Dog parks are a wonderful outlet for socializing and exercise, but they do come with hazards. To keep everybody safe and happy, follow these tips:

  • Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date. This protects him from avoidable diseases like canine influenza. In a number of cases, this is required before you can enter a dog park.
  • Stay in your “assigned” area. Many parks have designated areas for big dogs and small dogs. For your own good, avoid moving back and forth. You never know how other dogs will react.
  • Pay attention. We know it’s tempting to spend your downtime reading emails and checking up on the latest YouTube videos, but don’t do this at a dog park. You need to give your full attention to your dog’s activity. Does he appear angry? Scared? Is he acting strangely? Is he growling? Staying on top of things means you can act quickly to avoid a sticky situation.
  • Visit the park beforehand. Look for holes or loose nails in the fencing. How do the dogs behave? How do their owners behave? Do you see anything dangerous on the grass or cement that your dog could eat? Does the park look ill-kept or filthy? If something doesn’t feel right, or you’re not sure if you’re comfortable taking your dog there, don’t take chances. Odds are there are other parks in the area you can visit.
  • Avoid bringing treats or toys. If your dog is toy or food aggressive, this spells nothing but trouble.
  • Know your dog’s personality. Can he handle loud, sudden noises? Is he afraid of strangers, particularly young children? Does he cower at the sight of other dogs? No matter how determined you are to take him to a park, don’t force him to go if he can’t handle it.