Off the Leash – Dog Park Fun and Safety

Want a good smile? Take your dog to the dog park. It’s one of life’s simpler pleasures; watching dogs run, wrestle, jump and sniff. A trip to your local dog park can be one of the most enjoyable experiences for your dog and a great way for you to meet your neighbors. Both you and your dog need socialization and the dog park is the perfect setting to enjoy the company of your respective friends! An hour at the dog park will also give your best friend more exercise than a casual walk around the block.

Go Prepared

Be certain you and your dog are ready for the dog park. Is he a puppy less than 4 months of age or still in need of all his vaccinations? A visit to the dog park is premature – wait until your puppy is older and fully vaccinated. Young puppies are more susceptible to disease and may be too immature to play with the pack. Ask your veterinarian for advice about the proper age to visit the dog park (and check your local park’s rules). Even adult dogs should be up-to-date on all vaccinations; be certain that the Bordatella (kennel cough) vaccine is included in the regimen.

Remove any items that may be dangerous for your dog or others at the park, such as spiked collars and choke chains.

At a minimum, you should bring a bowl and a sufficient supply of water to last your visit. Do you have your dog’s leash? Always be prepared to leash your dog in public areas for his own safety! Oh, and make sure you have a supply of bags to pick up after your dog!

You probably want to leave that favorite toy at home, since many dogs are possessive and may try to defend it at the park. Small children should also stay outside the dog park, since kids are easily injured by large dogs or a fast moving pack at play. Although your dog may be wonderful with kids, don’t assume the same for unfamiliar dogs!

Approaching The Dog Park

dogpark2Now that your dog is pacing and panting in anticipation, get ready to head out to the park. If you’re driving, play it safe and always put your dog on leash from the car to the dog park entrance. A fun day at the park can quickly turn sour if she runs into traffic or accidentally runs into someone who doesn’t share our love for dogs! Before entering a dog park, take a few minutes to read any posted rules. In many areas, citizens and politicians who consider dog parks a waste of money or land routinely scrutinize dog parks. Don’t give these people further ammunition by openly disregarding posted rules, even if you don’t agree with them!

Dogs At Play!

Once your dog is safely inside the park running and playing with friends, stay alert. Always pick up after your dog – always! Feces isn’t just stinky when stuck to the bottom of your shoe; it can spread disease if not properly disposed. Just as children sometimes get too physical while playing, dogs too can get carried away. Dogs often wrestle and “play bite” for fun – this is normal and acceptable behavior. However, there is a fine line between play and aggressive behavior. Dogs that bear their teeth, bite to injure, growl loudly, pin other dogs to the ground relentlessly, or mount other dogs non-stop should be removed from the park.

Small dogs may require additional attention, unless your local park has an area dedicated to smaller dogs. Monitor small dogs closely and be prepared to remove them if the larger dogs get too physical or the movement of the pack is simply too much for him to handle.

A little preparation and close monitoring of your dog will contribute to a fun and rewarding experience for your dog. Remember to read and observe the posted rules and thank any volunteers who may help keep the local park open! Now, go have some fun!!

logo-restondogsby Brian Davidson
Brian Davidson is the President of RestonDogs, Inc. RestonDogs, Inc. supports off leash dog parks in the Reston, VA area, promotes responsible dog ownership, and provides social activities for dog owners.