Dog Park Safety Tips

Estimated Reading Time 4 minutes
Dog Park Safety Tips

Dog parks are popular places to take your pup for fun, sun, and socialization. Off-leash parks are also a great place to exercise your dog and burn off some of that unspent energy. If you have a well-trained, socialized, and healthy adult dog, you’re on your way to enjoying some time at your local park. If you’ve never taken your dog to an off-leash park, make sure you and your furry friend are ready for the adventure. We have some helpful tips to help you prepare for a fun, safe outing with your pup! Read on!

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Dog parks offer great opportunities for different types of exercise and socialization. Unfortunately, accidents and injuries are common. In 2016, Nationwide Insurance reported that pet insurance customers spent $10.5 million to treat pet injuries related to dog park incidents, emphasizing the importance of dog park safety and preparedness!

Preparing for a Trip to the Dog Park

1. Make sure your pup is up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended for your area. If you aren’t sure what vaccines your dog might need, double-check with your vet. You can also read more about canine vaccination in our article, here!

2. Keep your dog on an appropriate dewormer, heartworm preventative and flea/tick preventative. These offer important protection against parasites and other diseases that are commonly found in areas where dogs play together. You can learn more about parasites and protecting your pooch in these articles:

Deworming Your Dog - Q&A

Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats

Flea Prevention and Control for Dogs

Tick Talk - Dogs and Tick Control

3. Don’t bring young puppies to the dog park. Generally speaking, puppies 4 months old and younger should not play at a dog park. Not only are they susceptible to serious diseases, but they’re also at higher risk for injury as well. In the meantime, socialize your young puppy in a well-controlled environment such as puppy classes led by a reputable trainer.

4. Consider your pet’s size, even if they have a large breed friend at home. The difference in size can cause accidents even if the dogs are friendly and mean well. Many off-leash parks have divided yards for small and large breed dogs to play safely and separately.

5. Train your pup for basic commands before your first trip to the dog park. Make sure he’s mastered “come,” “sit,” and “stay”. Try training your dog in distracting environments before coming to a dog park. Or take a group dog class. Make sure these commands are mastered on and off leash! You need your dog to be able to pay attention to you, even with all the distractions found in the dog park. This will give you peace of mind that, even when playing at the park, you can get your pup out of a dangerous situation, ask them to drop an item they shouldn’t have, and come to you when its time to go so you don’t have to chase them around the park.

6. Practice off-leash manners by visiting a dog park during non-peak hours. Go early in the morning or mid-day while others are at work. Leave early if the park becomes overcrowded. You could even invite friends with dogs you know and trust.

7. Know and follow all posted rules for the dog park. These are in place to keep everyone safe and maintain a clean and healthy environment.

8. Check the area for dangerous items. Take a walk around the park before letting your dog loose. Look for things like trash or food items that you don’t want your dog picking up. Check for sharp or broken items that may injure your dog’s paws.

9. Always keep an eye on your dog; don’t get distracted. Accidents and dog fights can happen quickly. It's important to be able to spot warning signs before they happen. If your dog or other dogs at the park are becoming overly excited or anxious, it’s time to leave. Familiarize yourself with basic dog body language signals so you know how to recognize potential problems.

Things to Bring to the Dog Park

1. Dog poop bags. Do your part to keep the park clean and free of infectious disease.

2. Water. Avoid community water bowls. These are often sources of bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections, especially during warmer weather. Give your pup plenty of chances to hydrate. Overheating or even heat stroke can happen quickly on a hot day. Be sure you know how to recognize the signs by reading this article:

Heat Stroke (Hyperthermia) in Dogs

3. Sunscreen for you and your dog. If your dog is prone to skin conditions or has light fur and light skin, applying a dog-friendly sunscreen can be helpful!

4. Wipes or towel. Playtime at the park can get messy! Make sure you have these ready before your pup gets back into the car.

5. Doggy first aid kit. Accidents happen, and it's best to be prepared. You can check out our list of recommended supplies here!

6. Proper identification. Make sure your dog is wearing her collar with an ID tag. Double-up on protection by having your furry friend microchipped. This is one of the only forms of permanent identification that gives your dog a better chance of being returned to you should she jump the fence or get away from you during your outing.

7. DON’T bring dog toys. While it might seem like a fun idea, these prized possessions can cause fights between dogs, especially if there are several dogs interested in playing with one toy.

Read more:

Puppy Socialization

Training a Perfectly Polite Puppy

Puppy Training Toolbox

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding dog park safety?

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Published: 3/28/2021
Last updated: 12/23/2021
Dr. Sheena Haney, Veterinarian

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