Dog Parks Gone Wild: Pet Safety Tips

Some dog parks are like a barking lot, where the bark is worst than the bite, but more and more pet owners are avoiding these settings because of beastly behavior.

Unfortunately, it seems that bad behavior is on the increase where dog owners congregate without supervision. For optimal safety, I prefer that animals attend play groups that are supervised.

Supervised play groups are usually run by private facilities and have a human attendant that moderates the dog group. They also screen animals to make sure that they are healthy and parasite free.

However, you may want to venture into public gathering areas, and to calm the savage beast and avoid altercations, here are a few tips:

*Select the right location.

Just like selecting a day care or play group for children, check the place out first. Take the time to visit without your dog and watch what goes on. Do the dogs play well? Are pet owners diligently watching their pets and managing the behavior, or are they too consumed with visiting with others?

*Look for rules and guidelines.

Make sure there are posted rules and an explanation about how the park works. If there is a person onsite that oversees the activities—jump for joy. Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations to avoid exposure to potential disease. Also make sure you have updated registration tags and IDs on your pet.

*Begin visits during off peak times.

If you can begin integration into a dog park during the weekdays it will be less overwhelming to you and your pet. Weekday evenings, weekends, and holidays are going to be peak times. Keep it short and sweet on your first visit and work up into longer visits.

*Sit, Stay, Obey, and Play!

Your dog should be obedient to your commands so that you can call your dog back to you if needed. Is your pet friendly to other animals? Your answer should be yes, if not, hire a dog behaviorist for help before you go to the dog park.

*Follow the leader and follow the rules.

By default dogs follow the leader, but as an owner you should follow the rules of the realm. Get to know the rules and follow them and make sure your dog follows your guidance. Most areas require that your dog must be on leash upon entering and exiting the play area. Local laws exist regarding public areas and pet conduct so you should know what they are.

*Show concern for others.

Take your dog on a walk before you head to the dog park. You might think this sounds silly but exercise will help calm your critter before playtime with others—and can help him or her be better behaved. Always clean up and dispose of your pet’s feces and be sure to keep females in heat and pups under four months of age at home.

*Show concern for your dog.

Have a travel kit for your dog! Include a towel, poop bags, sun screen, dog sun glasses or booties (if appropriate), a water bowl, and water for your adventures out.

*One dog, one handler.
For optimal safety, there should be one handler per dog.

*Dog parks are not necessarily for kids.

Not all dogs who attend dog parks are child friendly so it is best to leave kids at home. If a child does accompany you, make sure he or she can follow the rules: Stick close, no running, no screaming, and no snacks.

*Be a mutt matcher.
Sometimes dog park animals will rush to the fence to investigate new dogs. Watch the body language and let dogs sniff through the fence. Often, you can spot any potential trouble before it starts.

*Stack the cards in your favor.

Many problems start when leashed and unleashed dogs are combined. When in the play area, make sure all dogs are all off-leash or all on leash and remember, breaking up problems before they escalate is the key. Use distraction devices such as audio, water, or dog stop spray, to diffuse situations.

*Safety first.
Recognize neutral territory and avoid altercations over water bowls or toys by eliminating them. For health reasons, it would be best to have your dog get drinks from his or her own bowl–outside of the park. Don’t take food or drink into the dog park to avoid food guarding and similar behavior. Keep moving, or distract animals into something different, to avoid problems.

*Mind those mutt manners.

If your pet is shows protective aggression when it comes to you, get professional help to reduce the problem before you enter into a strange play group.

*Learn pet social styles and play patterns.

Make sure to be a good student of animal behavior—and be attentive to human concerns. Respect the concerns of others and move to a new area if the dogs are getting too crazy. If your pet is behaving badly, go home and try again another day.

*Be a supervisor.
Supervise your dog to avoid conflicts and be astute enough to recognize the warning signs of other canines. Stay off your cell phone once in the park and refrain from chatting too much with other owners—you should be concentrating on your dog.

*Prevent problems.

Prevention is a whole lot better than getting treatment after a dog fight. Use distraction and appropriate devices to thwart altercations–and learn how to safely intervene if your dog gets into a fight.

*What to do in times of trouble.

Check the laws in your state but in most cases, a dog owner is liable for injuries and damage inflicted by their dog. If your dog injures a person or a dog, exchange names and phone numbers with the injured party. If there are pet owners who are not adhering to the rules, endangering the safety of others, or who refuse to take responsibility for damages or injuries, report them to law enforcement such as the sheriff or animal control. If necessary, jot down their license plate number.

Have any additional tips? Please comment below.

Want to learn about animal behavior and pet social styles? Drop by and enter your name and email address. You will be sent information and be able to access a free class called, Introduction to Animal Behavior with animal expert Diana L Guerrero (53 minutes long).

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