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6 Super Safety Tips for the Dog Park

Make sure everyone has a good time and stays happy
and healthy on your next visit.

1.Visit your veterinarian. Your dog should be
current on vaccinations and flea and intestinal
parasite preventives before running around
with other dogs at the dog park. Before a dog part
visit is also a great time to talk about your dog’s
temperament and whether he’s ready to engage with
other pets and people in an off-leash environment.

2.Know commands. You need to be able to
control your dog if a problematic situation
arises. Make sure your dog knows some basic
obedience commands—“come,” “sit,” “stay” and “leave
it”—in order to get him out of trouble.

3.Find the right spot. You want to find the
dog park that’s just right for you and your
dog. Ideally, it should have:
> adequate room for dogs to run
> secure fences
> a double gate for entry
> a separate area for small dogs
> a safe, sheltered area
> a source of drinking water
> posted rules of conduct.
If you visit a park and it’s too congested or you see
overly assertive or aggressive dogs or owners who
aren’t watching their dogs, keep looking.

4. Be prepared. Take these essentials with you:
> bags for cleaning up messes
> drinking water, in case the park doesn’t
have a source
> toys, unless your dog guards them
> a leash
> a cell phone, in case you need assistance
It’s also a good idea to take something to break
up an aggressive situation between dogs, such as a
veterinarian-recommended animal deterrent spray or
a compressed-air horn

5. Be watchful. When you first arrive, wait
until no other dogs are at the gate. Once it’s
clear, you can take your dog off the leash and
let him run through the gate. Watch your dog, but
also keep an eye out for overly excited or aggressive
dogs near him. If your dog starts acting fearful or
overwhelmed, use a basic command in an upbeat
voice to call him back. Also, don’t hesitate to call
animal control if a dog is acting inappropriately and
the owner isn’t being attentive.

6. Know when to intervene. Playful dogs
bounce around, wag their tails and have
relaxed postures and facial expressions. Be
watchful for signs of aggression—growling, a stiff
posture, raised hackles and tail, a closed mouth or a
stronger focus. Don’t yell if your dog and another dog
start growling at each other, because that could trigger
a fight. Instead, use a basic command to call your dog
back to you and move to another spot. If a fight does
break out, don’t grab your dog’s collar—you could get
hurt. Instead, use your deterrent spray, a horn or a
water hose to break up the dogs.

Source: Dr. Wayne Hunthausen, veterinary behavior consultant and DVM 360 magazine

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