We really love the idea of dogs heading to the park with their parents to meet new friends and playing outside, while sporting big goofy grins. Spending time with your pup, socializing, and exercising! What could go wrong? Well, too much, and quickly.
We have heard endless horror stories from our guests and our vets of dogs being attacked and seriously injured, killed, or at a minimum truly traumatized. There are too many irresponsible people that unleash their dogs, without knowing (or caring) what they may do to another dog. In most of these cases, we hear that there is no parent to be found or they grab their dog and run after an attack.
Another concern is that proof of vaccinations is not required or checked at dog parks. The assumption people may have, if a parent cares about their dog enough to take them to the park, then certainly they take them to the vet. Most parents do take their dogs to the vet frequently, but there are a lot that do not. Many diseases and illnesses can be transferred from pup to pup through direct contact or through contaminated water. When your dog drinks from the same water bowl or fountain as other dogs, they are being directly exposed to anything they might be carrying, yikes!
It can be hard having the right mix of fun and safety when caring for your dog, and it’s up to each parent to determine what is the right mix for their particular pup.
So, what should you do? Ideally, AVOID the dog park altogether. If you do go, take some precautions:
• Watch the dogs playing for a while, before adding your pup to the mix.
• Have your dog greet other dogs, while on their leash.
• Only have your dog play with dogs that are the same size.
• Small dogs are at the highest risk of injury or death. Only go to parks that have a small dog area for your little baby.
• You can also bring your dog’s own water bowl to decrease the risk of illness.
• Don’t bring more than 1 dog to the dog park unless you have someone with you to watch the other dog. It is too hard for one person to control/monitor 1 dog off leash, much less 2.
Make sure YOU are a responsible dog park parent:
• Keep up with their vaccinations. Some vaccinations, such as bordetella/kennel cough may need to be renewed every 6 months. Add an alert to your phone, and keep a copy on your phone.
• Socialize your dog. Taking your pup to a doggy day care for a controlled playtime is a really great idea. At Wag Atlanta, the Wag Pack plays for hours throughout the day, giving your pup great exposure to appropriate dog behavior.
• Training is always a good idea. Being able to have your dog return to you when you call them and to sit patiently is SO important.
• Puppies can really aggravate other dogs. They are at an increased risk of injury with other dogs getting tired of the toddler nipping at them and they may snap. Keep your pup with same aged dogs. Again, a doggy day care is the best option.
• Don’t let your large dog play with small dogs. You may have the friendliest dog there is, but their excitement and a case of the zoomies can do real accidental damage to those tiny bodies.
• Just because your small dog likes to play with big dogs, does not mean those big dogs will want to play with your small dog. We see people, alllllllllllll the time, let their tiny dogs into the park with the big dogs and just say "oh they love BIG dogs!"
• Many dogs can be protective of you. They may become aggressive when another dog approaches you. This is one reason you really want to keep them on leash to introduce them to others.
• Do not bring your intact/non-neutered male or your intact/non-spayed female who is in heat to the dog park.
Another option, arrange play groups with neighbors and friends. This can grow really fast for a large pool of pups! This is much safer and can be a lot of fun! This gives you control of the dogs your pup will be playing with and can lead to some true bonded besties. You will love seeing their face light up when they see all their friends are there.
Socialization is really important for a well behaved, healthy, happy dog. Our day care hours are from 6 am to 10 pm. Let your baby come play with us!