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Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Avoiding Medical Maladies 

If you and your four-legged best friend enjoy frequenting the dog park, keep in mind that special vigilance on your part is required to avoid the medical maladies that are an integral part of the dog park scene. 

Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) recently provided a list of the most common dog park related medical conditions gleaned from their 2011 database. Topping the list were soft tissue injuries, lacerations (cuts), and bite wounds. kennel cough, insect bites, head trauma, heat stroke, parasite infection, and parvovirus infection were also frequently documented. 

While some of the problems found on this list may not be readily avoidable, others certainly are. Here are some recommendations for keeping your dog as safe as possible at the dog park: 

1. Simply pay close attention! I realize how easy it is to pull up a chair in the shade and get caught up in conversation with friends at the “human park,” but it’s far safer for your dog if your eyes are on him. Issues such as bullying behavior or play that is too rough can be detected early and nipped in the bud before a casualty results.
2. Do not take your pup anywhere near the dog park until seven to ten days after he receives his last set of puppy vaccinations (administered at four months of age). Before that time, it is fine for him to socialize with other dogs, but only those that you know have been well vaccinated. Parvovirus, in particular, is a hearty little bugger that can survive and remain infectious within the dog park environment for days.
3. Allow your dog the opportunity to practice socializing with one or two doggie friends before turning him loose with ten to twenty hooligans at once.
4. Work with your veterinarian to create a customized parasite prevention protocol for your dog.
5. Plan your trips to the dog park so as to avoid the heat of the day, particularly if you have a smoosh-faced breed such as a Pug, Bulldog, or Boston Terrier. If your dog does not know his own limits in terms of running and playing (think Labrador Retriever here!), be sure you bring play to a halt when appropriate so as to avoid hyperthermia (overheating). Early signs of heatstroke can include any of the following: bright red tongue, in-coordination, heavy drooling, and heavy, rapid, noisy breathing. If you observe such symptoms, use water at the park to cool your dog off before heading to the closest veterinary hospital.
6. Talk with your veterinarian about the potential risks and benefits of vaccines that may help prevent kennel cough.
7. If your dog is a bully or tends to get bullied, accept the possibility that the dog park just isn’t a good environment for him.  


Community dog parks are a great place to bring your dogs for exercise and socialization. Following these simple guidelines will ensure a safe and joyful experience for all, canine and human alike. 

Appropriate Dog Behavior 

1. Dog parks are for well-socialized dogs that are friendly, outgoing and confident. Fearful, aggressive or reactive dogs are not appropriate for dog park use. They are not happy or comfortable and may bring this anxiety to other dogs.
2. Bullies are not appropriate for dog park use. A bully dog is a dog that is overly dominant and harassing in nature, making another dog uncomfortable enough to stop playing.
3. Barking should be kept to a reasonable level, for both the human park users and our park neighbors. Play barking is acceptable. Non-stop harassing barking and making another dog anxious is not acceptable, nor is barking with aggressive intent.
4. Do not bring aggressive dogs to the park. This includes bringing them in on leash, as this aggravates other dogs off leash. Remember, this is a park shared by dogs that want to romp and play, not fight.
5. Take off choke chains, prong collars, any extraneous collars where another dog could grab it in play and choke the dog wearing the collar.
6. Some dogs are fantastic wrestlers, in that they play exuberantly at each others neck. This is normal dog play, however, if you notice that they are grabbing collars in play, even their regular collar, then remove these collars, as they can grab and twist in play and strangle each other and/or loose a tooth in the process.
7. Unneutered or intact male dogs over 1 year of age should not come to the dog park. They are just coming of age in their maturity and may become a threat to other male dogs and fights may occur. As soon as you begin to notice this more dominant aggressive behavior in your dog, either neuter him or discontinue use of the park.
8. Do not bring females in season, (in heat) to the dog park. This causes anxiety in male dogs and fights could ensue. It is also very uncomfortable for the female, as she is unable to play, because she is too busy having to fend off male dogs.
9. Mounting or humping is normal dog dominance behavior. Males and females alike display this behavior. It is not sexual; it is how they establish play hierarchy or pecking order. It is instinctive and normal. Improperly socialized dogs can mount excessively, causing the dog being mounted great anxiety. If this occurs, please respectfully remove your dog.  

Appropriate Human Behavior 

As an informed dog owner you: 

10. Obey park rules and guidelines, even if you do not agree with them.
11. Are polite, especially when someone else’s dog is behaving inappropriately and the owner is not controlling his dog and is unwilling to take the dog out of the park. Remove your dog if you feel unsafe.
12. Do not bring small children inside the dog park. Dogs oftentimes see small children as playmates and may accidentally knock them over.
13. Are aware and realistic of your own dog’s limitations and weaknesses.
14. Can recognize undesirable behavior and be willing to leave the dog park in order to protect the safety of your own dog and that of other dogs.
15. Will not leave your dog unattended at the dog park.
16. Will take note of and report anyone who does not follow these guidelines, thereby causing potential danger to dogs or dog owners.
17. Do not bring treats to the dog park, causing potential dog-to-dog conflict.
18. Know that the dog park is not the place to fix inappropriate behavioral problems without a trainer’s assistance.
19. Will supervise your dog’s play and be prepared to interrupt inappropriate play whether your dog is the perpetrator or the victim.
20. Are willing to listen to someone else’s complaint about your dog’s behavior and are willing to leave the park if your dog is being too rough. If you really disagree with the person’s assessment of your dog’s behavior, do not argue, but get advice from a trainer.
21. Remember to keep the park clean and healthy for everyone.
22. Always clean up after your dog and be willing to clean up after others who did not notice, do not know or do not follow the rules. This is everyone’s park; we must take care of it for all our sakes.
11:51 am edt          Comments

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