Dog Park- Safe? You decide

A dog park is a great way for dogs to socialize with one another but care must be taken before a pet is taken to such a park.



All dogs need to burn off energy and interact with other animals.  A dog park may fit the bill for your pet’s needs but there are other ways pets can be exercised or socialized.  Dogs can be walked in your housing development.  There are always other people doing the same and that gives you a chance to introduce your pet, while leashed, to another animal.  It is the usual “sniff and verify” but that is the way dogs work.  Socialization with people and other animals can occur while others are visiting your home.  It is always a good idea to have your dog get used to as many children as possible.  If other pets come over, slowly introduce them to your puppy or adult dog.  This is much easier to do with a young dog.  They have a “blank slate” and can be easily imprinted.




Before you take your pet to any dog park make sure you make a first visit yourself to inspect the premises.  Things you should ask yourself when visiting the dog park are:

  • Does the dog park have a solid fence around the premises?  There should not be any holes or damage to the fencing materials.
  • How are the human adults supervising their pets?  Is it helter skelter where anything goes or do people actually act like adults and monitor their pets?
  • Is the dog park clean?  Do they have ample plastic bags for feces pickup and disposal?
  • Is there plenty of fresh water for the animals to drink?
  • Is there plenty of shade for the animals to stay cool when they get tired or hot?
  • Is there a subdivision of the dog park for small and large dogs?  Mixing big dogs with little dogs often results in BDLD syndrome;  medical jargon written in charts that means Big Dog Little Dog.  This is where the little dog suffers multiple lacerations to the body, usually the throat.  Most little dogs are looked at as prey by big animals.  It is in their ancestral DNA and no fault of their own.   You do want to prevent this behavior.




The main problem with bringing animals together to dog parks is whether or not ALL of the dogs are current on rabies vaccination.  Do the parks verify that each dog has a current rabies certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian before the pet is allowed to enter the park?  Forget rabies tags.  They do not mean anything.  Tags may be old and still be left on the dog’s collar.  The only thing that matters is the certificate.  In Florida, dogs that have been vaccinated and bite another animal are quarantined for 10 days at the owner’s residence.  If not current on vaccination, that 10 days quarantine is held at a licensed veterinarian’s office at the owner’s expense.  Each state may differ but rabies is serious business.


The key decision whether or not you go to a dog park is basically how the adult owners of the dogs behave.  If people are responsible and their dog is socialized prior to attending a dog park then everyone should have a good time.  If things look like they are running amok, run for the hills as fast as you can.  You cannot legislate good behavior.






Playful activity by a group of dogs is easy to see.  They will bow down in front of another animal with their tail wagging.  Their mouth will be open with the tongue hanging in or out.  They bounce around and chase one another.  The role is than reversed.  It is sort of like playing “tag” or “hide and seek” as a child.


Negative or aggressive behavior is just the opposite.  The body of the animal tenses, the hair goes up on its spine, the tail may have a rigid nervous twitch to it and the ears go down against the skull.  Happy dogs may growl playfully but a dog that is ready to pounce has a much more aggressive sound to it.  This is the time to take your dog away and go home.  Ask the owner of the other dog to help you.  If they are fighting NEVER attempt to get around the neck or head of the animals in an attempt to break up the fight.  You will probably get bitten.  If a water hose is available spray the animals with that.  Try calling your pets.  Use a broom or strong branch in an attempt to separate them.  Once separated check your pet for any puncture wounds or lacerations.  They may need immediate veterinary medical care.

A tiny Yorkshire Terrier puppy popped its head out of a tan wicker basket.
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