Many pet owners love visiting the dog park with their animals, but dog training experts express a variety of concerns with this environment.
The Association of Professional Dog Trainers lists a variety of potential dangers, for pets as well as their owners or handlers, associated with the dog park environment as well as doggy daycare. Before you risk exposing your pet to these pitfalls, read on to learn more about why you may want to reconsider visiting your local bark park.
An Environment Primed for Disaster
Most parks designated for off-leash pets are large and crowded, with single-gate access. This creates a variety of potentially disastrous scenarios.
Single gates present a dangerous opportunity for loose animals to slip out every time someone comes in or out or neglects to latch the gate properly. And, if one dog makes a break, others are likely to follow.
The environment created when dozens of dogs run loose can provoke elevated levels of aggression, especially when pet owners fail to supervise their animals closely. Dog trainers are often asked to work with animals that have been permanently damaged – emotionally as well as physically – by an aggressive animal attack.
Unfortunately, many of these attacks take place in dog park and daycare settings. Irresponsible pet owners are a large part of the problem, as are daycare centers run by inexperienced or unqualified staff.
Don’t Assume All Dog Owners Are Responsible People
You invest your time, money and effort into training, socializing and caring for your pet, but it’s unwise to assume that everyone else is as responsible about their animals.
Many people fail to clean up after their pets, leaving solid waste to contaminate the park. The American Veterinary Medical Association has published a long list of potential diseases that your pet can contract in these settings, including parvo, distemper, heartworm and fungal infection.
And, even though your pet may be well-trained around other loose dogs, many are not. You’re more likely to see someone sitting on a bench, playing with their smartphone or chatting with others, while their aggressive dog randomly attacks and bullies other dogs and even people.
If you ask an irresponsible owner to contain their pet, they may tell you to let the animals “work it out” or, worse, they may tell you (in no uncertain terms) to mind your own business.
If You MUST Visit the Bark Park…
If you decide to risk a visit to your local dog-friendly park, heed these important tips!
- Exercise your pet before going, to work off as much energy as possible
- Ensure the park is fully enclosed and secure, with double gates and automatic closers
- Supervise your pet and keep him in close proximity at all times
- Always clean up after your animal and dispose of waste responsibly
- Know your dog’s cues for play versus aggression
- Take a puppy younger than 12 weeks
- Take a female dog who is in heat or pregnant
- Take any dog that isn’t up-to-date with all shots and medical care
- Take a dog that is ill
- Take an aggressive or unsocialized dog
- Take small dogs to a park where large dogs are also present
- Visit the dog park unless your animal is well-trained and responsive to your commands (especially recall!)
- Pick up or carry your dog inside the park
- Leave your pet’s collar, leash or harness on inside the park
- Allow your dog to play rough or harass other dogs
- Bring children or treats into the park
For canine care facilities, make sure you check references and your local Better Business Bureau. Ask for a complete tour of the facility, including anywhere your pet may be placed during the day. Ask how the animals are supervised and what type of screening process they must complete to enroll.
At Innovative K9 Academy, we understand the importance of exercise and play time with your pet, but we want to keep you and your dog safe. Our dog training programs and puppy boot camps will ensure that your furry friend develops the social skills and obedience to behave appropriately in even the most challenging of situations.
Contact us today to learn more about the value of professional dog training, especially if you enjoy taking your pet to the dog park.