Most dogs love going to the dog park. It's a chance for them to roam around, play, and meet new furry, four-legged friends. Unfortunately, there are some dangers involved with dog parks. Here are 5 steps to better prepare you and your canine companion for the dog park.
The dog park is a place to refine skills, not to expose dogs to discipline and social encounters for the first time. Respect others and have your dog undergo basic socialization and training classes before exposing him or her to others at the dog park. Basic training commands like sit, stay and heel are a necessity when dealing with a chaotic environment such as the dog park. You may even want to go the extra mile and have your dog certified as a Canine Good Citizen.
Whenever dogs gather there is an inherent risk that contagious diseases may spread from one animal to another. Consult your veterinarian to determine which vaccines are appropriate for your dog and region — and be sure to keep them up to date, especially before going to places like the dog park. Often veterinarians will recommend administering core vaccines, which protect against deadly diseases like canine parvovirus, distemper virus, and rabies.
Another important form of prevention for dogs planning to visit the dog park is the use of flea and tick preventives. There are many types to choose from — collars, spot-ons, oral medications, and more. Each type has its own method of application, onset of action, and duration of protection (some up to 12 weeks!). Ultimately, what's most important is that your dog is protected with a flea and tick preventive before going to the park. Dogs often come into close contact with each other and with grasses, shrubs, and bushes at dog parks. This gives fleas and ticks the perfect opportunity to latch onto new hosts — in this case, your dog. Discuss with your veterinarian what flea and tick preventive is best for your dog and situation. Additionally, check your dog for fleas and ticks after every visit to the dog park.
Dogs can get a little rambunctious and unpredictable when congregating in packs, so don't assume you'll be able to walk into the park, unleash your dog, and come back in 10-15 minutes. Your undivided attention is required in case an incident or emergency should present itself. That means no burying yourself on the cell phone screen! This is especially important if you’re bringing more than one dog to the dog park — though try to avoid managing more than two dogs by yourself. Instead, enlist the help of a friend or two and split up the dog-watching duties.
If a medical emergency does arise, don't be caught unprepared. Make a mental note of the nearest exit(s) and mark emergency numbers like your veterinarian's office and nearest animal hospital on your phone for speed dial. Some offices and hospitals are open on weekends and holidays, while others are not. It's best to know the hours of availability for your preferred facilities before your dog has an emergency.