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Dog Safety and Etiquette at Dog Parks

dogzoneHuman beings are not the only social creatures yearning to spend time with their friends.  Our four-legged companions also enjoy spending time with their canine buddies.  Fortunately for Fido, many cities around our nation provide off-leash dog parks and beaches where he can run wild, frolicking with his friends until his heart's content.  Even so, we as dog owners must not lose sight that Fido can quickly and unexpectedly get into a bout with other canine playmates.  Therefore, there are important safety tips to consider when escorting Fido to the dog park.

  • Upon entering a dog park or a dog beach, you and Fido should become familiar with the activity inside the play zone. If you notice that some dogs are overly aggressive when interacting with other dogs you may want to visit a different section of the play area or return to the dog-zone at a different time of the day.
  • If this is Fido's first time at an un-leashed dog-zone observe his behavior before unleashing him.  If he is excessively hyper to get to his destination or cowering from nervousness these could be signs of potential trouble.  He could charge at other dogs or he could snip at a dog if he feels threatened when approached.
  • Know your surroundings and always keep an eye on Fido, especially if he is not in a gated area.  If Fido gets spooked or threatened by another dog or unusual sound he may panic, escape, and become lost.  It only takes a second for a dog to disappear if not supervised.
  • When entering a gated dog park be alert.  Many dogs tend to huddle around the gates with excitement when seeing another dog on the approach.  Most gated dog-zones have two gates to enter through to minimize the escape of a dog already in the play area.  Open the first gate and close it behind you before opening the second gate. This will prevent Sparky from making a getaway.
  • Before letting Fido off his leash to play with new buddies, he and his new friends should have the opportunity to sniff out each other to become acquainted.  Doing so will provide you the peace of mind that Fido and Sparky will be on the right track for companionship.
  • Some dog areas may not have designated areas for small dogs and big dogs.  So be mindful.  Small dogs can feel threatened when approached by large dogs.  Therefore, small dogs may cower and try to get lose or they may go into attack mode to fend for their life.  An unexpected attack on Fido may cause him to retaliate and harm little Princess. Scan the play area and escort Princess to where other small dogs are playing.
  • Be careful when taking a child to an off-leash dog playground and never leave the child unattended.  There are many breeds and types of dogs that do not do well around a child so best to caution on the side of error.
  • Many dog zones prohibit food and snacks. Dogs can become extremely aggressive with each other when food is present and there is not enough food for all to enjoy.
  • Be cautious if bringing toys for Fido to play with.   If Fido does not like to share them he will not understand when Sparky takes his toy. Play time can quickly turn into battle as Fido demands the return of his toy.
  • Poop! Poop! And Poop! When visiting a dog park do not forget to take your poop clean-up kit.  Not all dog parks supply poop bags to clean-up after your furry companion. In many cities it is the law to clean-up after your friend.  Not to mention, leaving piles of poop is unsanitary for the other people and their mates playing at the park.

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You may have thought at some point what to do in the event Fido and Sparky get into a brawl.  Nothing is more frightening than watching your companion collide with another dog in a vicious attack.  Unless the dogs become separated Fido and Sparky may cause serious damage to one another or worse.

To help discuss this issue team Pet Post called upon one of our friend and dog trainer, Nicole Guillaume, founder and President of AmazingMutts for her views on the issue.  Below are her thoughts.

Breaking up dog fights can be very tricky. Mainly because once you get in the middle of one, there's a good chance that you can get hurt. Depending on the fight, blowing a whistle can be enough to break the dogs up. They'll both hear that loud pitched noise, and stop to look in the direction of the whistle.

If a dog is holding another dog with its mouth, you can raise his hind legs to get him to release the bite. Raising the dog's legs catches him off guard and scares him so he literally drops his jaw. However, when doing this move, you need to have quick reflexes. The dog could very well turn around and bite you.

If there is a hose nearby, or even a powerful water gun, spraying the dogs with water is usually a good and safe way to break up a dog fight, but these are usually hard to come by in a dog park.

To be honest, it's usually not advisable to break up a severe dog fight by physically getting involved because the chance of getting bit is very high. When dogs are fighting, they are in the zone. When you get involved, one or both could redirect all that anger and aggression toward you.

Training your dog to have a really good, solid, reliable recall can break up a fight, especially if your dog initiated the fight. I know that as dog owners, we don't like to think about our innocent fur-kids responsible to start a fight with another dog, but sometimes they do. So training your own dog to come when called can prevent and even stop fights if your dog is the aggressor.

Also, it's a good idea to become familiar with canine body language when going to the dog park. You can usually read a dog's language and know if there's going to be trouble. When that happens, it's a good idea to remove your dog from the park before anything bad happens. I have found that many owners will keep their dogs in a bad situation because they feel that the other dog should be removed from the park. While it may be true that the other dog should be removed, we need to keep our dog's safety in mind. Never stay at a dog park to make a stand or to get your point across. The dogs are the ones that pay.

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From your friends at The Pet Post and AmazingMutts we want you to enjoy the time you spend with your companion when visiting an off-leash dog park or play zone. This time is precious and fun.  We only ask that you be mindful when Fido is playing with his canine buddies and that you remember to follow pet safety and etiquette tips during your visit.   Have fun and play safe!

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