Tip #1 be sure that a dog park is right for your dog
Dog parks can be an excellent way for your dog to get the physical activity and socialization that he or she needs. However, they are best for dogs who are already well-socialized and able to obey commands. For the safety of all dog park visitors, make sure your dog is healthy (up to date on vaccines, and not currently ill or contagious), physically sound and injury free, and spayed or neutered. It is a good idea to make sure that visits to the dog park are not your dog’s only source of exercise, as other dogs may not appreciate overly energetic and playful behavior.
Tip #2 visit the dog park before you take your dog
Before you take your dog to a new dog park, visit on your own. Check to see if there is enough room for dogs to run and space themselves out, as well as secure fencing and gates. Are there cleanup stations, water, and shelter for hot days? Is there a separate area for small dogs? Do you agree with posted rules?
It is also wise to note the busiest times, and then decide when it would be best to bring your dog. In large dog parks, you run the risk of dogs forming a pack, and attacking other dogs, so you may want to avoid those parks, or choose off-hours when it is less crowded.
Take the time to observe the other dog owners. Do you feel comfortable with them? Are they paying close attention to their dogs? No matter how conscientious you are, if the other dogs aren’t well-supervised, issues may arise.
Tip #3 come prepared
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, bring water for you and your dog, bags for cleaning up, and toys (unless it’s a favorite toy your dog won’t want to share!). Bring a leash, but keep your dog safe by keeping him/her off leash when inside the park. Dogs can become tangled in leashes, which could lead to an injury. Leashes can also interfere with the natural interaction and body language between the dogs.
Do not bring treats for your pet, or food for yourself.
Tip #4 pay close attention to your dog, and your surroundings
Each time you arrive, check the crowd. Does the vibe seem OK? Obey all posted park rules. Pay close attention to your dog at all times, and the dogs he or she is interacting with. Call it quits before your dog becomes too tired or overwhelmed, and never leave your dog unsupervised. If other dogs are acting aggressively, immediately leave the park.
If another dog attacks your dog, stay calm. If commands don’t stop the fight, ask another dog owner for assistance. Trying to break up the fight alone will only put you at risk for injury. The safest way to break up a dogfight is to use the “wheelbarrow” method—each person grabs the dogs’ back feet and lifts them off the ground. This has the benefit of immediately disengaging the dogs, as well as physically separating them.
Tip #5 Pick up after your dog
This should go without saying, but unfortunately, it still must be said: Always pick up after your dog. No one wants to step in dog waste, or have his or her dog roll around in it. Always bring bags from home, in case they are not provided at the park, and deposit used bags in a trash bin.