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5 Essential Dog Park Safety Tips

A walk to the park provides owners with the perfect opportunity to enable their dogs to socialise and get some daily exercise. If you have a high-energy dog, they may appreciate the mental stimulation as they can run free in comparison to a moderately paced on-lead walk. Although it has many benefits, going to the park can be dangerous for some dogs too. To help avoid any hazardous incidents, follow these tips to keep your dog safe:

1. Avoid Spreading Communicable Diseases

Essential Dog Park Safety Tips

Healthy dogs may shed harmful bacteria in their poo that can make other dogs sick. 

Contagious infections such as parvovirus, giardia, canine influenza, kennel cough and distemper can be spread from dog to dog though faeces, saliva, bites, and may even linger on the ground and on park equipment. Do your part to avoid spreading these illnesses by vaccinating your dog, and keeping them out of the park for at least two weeks after their shots to make sure they have taken effect. Also, be sure to pick up your dog's poo with a quality scoop, as even healthy adult dogs can shed bacteria and viruses that can make young puppies sick. Don't go to the dog park if your dog is a puppy that has not yet completed their core vaccine schedule, or an older dog with a compromised immune system. 

 2. Don't Bring Food

Even friendly dogs can become aggressive when food is present. Be sure to avoid bringing treats for your own dog, or even eating your own snacks when you're in the dog park. If you would like to work on training at the dog park, go early in the morning, on a weekday, or in the late afternoon when nobody else is around. Some dogs can become protective over toys, too. Be careful not to throw a ball in a crowded dog park; the dogs may all run for it at once, and can get into a fight as a result.

3. Learn Dog Body Language

Dog park safety tips

A fight can seem to break out suddenly, but there are typically many warning signs before it happens. Overenthusiastic play can turn into a fight, especially when one dog is too pushy. Consistently running away from a play partner, flattened ears, raised hackles and a tucked tail are all signs that a dog needs a break. When dogs do not want to play, they may sniff the ground, yawn, or scratch. This is known as displacement behaviour, and it often means that your dog is overstimulated and trying to avoid contact. Watch your dog carefully the whole time. Don't read a book or use your phone. You should always be ready to call your dog if they are showing signs of stress, or if they are bullying another dog. You should leave immediately if your dog shows any signs of aggression or are concerned about their safety. Growling and showing teeth are normal during play. Watch out for stiff body language and avoidance of interaction.

4. Be Careful With Size Differences

Small dogs and large dogs generally should not play together. A large dog can see a small dog as prey. Even if the large dog is being friendly, they can accidentally harm their smaller playmates. Many dogs have been severely injured, even killed at dog parks. It's better not to take a chance, even if you think you're certain that your large dog would never hurt a small one. It can be safe to introduce two dogs of different sizes under close supervision, but one small dog in a group of large, playful dogs will be in serious danger.

5. Know Your Dog

Dogs are not like humans in that they need friends of their own species. If your dog was not properly socialized with other dogs as a puppy, they may never be able to have canine playmates. Retrievers tend to be extremely friendly, while herding breeds are less likely to enjoy a dog park. One scary interaction can make some dogs forever fearful, while others will bounce right back and keep playing. It's perfectly fine if you decide to avoid dog parks. Your dog needs exercise, play and companionship, all of which can be adequately provided by you and your human family! 

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