Dog Parks are Great – But Safety First!

August 18, 2011

Since the weather has been so pleasant, many KHS adopters and dog training clients have inquired about taking their dogs to the dog park. Off-leash play at the dog park is a great way for dog-social canines to get good exercise and social interaction with other dogs. But, some precautions should be taken when entering the dog park.

The First time you go to the dog park
Take your first trip to the dog park during a less busy time such as mid-morning on a weekday rather than on a Saturday. It is easier to keep an eye on your dog with fewer dogs and people at the park. Your dog will also have an easier time exploring the area if he does not have many other dogs to greet. If possible, take along a friend that has a dog-social dog or has previously visited the dog park. Remove your dog’s leash immediately when you enter the fenced area. It is not safe to take a leashed dog into a situation where the other dogs are off leash.

Bodies in Motion
Walk around the park once you have entered do not stay in one spot for more than a few minutes at a time. Most dogs hang out where the people are, and some may become territorial if they “set up camp” in one location. Even dogs that were playing together nicely may get into a tussle under these circumstances. There is also a training benefit to walking around the park while your dog plays. Your dog will occasionally look for you and will check in with you. This is an opportunity to praise him for coming to you, which can aid in recall training.

What about dog fights?
Full-blown dog fights are a rare occurrence at the dog park. Once in a while dogs may have a minor skirmish with teeth flashing and some barking and growling to correct an unappreciated mounting or other social faux pas, but dogs do not bite when a growl will do. If a dog fight does occur, move away from the area. Call to him cheerfully before he becomes focused on the other dogs, and run in the opposite direction of the altercation. If there seems to be an unusual amount of aggressive displays on a particular day, go home. It is better to leave and come back when things return to normal.

Best Practices
The dog park can be a very rewarding experience for you and your dog. Many happy memories will be the result of visits to the dog park.
• To avoid serious injury, remove harnesses, prong collars and other training tools while your dog is having off-leash play. Another dog’s mouth can get caught in these devices and they can be hurt or worse.
• Do not take food and toys to the dog park. Dogs may begin to guard you as a food resource and may resource guard toys. Even if your dog does not exhibit this behavior, another dog might and a dog fight may happen as a result of the guarding.
• Most dog parks have double-gated entrances and exits. Be sure that one gate is closed when you are coming in and going out.
• A dog park is not a safe place for children. Dogs are running and playing and may knock down a child. Some dogs have never been socialized to children and may actually be frightened by them.
• Always know where your dog is, keep him in your sight and be observant of what is going on around him.
                        -Deana Case, KHS Behavior and Training Coordinator