Annie here and I would like to talk to you about the topic on dog parks which is sometimes a controversial one…are they good, are they bad, are they unhealthy, are they dangerous? There are many dog parks that are opening up and they are growing in popularity amongst dog owners. We have a whole list of things to consider ensuring that your dog(s) has a safe visit to the dog park if you attend. There are risks and dangers to consider before attending but there can be benefits from dog parks such as socialization and lots of exercise. Consider visiting an array of different dog parks before attending with your dog. Pay attention to the safety and cleanliness of the park.
It is important to be sure that your dog is current on vaccines (yes, protection against kennel cough too) and that your dog is on proper parasite preventative. Preventative is very important because they will be around many other unfamiliar dogs, therefore your parents need to be responsible and take preventative measures to ensure your health and well being. Do not take puppies to dog parks until they are fully vaccinated!
Be sure that your pet has the appropriate personality to go to a dog park. Make sure that your pet doesn’t mind making new friends and being in groups of other dogs. Also, that it doesn’t mind being around all of the people at the park as well who may try to pet and befriend your dog.
It is also important that you can recall your dog and keep him/her away from dangerous or harmful situations if they arise. Be cognizant of other people and don’t let strangers feed your dog at the local parks. Consider slowly introducing your dog to the park. Keep your dog on a leash and let him/her investigate as he or she is safely by your side. If they act nervous, fearful, or want to leave then take the cues from your dog and consider that the park is not the place for them or they may require additional training and time.
Once you trust that your pet is comfortable and will enjoy the dog park then let them off the leash. Dog parks should have a double door system which is built for your pet’s safety. One set of doors should only be opened at a time to ensure that dogs will not escape the park. Make sure that your pets have proper identification with current information (and/or a microchip) to ensure that if they were to escape they can be reunited with you quickly and easily. Most parks have a designated small dog area of the park, for small dog’s safety. Be sure to take advantage of these areas and individuals with big dogs should be respectful and keep their large dogs out of this area.
If the dog parks have swimming holes then you should take clean water with you and encourage your pet to drink from the clean water source rather than the swimming water. On hot days make sure your pet has access to water, and has shady spots to relax and cool off. You may want to consider visiting parks in the morning or in the evening when it is cooler.
Don’t forget to clean up after your dog- pick up your poop! Be sure that you and your children in the park, wear your shoes and practice proper hygiene after cleaning up poop. Remember some intestinal parasites are zoonotic (transmitted between humans and animals) and therefore we want you to be safe too!
Lastly, be sure to keep your veterinarians phone number or an emergency hospitals number on hand in case of an emergency. We hope that you will never need it but it’s better to be prepared.
Dog parks have their risks but if you are a responsible dog owner and you have a social dog that enjoys the parks, then it can be a great place to socialize and receive a lot of exercise! Use your head, if you see a dog there that makes you or your dog uncomfortable or one that is bullying other dogs then consider staying away from those dogs or leaving the park all together. Go back when the park has a different variety of dogs. If the park is too crowded or busy then consider visiting another day.
Overall the benefits of your dog’s social well being outweigh the risks of going to the dog park. Exercise is a great benefit and can play a role in your pet’s longevity.
The take home message is make sure your pet is current on vaccinations and preventatives before attending, and also that your dog has the attitude and personality to enjoy the park. Be sure to introduce them slowly and weigh the cost and benefits to find out if it’s the right place for you before you attend. If you’re not sure then consult with your veterinarian, they know your dog well and they know their health status. So if you’re doubtful, ask.
Until next time,
Annie & Mark Carlson, DVM
Stow Kent Animal Hospital
Portage Animal Clinic