Taking your dog to the dog park can be a great opportunity for socialization, exercise, and playtime in an open environment. There are many factors to consider when taking your dog to a dog park, especially in an off leash area. Dogs have very unique personalities and it is possible to encounter dogs that are more selective about playing with other dogs. It is important to remember that the other dogs may be unpredictable and not all dog owners thoroughly understand dog socialization and dog park etiquette. Always supervise your pet in a dog park environment, especially while they are playing with other dogs. For everyone’s safety, keep your dog on a leash until you are in a designated off leash area, and pay attention to separate areas for small dogs and large dogs.
A change in a dog’s behavior can happen very suddenly, and it is crucial to know the signs of distress or aggression in your dog and in other dogs in order to prevent issues. Positive play signs between dogs include bouncy gestures, open relaxed mouths, play-bow, and relaxed wagging tails. Some warning signs that a dog is not comfortable include ears pinned back, stiff or low wagging tail, hackles raised, anxiety/whining and the dog trying to get away from the situation. If you see a dog who looks extremely tense, is giving hard stares, showing teeth, snarling or raising lips, or trying to dominate another dog forcefully, these are all catalysts to a dog fight and should be stopped immediately. Dogs may also redirect their excitement or aggression so it important to not let your dog get overstimulated while playing. Dogs can become annoyed or uncomfortable at any time and that is why it is so important to watch them constantly and know what to look for.
Always follow the posted rules and regulations of the park, which help ensure the safety and well-being of pets and their owners. All pets should be fully vaccinated before entering a dog park, and puppies should not go to dog parks until they are at least 4 months old and fully vaccinated. If you see any dogs in the park showing signs of illness like coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea, you do not want your dog to play there. Children should not visit dog parks as some dogs are not good with children and they could easily be knocked over or injured by an excited dog. All dog owners should be watching their dogs at all times and should have their leash ready in case they need to leash their dog and remove them. Also, it is a good idea to bring your own waste bags to clean up after your dog, although some parks provide them. Leave the treats, toys and bones at home as these can cause unwanted issues between dogs.
Dog parks can be a lot of fun for your pets and are much safer if everyone follows posted rules and is aware of dog park etiquette. Some dogs may play with all the other dogs while some might enjoy sniffing around or sitting on the sidelines. Remember, if your dog seems very uncomfortable in a dog park situation it is best to remove them. Always pay attention to how your dog acts and do what makes them feel most comfortable.