Off-leash dog parks are becoming a popular place for people to take their dogs in many communities. And with the summer quickly approaching, many will be starting to take their dogs there. They are a great way to let your dog off leash safely, giving them an outlet for their energy and a chance to socialize with other dogs. While they are great for giving your dog an outlet for their energy, there is also a risk of injury, disease and ways of preventing these types of situations.
- Make sure to keep your dog up to date on vaccinations and routine testing. Ask your veterinarian which vaccines and tests are appropriate for your dog’s activities.
- If you are visiting a dog park for the first time, go at a time that it will be less crowded. Approach the entrance slowly and watch other dogs’ behavior before entering.
- If your pet is aggressive towards people or other dogs, a dog park is not the place for them.
- Supervise your dog at all times.
- If your dog seems fearful, “bullied,” or aggressive, remove your dog from the situation right away.
- Unless your dog is willing to share, do not take toys with you to the park. If there are any signs of toy aggression, take the toy away IMMEDIATELY.
- NEVER physically intervene in a dogfight including pulling on one or both of their collars. This could result in injury to you or the dogs. Instead, a squirt the dog in the face with a water bottle or bring an air horn to blow in the event of a dogfight or even use a stick to disengage the dogs.
- Clean up after your dog as it is never pleasant to step in another dog’s mess.
- Injuries – Dogs that are playing and excitable are prone to accidents. Tripping while running or playing too roughly can result in injuries. Bewatchful while your dog is at the park to help avoid these kinds of incidents.
- Lacerations – Loose fencing, other structures, and even the friendliest wrestling can result in scratches or cuts. Look out for aggressive dogs and foreign objects within the dog park that could harm dogs while they are playing.
- Toxins – Be aware of any chemicals used at the park by maintenance crews including fertilizers and pesticides. Information may be posted or you may need to contact the parks department to get this information. If your pet is exposed to an area where chemicals have been applied, wash your dog’s feet and legs thoroughly and contact your veterinarian for signs of toxicity.
- Parasites – Flea and tick prevention is essential for all dogs in this area of the country. Fleas and ticks can be present at any time of the year and Lyme disease is prevalent in this area. Ask your veterinarian for recommended flea and tick prevention. Also, keep in mind that fecal material can transmit intestinal parasites. Pick up your dog’s feces and get regular fecal tests done by your veterinarian.
- Overheating – Overheating can happen no matter what time of year it is. Make sure to always have water on hand to keep your dog hydrated and prevent overheating. Frequent breaks from playing in warm weather can also help cool your dog down. Signs of overheating include excessive panting, excessive drooling, vomiting, and bright red gums and tongue. If you see these signs, contact your veterinarian.
- Do not feed your dog 1-2 hours prior to going to the dog park or engaging them in another physical activity as this can increase your dog’s risk of bloat. Certain large deep-chested breeds are predisposed to developing this condition. Signs of this can include excessive panting, distended and/or painful abdomen, lethargy, and excessive drooling.
I hope this gives you some points to consider before taking your dog to the dog park. They can be wonderful places for you and your dog to socialize. Be sure to check local laws and regulations for requirements of you and your dog prior to going. Montgomery County requires that you have your dog licensed in Montgomery County and a special dog park permit. See Montgomery County Dog Parks for a list of local dog parks, additional information, and applications.