While it can look like a lot of great fun to take your favorite pooch down to the local dog park for an afternoon of fun in the sun, there are some things you need to know. Not every dog is suited for socialization and playtime at the dog park – and that includes your dog, too. Your responsibility as a pet owner is to protect your dog and keep him safe. However, there are some issues that can be out of your control, such as anxiety issues in dogs, dog fights, unvaccinated pets and other New Bedford pet owners who don’t properly train or care for their pets can be a big problem. The best thing you can do is to know all the facts before you go and be prepared for common problems that can occur if you do.
Step One: Understand the Risk & Assume Responsibility
Risk is involved whenever dogs are brought together, either during a walk around the block or an afternoon at the dog park. Injury can occur through simply play, sprains and strains are quite common in dogs who do “zoomies” around the park. Injury can happen during a fight, your dog could be bitten by another dog, or he could bite another dog. Having an understanding of what could happen, can help you to be alert and aware, as well as help New Bedford pet owners decide whether the risk is worth taking in the first place.
Step Two: Know Your Dog & His Behavior
There are a lot of factors involved in figuring out if a trip to the dog park is a smart decision, or not. Anxiety issues in dogs, such as being fearful around other dogs or humans, loud noises, bright lights, or any other type of situation, should be a red flag. If your dog has behavioral issues or fears, consult with your local Dartmouth animal hospital at the next veterinary check-up. Training, medication, and other treatments can sometimes be helpful. Whatever the case, if any of these issues sound familiar, your dog might be better off playing with you in his backyard.
Step Three: Know the Park
Visit the park without your dog. Read the posted rules and make sure that you follow them, even if you suspect that others are not. A good park should have a double entry gate to prevent dogs from getting loose. There should be water on-site with bowls for shared use, poop bag dispensers, trash cans, and separate areas for large and small pets. Seating for humans is good too, but don’t get too relaxed or comfortable. Remember, it is your responsibility to pay attention to your dog, learn how to read his behavioral cues, and take him out if needed before it becomes a potentially dangerous situation.
Speak with your veterinarian about whether or not a visit to a dog park is right for your pet. Puppies under four months should not visit dog parks, as they have not had all of the proper vaccinations by this age. You should also wait until your dog is spayed or neutered. Make sure to keep up with rabies vaccinations and, if dog parks will be a regular activity throughout your pet’s life, ask your veterinarian at the next veterinary check-up about keeping up with other vaccinations to prevent viruses and disease. Senior dogs can also have issues at dog parks because of their age, so make sure you get the all-clear from your veterinarian before going to the park.
Step Four: Stay Alert to the Weather
Extreme conditions are dangerous, even in a gated park. Hot days in the summer can be risky, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, which is typically the hottest point of the day. Overheating and heat exhaustion are real concerns, and it is important that you bring your dog to the local Dartmouth animal hospital right away if you suspect either one. Cold weather can also be dangerous, frozen pads on the bottom of your dog’s feet or exposure to rock salt, can be extremely painful and do severe damage. Check your pet’s paws after a walk in the winter to make sure they are okay.
Step Five: Training & Equipment
Make sure that your dog knows even the most basic commands, such as sit, come, stop, and stay. You will want your dog to listen to your commands even when he is distracted by other dogs, wild animals, or other situations. His life may depend on it. Bring a leash, poop bags, fresh water, a cell phone, and something to break up fights, such as a large stick or even pet-approved pepper spray. Consult with your veterinarian during your next veterinary check-up about other ways to break up dog fights safely.
Make Smart Decisions for Your Pet
Once you weigh all of the information and evaluate your pet, considering all of his issues, behavior, and general health, you will be able to make an informed decision regarding a visit to dog parks. Schedule an appointment for your dog to get a check-up at the Dartmouth animal hospital by calling 508-996-3731. New Bedford pet owners should bring a list of questions and seek assistance with any perceived anxiety issues in dogs or concerns about behavior. Call today to visit Anchor Animal Hospital in Dartmouth or to learn more about all of the veterinary services we provide.