05 Oct 11

Dog Park Safety ...

by Nancy E. Hassel

Dog Park Safety

We are lucky to now have more and more dog runs or dog parks if you will here on Long Island.  But there are safety factors that dog owners should follow and be aware of.

Sadly and recently a small Yorkie at an off leash park was killed by a larger Lab mix.  It’s a terrible tragedy for the dog and his owner – and since I was not there to witness it, I am not jumping to conclusions – I am sure it has been a devastating time for both parties involved.  My heart really goes out to them.  What I was told is that the larger dog, that was leashed, pulled away from the person walking it and the dog ran over to the smaller dog.  Was it a vicious attack or did the big dog merely not know his size and strength over a 3 or 5lb little dog?  We can speculate – but this very sad loss is not about speculation but teaching dog owners to be more aware your surroundings and where you are brining your dog to socialize, play and take precautions while there to keep him safe.

It’s easy to get into a routine while at a dog park and letting your guard down, especially if you are there everyday and know most of the other dogs.  But if you are going to an enclosed (fenced in) dog run here are a few tips to help keep your dog safe from possible injury:

Most dog runs, the newer ones, have small dog areas and large dog areas.  It’s pretty simple if your dog is small; bring him into the small dog area.  Bringing you tiny dog into the large dog part of the dog run, can cause serious prey drive in the larger breeds and before you know it, you could have 20 large dogs chasing and cornering your tiny dog.  This is not fair to your dog who cannot defend himself, but also not fair to the large dogs as it can spark their natural prey drive.  A dog fight could break out and how are you going to get your 5lb dog away from the 50lb+ dogs?
Its common sense, those dog run rules are there for a reason.  Safety for you and for your dog.

If you want to start going to a dog park with your dog, go their first and observe the owners and their dogs, ask how the park is, etc.  Get a feel for the park before just bringing your dog there and dropping him into an environment that can be scary for some dogs.

Parking:  Parking your car and letting your dog out loose to run across the parking lot, or up the trail to the dog run is another huge safety problem.  The area for your dog to be off leash is within the fenced area.  I have seen this all too often where people get too comfortable, think they own the place and just let their dogs out of the car off leash to run all over the parking lot.  I have also seen dogs almost get hit by cars while running to the dog run.  Keep your dogs leashed until you are in the dog run.

Toys:  Some dogs that go to the dog park daily can become territorial about the location, and bringing toys into the mix is not a great idea.  Many people want to exercise and have their dog play with a ball or Frisbee, it’s understandable.  But if there is a dog there that is possessive or aggressively defends his or her toy – it’s just a dog fight waiting to happen.  Now of course this doesn’t happen every time, but why chance it?

Coffee Clutch:  The dog park is great to socialize your dog and you end socializing as well.  How often are you at a dog park and can remember the dog’s name, but maybe not necessarily the owners?  J  It’s great to meet new friends, other dog owners who are passionate about their dogs at the park, but just be sure while you’re having that coffee clutch of a conversation that you are still paying attention to your dog while in the dog run. Watching your dog to make sure he or she is behaving, not scared or nervous around the other dogs, and not developing a new ‘bad’ doggie habit she just learned from her new four legged buddy.

Acting up: If your dog is having an off day, acting up or bullying other dogs, it’s time for you to take him out of the park.  Maybe do some fun one on one training session with your dog, so while he is in the dog park, you will have better control.

Newbie: If your dog is not used to being around other dogs or your dog is a new to you dog, meaning you may have just adopted him, a dog park may not be the right location for you to start socializing your dog.  If you are not sure how he will react around other dogs, try bringing him around other dogs first so you will get a better understanding of his behavior before just letting him loose in a dog run.

Kids: Kids and the dog park, really not a good match.  I have seen kids get knocked over, go flying when a dog running at full speed and didn’t see the kid and bam! You’re kid is now screaming crying and may become fearful of dogs.  Also keep in mind often dogs are not used to kids or may not be around many kids and now you have loose dogs in a park with, well, loose kids.  May not be a good combo – it’s a dog park not a playground!

Dog owners need to take precautions to be safe at our local dog parks, know your dog, clean up after you dog, know when it’s time to leave, and pay attention to them while you are there.

You can see a list of rules for a great local dog run at Blydenburgh Park here.

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