Dog Park Etiquette

Does your dog need a change of scenery? Consider taking Fido to the dog park, where he or she can play, exercise, and socialize with other dogs and people. These activities can benefit your dog both physically and mentally.

But that doesn’t mean Fido should be free to roam the park without your supervision.

Kit Darling, infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offered a few tips to keep your pet safe at the dog park.

“You should watch your dog at the park, and don’t be distracted,” Darling said. “Pay close attention to the dogs and their body language. Interrupt play if necessary to calm their behavior, and remove your dog if it is afraid or being bullied by others. In addition, it can be helpful to leave toys at home to avoid your pet from guarding their toys.”

How do you know when to break up a play-date? Darling said any play that seems questionable should be stopped because it could lead to a fight. Questionable behaviors include stalking, possessiveness over a toy (such as aggressive tug-of-war), and wrestling, if more than two dogs are involved or if one dog is always on the bottom. Aggressive behavior, such as neck biting, excessive barking, pinning another dog down, and snapping at other dogs are inappropriate for the dog park and should be stopped immediately.

Other safety concerns for the dog park include the spread of infectious disease and parasites. Darling said it is important for dogs going to parks to be on medications that prevent heartworms, fleas, and intestinal parasites. Dogs should also be up-to-date on their vaccinations, so it is best to leave puppies at home until they have all their shots. If you plan on visiting the dog park often, ask your veterinarian about Bordetella and leptospirosis vaccines.

“It is advisable for dogs that have contact with other dogs to be vaccinated for Bordetella, commonly known as kennel cough, a contagious respiratory disease,” Darling said. “In addition, consider vaccinating for the leptospira bacteria, which can be exposed to your dog in ponds with stagnant water or by contaminated urine from wildlife.”

If you and your pet are looking for a new adventure, you may find one at the dog park. But before you grab your leash and head out the door, make sure your pet’s health is protected and you are ready to supervise your pet.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science.