Dog in grass in a park.

Taking your pet for a fun outing at the local dog park sounds like an enjoyable activity for a lazy summer afternoon. There are definitely some things to consider before packing up the SUV and heading over, though. Public dog parks are not without some potential dangers, and Godspeed Animal Care thinks that it is important for pet owners to be aware of how to avoid trouble. 

Potential Puppy Playground Perils

Lots of fun can occur within the fenceline of a dog park, but there are hazards to be aware of. 

Common dog park dangers include:

  • Interdog aggression
  • Rough play
  • Injuries like a muscle strain
  • Infectious diseases such as kennel cough
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Overheating

Are Dog Parks Right for You?

Dog parks may sound like fun, but they aren’t right for all dogs. While our canine companions are social creatures, they are also not meant to just be thrown into a large group of strange dogs. 

Dog parks might be a good option for some pets. Avoid, though, if your dog:

  • Has a history of not getting along well with other dogs
  • Seems nervous or scared around strange dogs
  • Has not completed their vaccinations
  • Is very small and likely to be injured
  • Cannot be fully supervised during the dog park visit
  • Is not protected fully with heartworm, flea, and tick prevention
  • Is not feeling 100%
  • Is immunocompromised
  • Has not been spayed or neutered

Staying Safe

If you do decide that a trip to the dog park is worthwhile for you and your pet, there are definitely some steps that you can take to keep the fun to a maximum. 

When visiting the dog park:

  • Be sure that your pet’s vaccinations including social vaccines such as Bordetella and canine influenza are up to date (if you aren’t sure, call us and ask!)
  • Protect your pet with a good parasite prevention program
  • Bring plenty of fresh, clean water so that your dog can keep cool and avoid communal bowls
  • Pick up and dispose of feces properly to avoid disease transmission
  • Put away your phone and pay attention to your dog’s interactions and body language
  • Consider an alternative destination if your local dog park is very crowded or there are dogs displaying unwelcome behaviors
  • Think about visiting during non-peak hours to avoid crowds and heat
  • Be sure that your pet knows basic commands 
  • Avoid bringing treats that may bring out food aggression issues with other dogs present

Dog parks can be a lot of fun, but they also can be a little dangerous if not utilized correctly. While some dogs may enjoy them, for others a hike on a nature trail or some work on a backyard agility course may be a better option. It’s okay to decide that a dog park may not be a reasonable choice for your dog. There are plenty of other fun things to enjoy with your pup, both indoors and out.