As America’s love of dogs continue to grow, so does the popularity of leash free dog parks. These parks provide open spaces for dogs to run canine company to socialize with, as well as offering a great venue for pet parents to meet and socialize with fellow dog lovers. As with any communal space, each of us has a responsibility to keep these parks safe and fun.
Dogs that do best in a leash free environment generally have fairly confident and reasonably social personalities. You should never bring a dog that is in heat – this can lead to unplanned pregnancies as well as aggressive behavior even among normally well-behaved females. Do not bring a dog with a history of aggression – doing so put other people and their dogs in danger. Furthermore, you probably would be financially liable for any injuries or damages caused by your dog.
Only licensed, fully vaccinated and healthy dogs can enter public dog parks. If you dog doesn’t have a current license, you could be looking at a substantial fine. Diseases like parvo, distemper and flu are all highly contagious, so leave sick dogs at home, at least until they are cleared by your veterinarian. Puppies younger than 4 months are generally not allowed in dog parks because they are not considered fully protected until they have received all of their puppy shots, and as such have no protection against these diseases.
Bear in mind some parks limit the number of dogs you can bring per visit. Even if there are no posted restrictions, limit yourself to a number you can comfortably handle. A good rule is no more than three per person, although you should factor in sizes and temperaments when making your decisions.
Dogs are not the only ones who have to follow the rules at the dog park! There are some general guidelines for humans too. While dog parks are great fun for older kids, for safety reasons, they are not a good idea for very small children. It is also a good idea to leave your people food at home – even a dropped potato chip can spark a fight. You can bringing some treats for your dog, but only bring a handful and keep them in your pocket. You must follow the posted park rules, which are typically located near the entrance. These rules not only protect you and your dog, they also ensure that park visitors are following city laws. In a worst case scenario, if they rules are routinely ignored, the park can be shut down, which isn’t good for anyone.
At the park entrance, be courteous and allow others to exit before you enter to avoid head on confrontations between tired exiting dogs and your eager to enter canine. Be sure to arm yourself with a waste bag so that you will be prepared to clean up after your dog – nobody likes stepping on dog bombs!
Dogs are like children – they make messes and they get cranky when they are tired. If your dogs starts showing signs that he has had enough, it is time to go home.
A little knowledge and common courtesy can go a long way – proper dog-park protocol ensures serious fun for everyone!
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By Dr. Claire — Staff Writer