Dog Park Safety

There are many benefits to having access to dog parks. In densely populated areas with heavy traffic and leash laws, it can be difficult to stimulate your dog’s need for safe socialization and exercise. Dog parks give us and our dogs the freedom to run, play, and socialize off-leash in a safe and secure place. However, not all dog parks are equal, and not all dogs do well at every park. There are key aspects to examine before determining if a dog park is the best place for your pup.

  1. Cleanliness: All dog parks should have dog waste bags and trashcans for owners to clean up after their dog. If these supplies are not provided, please bring your own and encourage other owners to clean up as well.
  2. Drinking water: A good dog park will have a water source with clean bowls. If the water is frequently dirty or inadequate, it is recommended to bring your own water and collapsible bowl. If it is a shared water source, it is recommended that your change the water out before your dog drinks from it. Shared water and dirty water can spread illnesses and bacteria. Also, be sure that your dog does not drink out of standing water like puddles and ponds.
  3. Shade: It is very important that in the warmer months that there are accessible shaded areas for dogs to rest if they begin to overheat.
  4. Size & Crowd: A dog park that is too large, can pose unforeseen problems if your dog wanders too far from you. It is recommended that you can spot your dog quickly in an emergency. Furthermore, a park that is too small can cause problems between dogs that cannot move away from each other easily. If a dog park has too many dogs in a small space, that can create a targeting environment. Dogs need to be able to walk away in situations that make them uncomfortable. If they are not able to move away effectively, it can cause altercations between dogs.
  5. Behavior: Pay attention to the environment in the park before you take your dog inside. Be aware of other dogs behaving inappropriately or strangely. If you notice anything that seems like it could be a problem, it might be best to avoid the situation, or at least be extra aware while you are there. Also, if your dog’s behavior changes and they are displaying fearful, agitated, or even aggressive behaviors, it might be best to leave the dog park.
  6. Security: You want to make sure that all fences are secure and maintained. Also, be sure that all gates are double gated to reduce the chance of any dogs escaping.
  7. Small dog areas: If your dog is under 20 lbs. it would be wise to find a park that has a separate small dog area. If your small pup enjoys playing with bigger dogs, that’s great! However, not all big dogs do well with little ones. Keep in mind that some dogs and breeds have a tendency for pray drive. It would be a good idea to visually survey the park for potential issues and ask owners if their dogs will be okay with your little guy present.

Not all dog parks are going to meet the needs for every dog or dog owner. If you frequent one specific dog park, and consistently run into problems, it might be time for a change in routine. If you have easy access to multiple dog parks, try out a few of them at different times of the day to find the best one for your dog. It is important that we listen to our dogs. Just because a dog park seems great to us as humans doesn’t mean your dog is always going to feel the same. When you find the right one, you will know it.

By Jessica Ward, Operations Manager of The Board Hound, Arlington, VA

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