6 Super Safety Tips for the Dog Park
1) Visit Your Veterinarian- your dog should be current on rabies, distemper-parvo, and bordetella vaccinations, flea prevention, and intestinal parasite preventatives before running around with other dogs. Also, consider a Canine Influenza vaccine- this is a "new" contagion that may be in your area (see our Canine Influenza "Dog Flu" section). Make sure you also discuss your dog's temperament and whether he's ready to engage with other pets and people off leash.
2) Know Commands- You need to be able to control your dog if a problematic situation arises. Make sure your dog knows some basic commands like "come", "sit", "stay", and "leave-it".
3) Find The Right Spot- You want to find the right park for you and your dog. Ideally, it should have: adequate room for dogs to run, secure fences, a double gate for entry, separate areas for small dogs, sheltered area, source of drinking water, and posted rules of conduct.
4) Be Prepared- Take essentials with you: poop bags, drinking water bowl, toys, leash, a cell phone in case you need help. Consider having an animal deterrent spray or air horn on hand in case you need to break up an aggressive situation.
5) Be watchful- Watch your dog but also keep an eye out for overly excited or aggressive dogs near you. If your dog starts acting fearful or overwhelmed, use a basic command to call him back to you.
6) Know when to intervene- Playful dogs bounce around, wag their tails, and have relaxed postures and facial expressions. Be watchful for signs of aggression like growling, a stiff posture, raised hackles, closed mouth, or stronger focus. Don't yell if your dog and another dog start growling at each other because that could trigger a fight. Instead, use a basic command to call you dog back to you. If a fight does break out, don't grab your dog's collar- you could get hurt. Instead, use a deterrent spray, a horn, or water hose to separate dogs.