Q. Recently they opened a dog park in my neighborhood. My dog just loves going there. I have a number of questions though that maybe you could help me with.
First, do you think it is a safe environment? My dog has had all of his shots, but is there something he can catch from other dogs that the shots don't cover?
Second, I think some of the dogs play very rough. One in particular grabs on to other dogs neck (the extra skin by his back). My dog gives as good as he gets and just pushes him away. All of the other owners think this is natural play. I wonder if this is too aggressive. I don't want my dog thinking I take him up there to get beat up and he's not safe with me. On the other hand as soon as one of the more aggressive dogs goes to the other side of the park or something, my dog goes right along with him, so I guess if he was unhappy or scared he wouldn't do that.
Finally, it seems like there are no rules in the dog park. My dog always walks nicely right next to me and sits when I tell him but the moment we get near the gate of the dog park he starts pulling and doesn't listen to a word I say. Again, all the other owners say it is the same for them. My dog goes back to being a "good dog" when we leave but I'm wondering if this Dog Park is a good or bad thing in general.
I hope it is good, it is such great exercise, but I want to do the best for my dog. I know this is lengthy. Thanks for your help.
A. Dog parks are becoming very popular all over the country. They can be a lot of fun for owners and their dogs but there are a few considerations that you have been very wise to bring up.
The most common risks are contagious disease like kennel cough, parvo, and the new influenza, internal and external parasites like fleas, mites and worms. Also injuries like bite wounds, scrapes and pulled or torn ligaments.
Talk to your veterinarian to be sure your pet is well protected by vaccines, especially kennel cough. Ask if there have been any influenza cases in your area… there is not a vaccine around for this yet.
Use a good flea product like Frontline, Advantage or Revolution. Use monthly heartworm preventatives that cover for internal parasites and have your dog's stool tested every 6 months for worms. Be sure that the park has rules about cleaning up and bring plenty of plastic bags and hand sanitizer.
To prevent injury, use good judgment in allowing him to play with other dogs and don't assume other dogs will. If there is a large group, a new dog, or a particular owner that doesn't monitor his/her dog maybe skip the off the leash time on that particular visit. Let him meet new friends separately with both dogs on leash until you know what to expect from the new friend.
Finally, to teach your dog better manners at the park, plan some visits when no other dogs are there, like at night, mid-day or very early in the morning to practice walking nicely on leash, coming to you when you call him (reward every time with a small treat), sits and downs. Once he pays closer attention by himself you will have a better chance of him being a "good dog" with distractions.
Answered by Dr. Debbie Dennis
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