DOG PARK OR OTHER EXERCISE METHODS?
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.
ANALYZE THE DOG PARK YOU INTEND TO VISIT
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 BIG PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM
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.
WHICH ANIMALS SHOULD NEVER GO TO A DOG PARK?
- Any young dog going through a veterinarian directed vaccination program should never go to a dog park. It is known that 25% of puppies can still pick up Parvovirus even after THREE INJECTIONS of the vaccine. It is the anamnesticThis is an immunological response that strengthens the response to each dose of vaccine. The first dose gives an incremental jump in antibodies (protection) to the young animal. The "booster(s)" are the ones that give that big jump in antibody titers. The last one in particular gives a jump that is often greater than the previous ones combined! This is the anamnestic response and confers almost total immunity to a disease that a dog is being vaccinated against. response that makes the difference after the fourth and final dose. At that time, 99% protection is offered.
- Dogs that are emotionally immature. These may be not only young animals but adults. Each animal is an individual. If it is afraid of other dogs and cowers behind the owner, a dog park can make things emotionally worse.
- Dogs with chronic medical conditions; particularly osteoarthritis or any knee issue such as patellar subluxations or ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Issues. Consult your veterinarian before you even think about taking these animals to a dog park.
- Dogs that are aggressive and or type “A” personality should not be taken to a dog park. These aggressors want to be leader of the pack (the boss) when put in with other animals. They direct the aggressive response.
- No intact male or female dogs. All of them should be neutered. Not only can accidental pregnancies occur (and yes, they can mate through a chain link fence) but intact male dogs become much more aggressive with their testosterone (male sex hormone) flowing. Add hot weather that makes them irritable and you have an explosive mix waiting to detonate. That can be bad.
WHAT TO EXPECT AT A DOG PARK
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.