Dog parks are great assets to most communities, because they provide a place for pet owners to socialize with like-minded individuals and for pets to run and play to their hearts’ content. However, many people do not realize that dog parks are also disease cesspools that can create conditions for dog fights and serious injuries if they are managed improperly or frequented by irresponsible dog owners. 

The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team knows that Jordan Ranch and surrounding Texas communities can benefit from the dog park, so we’re sharing important tips that will help keep everyone safe.

#1: Check out the park before bringing your pet

Head to the park and scope out the local scene before you take your dog for the first time. Are pet owners acting responsibly and adhering to the posted dog park rules, supervising their dogs, and cleaning up their dog’s waste? If you see careless dog owners ignoring their pets and allowing inappropriately aggressive play, choose another location. 

#2: Evaluate your pet’s temperament

Decide whether your pet will actually enjoy the dog park, or if you are simply hoping that will be the case. Be honest with yourself to avoid a disaster. Is your pet friendly and kind when greeting strangers and other dogs, or do they run, cower, or bark? Consider taking your pet to a local doggy daycare where your pet’s temperament can be evaluated, and they can be tested in a group of dogs under supervision, if you’re not sure about your dog’s play style and social abilities.

#3: Stay up-to-date on your pet’s vaccines and parasite control

Unfortunately, not all pet owners attend to their pet’s preventive care needs, and dog parks are prime locations for diseases and parasites to spread. Never take young puppies or immunocompromised senior pets to the dog park, because they could become seriously ill. Young, healthy pets can safely visit if their vaccinations are up-to-date and they receive effective medications that prevent flea, tick, and intestinal parasite infestations.

#4: Strengthen your dog’s recall and off-leash skills

Dog parks are typically large, off-leash areas, where dogs can run free and play together. If your pet ignores you the second you unhook their leash, you will have difficulty with supervision and stopping inappropriate behaviors. Work with a trainer to strengthen your pet’s obedience and recall behaviors despite intense distractions before you visit an off-leash park, and—again—be honest about your dog’s abilities before going.

#5: Adhere to dog park rules and keep your pet in the appropriate area

Following posted rules and general social dog etiquette is important to keep dog park peace. Most parks have areas designed for large or small dogs, and you should choose the appropriate area based on your dog’s size, or their play style if they are medium-sized. Clean up promptly after your dog and take their own water bowl to avoid communal drinking, which can spread disease. 

#6: Monitor play closely and know when to intervene or leave the park

You should always monitor your dog while they play at the dog park to ensure they interact appropriately with other dogs. If you are new to dog ownership, brush up on dog body language and play styles, so you can distinguish normal play from aggressive gestures—if you can’t do that, you should avoid the park altogether. Be prepared to intervene before a dog fight breaks out, and leave the park if you are uncomfortable with another dog or pet owner’s behavior. Do not take toys, treats, or intact pets to the dog park to decrease the chances of a dangerous dog fight.

Following your instincts and understanding your dog’s behavior will help them be safe at the park. If you are ever in doubt about your pet’s safety or suitability for group play, keep them at home, choose another activity, or look into local daycare facilities that may be a better option. 

The Neighborhood Veterinary Centers team in Jordan Ranch, Texas, can help you prepare your dog for social play by providing wellness examinations, vaccinations, parasite control programs, and health care when your pet is accidentally injured or sick. Call us to schedule your pet’s next appointment, or if you have questions about local dog parks, daycare facilities, and social dog safety.