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It doesn’t get much more fun for dogs (and their people) than a sunny afternoon play session at the local dog park. Sounds like a simple enough outing, but there are a few common-sense dog park safety (and etiquette) rules that all good dogs and their owners should be sure to follow. Here are a few expert tips to ensure that your trip to the dog park is fun and safe.
1. To dog park or not to dog park
Not all dogs love playing with lots of other dogs, and your particular pup may not be the dog park type. That’s OK, you can always set up more low-key doggie play dates for your shy pup with one or two trusted canine friends.
2. Find the right park
Look for a dog park with adequate room to play, secure fencing, a double-gated entry, separated areas for small and large dogs, and a source of fresh drinking water.
3. Brush up on canine body language
Educate yourself on the ways dogs communicate with each other so that you know the difference between play, fear, and anger.
4. Leash vs. no leash
Be sure to unleash your dog as soon as you enter an off-leash area. Leashed and unleashed dogs don’t always mix, and it’s safest to put your dog on equal footing with the other dogs in the area.
5. Know your commands
Make sure your dog is well-trained in common commands in case an issue arises. Your dog should know and respond quickly to commands like sit, stay, come, and leave it.
6. No kids allowed
It’s safer to keep young children away from the dog park. As much as little kids love dogs, it will be hard for you to monitor your two- and four-legged kids at the same time. Also, not all dogs react well to excitable kids.
7. Pack your supplies
Be sure to bring doggy waste bags with you in case the dog park dispensers are empty. Have a leash with you and easily accessible. Keep a favorite toy in your pocket in case you need to quickly get your dog’s attention, but be sure to keep it out of sight and leave the treats at home for later.
8. Keep puppies at home
Young puppies under 4 months of age should be kept away from the dog park. Many younger puppies don’t have all of their shots yet, plus they are also not as well-trained and socialized as older dogs, and could end up getting hurt. Try bringing your fur baby to a puppy party instead.
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9. Follow the rules
A good dog park will have clearly-posted rules. Be sure to follow the dos and don’ts posted for both people and dogs at your favorite park.
10. Pay attention to your dog
Dog parks are social places for both dogs and people, but be sure to make keeping an eye on your dog a top priority, and save the deep conversations for when your dog is back on leash. Also, pay closer attention to your dog than to your phone when he is playing off-leash. Incidents can pop up quickly and you should always be prepared to react.