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Safety tips for dog parks: if you must go better be prepared!

Two beautiful German shepherds at the dog park

I have a love-hate relationship with dog parks. I love training outside of them, and occasionally, I will find a small group of friends to go with early in the morning. However, for the most part, I don't suggest the dog park. There are better ways to provide both mental and physical exercise, such as where you can rent a yard or property for 30+ minutes and let your dog have fun safely.

Of course, not all the dangers are completely removed, but it's still the best option for many puppies, seniors, anxious dogs, or dogs who play inappropriately. The filter option makes finding the perfect sniff spot near you easy! My favorite sniff spot is 26 acres on waterfront property, and I get to let my pack run free without worrying about other off-leash dogs. It makes our adventures so much fun. However, if I haven't convinced you yet that dog parks aren't the best option, here are some safety tips to keep you and your furry friend safe while visiting the dog park.

Safety tips for dog parks: if you must go better be prepared!

- Bring your own water bowl.

- During summer, keep lemon juice and menthol alcohol in your car in case of overheating. The lemon juice clears the airway, and the alcohol on paw pads helps cool them down. In the summer, we will post a blog on the dangers of heat stroke.

- Always have a first aid kit in the trunk or better still, with you in your hiking bag.

- Keep an eye on the gate and keep your dog away from it. This means your dog must have solid recalls, even around distractions.

- Always supervise your dog.

- Always advocate for your dog and others around you. See a nervous dog being bullied or cornered?

Run Free K9's tips for the Dog Park Graphic. 1

Help claim your dog's space by advocating for them. Be bold and speak up.

No one loves a Karen, but some owners need to hear that their dog doesn't belong at the dog park. They won't like you for it. Many bring intact dogs into the park, which can cause a huge ruckus. I would keep an eye out for this. And if you don't feel like speaking up, then feel free to leave. Leave on a good note, not right when something wrong happens. Always know the escape route!

- Leave all the food in the car. With that being said, children shouldn't be at the park. Dogs deserve a place to relax and not have to deal with stressors, and not every dog loves children, which could cause some issues.

- Always keep moving! I can't tell you how often I have seen conflict start due to stillness. Stillness can mean guarded, unsure, or intense. So, just keep moving!

- Redirect: If you ever see gate guarding, resource guarding, or inappropriate or uncertain play, all you need to do is get close, clap, shuffle, or run back and use happy recall/play words. Make sure to keep moving!

- Respect the rules of the park and be respectful to others! Leave the leash on from the car to the designated off-leash area. I've seen so many bad scenarios where dogs end up taking off and getting hit by a car, and I've been bombarded by many dogs from dog parks while I am out with my rehab clients. Be respectful of others! It's important to know what to do if an off-leash dog bombards yours, so I will discuss that in another blog post and share our secrets to a safe walk in any neighborhood.

- Avoid dog parks during peak hours. If you just rescued a dog and want to see how they do, start with daycare and see how that goes. Before considering the dog park, they should evaluate and find a good group to test their social skills.

- Stay away from the dog park with the intent of going in; start by training calm engagement outside of the fenced area. Work on play, recalls, etc. See who is all in the group and have your dog get a feel for the dogs through the fence if possible. Then, conclude if you think the current pack fits your pup well.

- Always have your dog enter calmly. This takes time. Sometimes 10 minutes, we focus on the car because they aren't calm enough to exit. Make them earn off-leash time through calmness. When I used to go to the dog park with my pack, it would take a good 20 minutes before I would ever go in. This is because if your dog or dogs rush into the pack in a fast, intense way, they are bound to get corrected by another dog which can lead to a fight.

- Don't be a D***! Clean up after your dog! Keep our parks clean so our dogs stay healthy.

- And the biggest dog safety tip: know how to break apart a fight.

If this seems like too much work, may be a better spot for you!


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