Dog Parks: Know the Risks and Rewards to Keep Your Dog Safe and Happy

You want your dog happy and healthy. You understand that it’s important to take him out to run and play. There are boundless rewards to dog parks. But there are also dog park risks that you’ll want to be aware of, so that time spent at the park can be fun and worry-free. Let’s start with the rewards.

Physical & Mental Rewards

Dogs need exercise. They are bundles of energy. Especially if your dog is inside most of the time, it’s hard to play without breaking something. This can lead to dog obesity, fatigue, depression and many other conditions that dog parks help prevent. Not to mention, she’ll sleep like a baby when you get home.

Social Rewards

Dogs can become socially awkward just like their people. They can develop social anxiety and depression from lack of interaction with other dogs. According to PetMD, “At the dog park, your dog gets practice reading a variety of other dogs’ body language and using her own communication skills, and she gets used to meeting unfamiliar dogs on a frequent basis. These valuable experiences can help guard against the development of fear and aggression problems around other dogs.” Dog parks keep these skills fresh for a happier best friend.

Health Risks

It’s hard for dogs to catch things from humans. But when they are around lots of dogs, it can become a breeding ground for viruses and parasites that love dogs. Among them:

  • Kennel cough & canine flu (dog flu) – There is a vaccine for kennel cough. But just like a flu shot it’s not 100%. Both flu and cough are commonly passed by saliva. So bring your own collapsible water bowl. And avoid pups who seem sick.
  • Intestinal parasites (round worm, hookworm) – Heart worm preventives will also help prevent other parasite infestations. So make sure he’s getting his regularly.
  • Fleas & ticks – Flea infestations in your house are no fun. And she doesn’t like them either. So don’t bring them to your door. A regular flea bath or other prevention is needed to leave them at the park.
  • Heatstroke – Dogs cool themselves by panting and through the bottoms of their feet. If it is hot, especially a humid heat, they may need a little help. Be sure to take him over for water. If he’s having too much fun, he may not warn you that he’s overheating.
  • Rabies – As insensitive as it seems, some pet owners still don’t get why this vaccine in mandatory. An unvaccinated dog could put your dog and you at risk. If a dog at the park bites you, make sure to ask the owner to verify vaccination. And go see your doctor immediately if you suspect that that dog is not. Don’t take your dog to the park if he isn’t up to date.

Social/Bullying Risks

Okay. Dogs probably wouldn’t call it bullying. But dogs have a pack mentality. Even if they would never be aggressive at home, sometimes when they socialize with other dogs, they begin to “pack up” and mark territory. This can lead to other dogs ganging up on your dog. Or your dog may become the aggressor, completely to your surprise. A new dog at the park could be seen as an intruder. Two dogs may vie for that alpha dog position. If you’re new to the park, it may be best to keep your dog on a leash for a while, and walk her around to meet the other dogs, as overprotective as it may seem. If the park requires that dogs stay on leash, all the better. But be sure to run around with her. If the skin is broken during a scuffle, don’t take it lightly. He may need medical attention to avoid infection.

To Go to the Dog Park Or Not to GO

There are many rewards to taking your dog to the dog park. But there are also many risks. Keep a happy, healthy dog by being aware of your surrounding and taking precautions to keep him safe.