Dog parks can be huge fun for your pet and a chance to relax with other dog-lovers for you, but dog parks aren’t for everyone. Before you clip on the leash, here are five good reasons to avoid the dog park.
Your dog is aggressive. If your dog doesn’t play well with others, don’t force the issue. Dog parks are neutral meeting ground for dogs, which is why they play rather than fight. If your dog has shown aggression toward other dogs, don’t take a chance. Find ways to play that don’t endanger others. If your dog’s never been aggressive before but you notice a sudden change, consult your veterinarian. (A note for dog-park newbies: some perfectly acceptable canine play looks like aggression at first glance, but when all parties involved have wagging tails and take turns with the I’m-a-big-bad-dog growling and chasing, it’s all good fun. Ask a dog-park regular if you’re in doubt.)
Your dog is scared. My black lab never met a stranger-human or canine–and adores the dog park. My Chihuahua is terrified. Even the “little dog” section of the park scares her with the wide open space and the big, loud dogs on the other side of the fence. Know your dog’s personality and observe him at the dog park. Is he having fun? Is he cowering in a corner? Fearful dogs sometimes become aggressive. Even if yours doesn’t, why make your dog miserable?
Your dog’s not healthy. If your dog is sick or weakened by illness or injury, do her a favor and skip the dog park. For one thing, your dog is at risk from typical dog-park behavior like leaping, play-fighting, and the ever-popular puppy body-slam. If your dog’s immune system is compromised, a trip to the dog park could lead to illness or infection. It should go without saying that all your pet’s immunizations are up to date and she is free from fleas or parasites before you take her to the dog park and risk her own or other dog’s health.
The dog park’s not safe. Most dog parks are great-plenty of space for running, high fences, a dedicated area for smaller dogs. Don’t assume it’s safe, though. If you spot unsafe conditions, don’t take a risk on your pet’s safety and well-being. Look for intact fences, double gates at the entrance, readily available clean-up bags, and availability of fresh drinking water. If there’s play equipment, is it sturdy and in good repair?
You don’t enjoy it. If you hate the dog park, don’t go. Find other ways to make your dog’s life fun-long walks or taking a jog together, riding around town doing errands, learning tricks, and participating in dog sports are all excellent options for entertaining yourself and your dog. Sure, he loves the dog park, but let’s face it. Life with our dogs is too short to spend it doing something you hate.
The dog park can be your best bud’s favorite place, but don’t assume anything. Enjoy your time with your dog! If the dog park’s not for you, find other fun.