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When You Know It’s Time to Leave the Dog Park

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When You Know It’s Time to Leave the Dog Park

The cold, dark days of winter have finally come to an end. With colorful buds blooming, birds chirping, temperatures rising, more pup parents are on the prowl for awesome dog parks in their neighborhood.

Visiting a local dog park with your furry gives him ample opportunity to romp, socialize, explore, and get pent-up energy out. It also allows you to enjoy some fresh air and time to chit-chat with other dog parents.

However, not all dog parks are created equal. There are ones that are best to stay away from for the safety of your dog.

Here are some signs on what makes a dog park unsafe.

It Isn’t Securely Enclosed.

Dog parks that feature secure enclosures allow your pet to safely run wild. The fencing should be chew-proof, tall enough so dogs can’t jump over, and not have any large openings that smaller dogs can wiggle through. 

Related: Should You Take Your Dog to the Dog Park? The Answer May Surprise You.

And while there are open parks that let dogs roam off-leash, you should teach your dog recall (i.e. “come”) when needed. Otherwise, you may run into trouble – your dog gets spooked and takes off; there is an unsafe situation brewing (e.g. teaming up on a dog), or there may be a conflict between your dog and another pup.

It’s Missing Important Amenities.

If a dog park has zero place for your dog to cool down, your pup may get heat exhaustion or heat stroke, as our furries have a harder time cooling themselves off than we do. So look for a dog park that offers a shady place, like trees, benches, or other coverings, where your dog can beat the heat. If the dog park is in an area where no shade, consider taking her to it early in the morning or at dusk, and keep a close eye on her. If she’s excessively panting, it’s time to go.

On that note, while some dog parks offer doggy fountains, it’s always smart to come prepared. Your dog needs to stay hydrated. Bring a bottle of water and a collapsible bowl to quench your pet’s thirst.

There should also be bins to dispose of poop. (Bonus: if it has a pooper scooper or bags for dog parents to use.)

It’s not required, but a dog park that boasts a wide variety of amenities will quickly tire out almost any dog. So if you can find the rare ones that have their own agility-style equipment, like hoops, tunnels, teeter-tots, and jumps, your dog will stay mentally engaged and encourage play. Dog park equipment can also foster friendship and tighten bonds between you and your pet.

There Are No Rules Listed.

While there are many unwritten rules of a dog park, facilities that clearly spell them out help to eliminate all uncertainty. Signs that cover vaccinations, poop disposal, the removal of combative canines, repair policies, and more help to enforce the rules. It also helps dog parents understand if their pup is a good fit for a dog park.

Whether there are signs displayed or not, dog parents are responsible for following basic dog park etiquette. Some fundamental rules to follow include:

  • Always closing the gate behind you after you enter the park
  • Calling your dog away from the entrance gate while others are entering or exiting
  • Keeping a vigilant eye on your pet at all times
  • Not bringing dogs that aren’t fixed to the park, especially a female in heat
  • Removing your dog if continually causing issues or a fight breaks out

Related: The Correct Way to Safely Break Up a Dog Fight, According to an Expert

There Aren’t Separate Play Areas for Large and Small Dogs.

Not every park has separate play areas, but the ones that do tend to be safer for all involved, as smaller dogs can easily get injured by large, rambunctious canines.

A good dog park will offer separate play areas for smaller and larger breeds. Generally, the more spacious areas of a dog park are reserved for big breeds that need a lot of running room. Smaller dogs can enjoy smaller spaces as long as they have enough room to dart and dash.

If there aren’t separate play areas, keep a close eye on all dog activity.

The Ground Isn’t Safe for Dogs to Run Around On.

Nothing can spoil a fun day at the dog park faster than a muddy pet. Look for dog parks that offer comfortable and clean ground covers. Synthetic turf will ensure your dog doesn’t become a filthy mess while keeping his paws comfy. Flat dirt or gravel are also good options, as long as pea gravel isn’t used, as this material can harm your dog’s sensitive pads.

While natural grass is used in a lot of dog parks, it can easily be damaged by digging and running dogs. Sometimes, divots or holes are created, which can potentially injure a dog. Just be careful.

If the dog park isn’t well maintained, it could be a health hazard for your dog. While poop comes with the territory of dog ownership, it shouldn’t be littering the park. Dog waste can expose your pet to many harmful parasites and bacteria, including ringworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and coliform bacteria. Same goes for standing, dirty water. To keep your pet safe, make sure all of his vaccines are up to date, and make sure the dog park is well kept.

Dog Parents Who Aren’t Paying Attention.

Never stay at a dog park that you don’t feel comfortable in. It’s essential that every human and dog can enjoy a safe and inviting experience.

Before entering any dog park, take some time to observe the dog parents. Are they keeping a watchful eye on their pet? Do they seem distracted? Are they playing and interacting with their dogs? Do they understand what is appropriate dog behavior and what isn’t? If they aren’t paying attention, dangerous issues may arise.

A great dog park starts and ends with responsible dog parents.

Related: 7 National Parks You Can Actually Bring Your Dog

By Stephanie Weaver

Stephanie Weaver is a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia, PA. When she's not locked down to her laptop, she can be found riding horses or playing with her Boston Terrier mix, Steve.

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