Things are heating up here in Central Texas, and it’s time to hit the great outdoors!
As you, your pup, and other Austin-Area pet lovers head to our many dog parks, a quick refresher on dog park etiquette ensures that all park goers have a safe and fun summer.
Share these 13 tips to guarantee that the dog park is heaven on earth for you, your canine, and your friends.
1. Break out the poop bags! At its worst, un-picked-up poop can spread unwanted diseases like salmonella. At the least, it creates a less enjoyable experience for fellow park goers. Some parks have pooper scooper stations for your convenience, but be prepared and pack your own poop bags just in case.
2. Be hyper-responsible if your dog is ‘intact.’ If your dog is not spayed or neutered and you choose to bring him to a public dog park, keep him on a leash or otherwise with a group of pets whose spay/neuter status you can be confident will not lead to any accidents. Young female dogs who have not yet gone into heat, but are not spayed, are particularly at risk–timing is everything and accidents do happen.
3. For dogs who are aggressive or resource-protective, reserve playtime for your backyard, or an otherwise secluded area. Every dog has its own personality, and some simply aren’t social. That’s okay. It does not make your dog bad or you a bad pet parent.
If this is your dog, your best bet is to have playtime in your own backyard or private setting. If you must exercise your dog in a public place, walk him with a yellow leash to indicate to other pet parents that your dog needs space.
If another dog approaches for a friendly sniff-and-greet, use high-value treats and reassurance (not leash-jerking) to keep your dog’s attention focused on you, and give the other pet parent ample warning to call their pup away.
An off-leash dog park is not a good place to socialize a nervous or aggressive dog. Rather, consult a professional dog trainer, and socialize your pup in a safe, controlled setting.
4. Make sure your pup is up-to-date on vaccinations and other medications. Take proactive measures to protect your own fur-child from fleas, ticks, heartworms, parvovirus, rabies, and kennel cough, as these have the potential to be passed during playtime. This also means that the dog park isn’t the right place for your young puppy until he has received all his shots.
5. Be considerate with ‘resources.’ Dogs compete for resources like water and food. If you know your dog is resource-protective, feed or provide water to him away from other pets so as to not cause any conflicts. Even if your dog is an open sharer, still feed him away from a big group to avoid tempting other dogs, whose food allergies you may not know.
6. Do not leave on leads, harnesses, or leashes during playtime. A dog could get caught in a harness and start to panic or metal parts could cause broken teeth.
7. In the event that playtime goes south, do not physically try to break up a dog fight.
When in a fight, a dog is in ‘fight-or-flight’ mode: his adrenaline is pumping and he may not see or think clearly. If you insert yourself in a fight, you risk being bit or otherwise injured.
Work with the other pet parent to distract the dogs with calls, claps, throwing a ball or whatever high-value items might get their attention.
Your Duties as a Pet Parent
8. Unless you or your pet is in immediate danger, leave another pet’s training or discipline to his human. Every dog is different, so what worked well for your Fido might not work well for your friend’s Fluffy.
9. Be prepared in case of emergency. While we hope it never comes to this, it’s always best to have a fully charged phone on hand with pre-programed veterinary emergency number. Read up on how to handle five common pet emergencies and how to make your own pet first aid kit before you go.
10. Chat with other humans, but always have an eye on your dogs and those they’re socializing with. Should your pet be involved in fight, get injured, or otherwise find trouble, being aware of the situation will help you better resolve any issues.
11. Listen to your dog’s cues. Some dogs jump right in on the action, others prefer to sniff their new surroundings, while others still simply want to sit with you and observe. A dog will let you know her comfort level, so don’t try to force her into a play group.
12. Bring water and find shade. Make sure your dog has access to shade and water to help avoid heat strokes, dehydration and over-exhaustion. This is especially important with the approaching summer heat.
13. Know when to call it quits. If your dog gets in a fight, is too nervous to relax, or is just plain tired, it’s time to head home. Another reason why it’s important to always keep an eye on your pup!
What have you found helps pets and parents have a great time at the dog park? Share in the comments below!