In theory, dog parks seem like a nearly perfect place for pet training and socialization. Dogs can run off-leash while enjoying each other’s company and come home tired and happy – all while you’ve been relaxing and skipping the daily walk. Sounds like a great plan, but with so many dogs and people (most of whom are likely looking at their phones rather than watching their dogs), trouble can quickly arise.
Practicing good dog park etiquette is the key to safely enjoying the park, and making sure others do too.
Not Right for Everybody
As much as you may love the idea of your dog joining a group of “friends” for an afternoon of free play, dog parks are not ideal for every dog. Skip the dog park and opt for a walk, hike, or playdate with a dog you know and trust if your pup meets any of the following criteria:
- They are aggressive, fearful, or overly shy
- They are a puppy
- They are unvaccinated
- They are not spayed/neutered
- They are not currently on year-round flea, tick, and heartworm preventives
- They are coughing, sneezing, or showing any other signs of illness (in that case, give us a call!)
Dog Park Etiquette 101
To maintain the safety and enjoyment of everyone who uses your local dog park, keep these dog park etiquette tips in mind:
Observe – It can be tempting to check emails or become engrossed in conversation with another dog owner, but it’s important to never take your eyes off your dog. Step in to intervene if you notice your dog is being harassed, is bullying another dog, is acting fearful, or causing any type of disturbance.
Entering – Be mindful when entering the dog park gate, as other dogs tend to crowd around the appearance of a newcomer. It may be better to introduce your dog gradually by letting them smell and observe the other dogs through the fence before entering.
Separate but equal – If you have a small dog, look for a park with a separate space for the little guys. This ensures that smaller dogs don’t get injured or harassed by their larger peers. Similarly, don’t allow your bigger dog to play rough with a smaller companion.
Scoop the poop – The importance of picking up after your dog cannot be understated. Not only does dog poop increase the risk of spreading parasites and disease, but it can also undermine the quality of a park. Many parks offer doggie waste bags, but always bring your own in case they’re out.
Pack your own – Allowing your dog to drink out of a communal water bowl is not ideal, as it can be a breeding ground for communicable disease. Bring plenty of freshwater and bowl to drink from, and offer it to your dog at regular intervals.
Dog Park Safety
If you know us at all here at our 24 Hour Animal Hospital in Toronto, you know that the safety of our pet patients is incredibly important to us. Summer isn’t over here in Toronto., and avoiding heat-related injury should still be a priority. Take your pet to the dog park in the early morning or evening hours when the weather is cooler. If you observe any signs of heat exhaustion (excessive panting, drooling, disorientation, pale or red gums), get your dog into the shade, offer water, and give us a call.
With an eye toward safety and etiquette, dog parks can be magical places of doggie freedom after all!