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Pawsitive Solutions: Dog Park Safety


For this month's edition of Pawsitive Solutions, we will focus on: Dog Park Safety. Dog parks can offer city dogs a great opportunity to socialize, play and run off steam; but they are not without risk. Lots of factors can contribute to dog altercations, even if your pup is well-mannered and friendly, you need to be aware of how other dogs may behave. The JLD team recommends the following tips to keep your next trip to the park fun and safe:

  • If your dog isn’t 100% friendly and social with people and other dogs, don’t bring them to the dog park.
  • Leave the kids at home. Not only is it hard to keep an eye on your pup while focusing on your kid, it isn’t worth the risk of your little one getting knocked over, intimidated or hurt. Carrying your child or pet INCREASES dogs interest in them, and will cause dogs to jump up on you to investigate.

  • Before you head into the park, take a lap around it and look for dogs who are not playing nicely. If you have any concerns, don’t go in. Once in, if a dog arrives who is behaving inappropriately, call it a day. It isn’t worth taking a chance.

  • If your pup is very small or shy, consider taking them at quieter times of day.

  • Check the gates, fence height, etc. If the fence is only 4 feet tall, and your dog is agile and athletic, the fence is more of a suggestion than a rule. Small pups may also be able to squeeze under fences or in the gap between the fence and gate.

  • If your pup is having an off day, isn’t feeling well, is injured, in heat, or overly excited due to cabin fever – skip the park. All of these factors can make your dog behave differently than normal, and can trigger other dogs.

  • If your pup has been coughing, having digestive issues, has warts near its mouth, or any other symptoms that haven’t been checked by a vet, they could be contagious and should not socialize.

  • When entering or exiting be sure to close one gate and check it before opening the next. No one wants to be responsible for letting the dogs get loose.

  • If your puppy hasn’t had all of its shots yet, or your dog is not up to date on vaccinations, the dog isn’t ready to socialize with strangers.

  • Make sure you have the dog park tags required by the city of Chicago, as well as the city dog license. CPD regularly hands out expensive tickets for this oversight.

  • Know your pet. What postures or sounds do they use to communicate that they are unhappy? Does their posture indicate a want to play, or is it testing behavior? It’s not a bad idea to ask your trainer how to read these subtle cues.

  • Remember that you are there for your dog. This means your main priority should be watching your dog, and all other activities should be secondary. By all means, chat with other owners, but don’t let it distract you from your dog. You should also avoid reading, using your cell phone, or any other activity that takes your attention away from your dog.

  • Avoid spending time near the entrances of the dog park.The high traffic of this area, combined with the excitement of the dogs coming in makes this a common area for trouble. Encourage your pup to socialize in a calmer area.

  • Bring your own water to the park, and avoid letting your dog drink out of communal bowls. Giardia is a parasite that dogs can pick up through shared water bowls – if your pup gets it you will know by the seemingly endless diarrhea and vomiting (not fun for either of you) and it can be difficult to treat as well as cause further complications (like dehydration).

  • More about water – Water can be viewed as a resource by dogs, if they feel that they have to guard resources, they can end up in a fight.

  • Skip the treats, these are also seen as a resource, cause increased excitement, and can lead to fights. On the same topic, toys should also be left at home. Human food or drinks other than water can cause a similar response.

  • Avoid putting the leash on your dog while in the park. If an unleashed dog approaches, your pup may feel trapped (if you take away flight all that’s left is fight). Some dogs also target dogs who are on the leash.

  • If your dog, or another dog has chosen to hide under your chair or behind you, move away – if they get cornered they can feel more stressed. This is also true if the dog has started to guard you as a resource.

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