Whether you've adopted a senior dog or just brought your new puppy home from the breeder, socializing your dog is an integral aspect of responsible ownership. Dog parks are a great place to let your dog run off-leash and interact with other dogs, but there are rules of safety and etiquette you need to know before you unleash your pooch.
Beware the Parvo Virus
The deadly parvo virus is virulient and can survive in infected soil for years. Puppies cannot be fully vaccinated against parvo until they are at least four months old, so the dog park is no place for a pup who hasn't had the entire series of vaccines. Train your dog to ignore the feces of other dogs, as parvo is contracted by contact with feces. Always wipe your dog's feet after a visit to the dog park to avoid spreading soil infected with parvo.
Know the Scene
Go to the dog park to check it out before you bring your dog. If you've adopted a tiny Chihuahua and you see nothing but German Shepherds, Great Danes and Rottweiler’s at the park, you may need to look elsewhere. While these breeds are not necessarily vicious, they can play too rough with a little dog and trample it underfoot in their fun. Some parks have separate areas for different sizes of dog in order to avoid this issue. Find a park you feel comfortable with before bringing your dog.
Know What to Do About Bites
Dogs often mouth one another while playing, which is completely normal behavior. Your dog may be scratched by a tooth inadvertently during play, but biting down is absolutely unacceptable. If you or your dog is bitten, you should be aware of proper first aid and know the contact information for a lawyer who handles dog bites. Professionals, like those at Cohen, Placitella & Roth, P.C., know that personal injuries can happen in many different ways. You will also not want to take your dog to the park until you are completely sure that he or she doesn't bite.
Follow the Rules Concerning Intact Animals
Some dog parks do not allow any unaltered dogs at all. Others only ask that you keep a female in heat at home. If your dog is intact, make sure he or she is allowed at the park. If so, keep a close eye on your dog to ensure there isn't a tie. The last thing you want is unintended, cross-bred puppies.
Dog parks are a great place for socialization and exercise, but you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls. By keeping these tips in mind, you can have a safe and enjoyable time at the park.