suddenly more rough in the rough and tumble, step in and take your dog out. Look for dogs with erect ears and tails that may be signaling aggression. Listen for growling or whimpers. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If the dogs seem tense or nervous, it’s time to go.
(Learn more about how to read your dog's body language.)