Almost every dog absolutely loves visiting the dog park. What’s not to like? Fresh air, plenty of space to run around unleashed, mingling (or more) with old and new friends, and unfettered bathroom privileges turn a plain old dog park into a paradise for pooches. Like any other activity involving your dog, you need to observe certain safety tips to ensure your visit to the park is happy and secure. Here is a list of important safety tips for bringing your pet to the dog park:
Vaccinations It’s a basic responsibility of pet ownership: your dog has to be vaccinated against various viruses and microbes that can cause it serious harm. You should expect all the dogs at the park to be vaccinated. If you see a dog without a collar or apparent owner, beware — it might be an unvaccinated stray. Your veterinarian will maintain your pet’s vaccination records, and will inform you when your dog is due for its next vaccination. Some vaccines require annual boosters, so make sure you don’t miss any scheduled appointments with your vet.
Cellphone It’s a good general rule to load various emergency numbers onto your cellphone, including one for your veterinarian and also for an animal emergency hospital. Make sure the phone is fully charged before departing for the dog park. Emergencies can occur in a flash, so be prepared, just in case.
Dog Behavior You need to learn the difference between dogs at play and dogs fighting. Sometimes, play looks aggressive but is essentially harmless. Other times, dogs get into real fights that can maim or kill them. Snarling and teeth-baring are warning signs. Ask your vet to explain to you how to recognize fighting and how to intervene. Always be on the lookout for aggressive dogs, which really shouldn’t be allowed in the park. If a dog seems out of line, speak to the owner. If it occurs repeatedly, contact the government entity responsible for the dog park and make a complaint.
A Watchful Eye While you may enjoy the fun and comradery of the dog park almost as much as does your pooch, remember that the visit is about the dog, not you. This means you need to always keep an eye on your dog and watch out for trouble. Don’t let your dog eat items on the ground that you haven’t supplied (including poop, which for some reason many dogs find appetizing). If your dog eats some foreign material and reacts violently to it, rush it to the vet or animal hospital.
Size Counts In the best of all possible worlds, big and small dogs would congregate together in peace and harmony. In our world, however, large and small dogs are best separated to prevent the little ones from being trampled or otherwise doghandled by the bigger canines. Big dogs play hard and may inadvertently hurt a small breed, so separation is best. If you dog park isn’t equipped with facilities to keep large and small dogs apart, get together with your fellow owners and petition for this added amenity.
Training A trained dog is a happy dog. It knows its place (below you in the pecking order) and responds to commands that can help keep it safe. The TV, Internet and bookstores are chock-a-block with dog training information. You don’t need to be a dog whisperer to properly coach your dog, and a lot of the training involves adjusting your own attitude so that the dog knows that you are relaxed and in command. Ask your vet for advice on the best sources of training information.
Cool, Clear Water Dogs don’t sweat, but they lose a lot of moisture from their mouths. They can quickly become dehydrated, especially when running around in the dog park. There are plenty of ingenious dog water bottles that can be easily carried around. Bring one or two water bottles and have some water available at all times. P.S. — this will make you a hero with the other dog owners!
Rest and Diet Are Important Don’t bring exhausted dogs to the dog park — it might be too taxing and it’s a shame to curtail their activity while they are having fun. If your dog is well rested before visiting the dog park, it will be able to enjoy hours of fun without running out of energy. If you see your dog panting and having trouble catching its breath, you know that it’s time to go. Part of keeping your dog energized is to feed it a proper diet — follow your veterinarian’s suggestions and, if possible, buy your dog food from the vet’s office. Your vet understands what your particular dog needs for good nutrition and translates this into recommended portions and feeding intervals for the food your vet sells. Maintaining your dog’s proper weight should give it plenty of energy to enjoy the dog park without becoming sluggish or less mobile.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.