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Dog Parks -- Outdoor Recreation

A dog park (bark park) is a place for people who don't have a lot of space, such as apartment dwellers or people who live in big cities, to take their dog for exercise. They are also frequented by people who want to help socialize their dog to other dogs and people. If you live near a dog park, you know they can be a fun place for your dog to get healthy exercise, romp and play with other dogs, and provide socialization for both of you. Many dog parks allow off-leash play, but some dog parks have rules stating dogs must be leashed. Dog parks are public or private (members-only) and some dog parks have an entry fee. Check with your city Parks and Recreation Department to see if any dog parks are close to you and inquire about the rules and regulations.

dog parks

Dog parks vary greatly in size, features, and rules. Most dog parks are fenced in with entry and exit gates, have water available in ponds or watering areas, are equipped with poop bag dispensers, and trash cans. Some dog parks have agility equipment, swimming areas, shade and seating, nearby parking, and are handicap accessible. Requirements include a collar with a current license, ID, and rabies vaccination tags.

Veterinarians recommend a dog be up to date on vaccinations prior to visits to a dog park. Bordetella (kennel cough) is a common illness passed from dog to dog quite easily. Parvo and distemper shots are equally important. It's also a good idea to have your dog microchipped.

Dog parks can be a good place to practice obedience training because the distraction level is quite high, because of all the activity going on.

Never bring young children to a dog park. A young child can easily cause a dog attack because of their size and fast movements which are like prey. Small children are likely to trigger a dog's prey drive and even calm dogs with a good temperament might chase, nip, or bite the child. Additionally, a small child may be knocked over and injured by dogs who are running or playing. Dog parks are not playgrounds for humans.

If your dog has been aggressive with other dogs in the past, been in a dog fight, or bitten other dogs or people, do not take him to a dog park until he is fully rehabilitated. A dog park can be a chaotic environment and problems can occur just like that! Some dogs may dislike other dogs barking, being chased, rough play, or just show a dislike another dog for no reason. Dominant dogs can become aggressive when they think they are being challenged, and nervous fearful dogs also can become aggressive if they think they are in danger. This may occur if they get surrounded by other dogs and feel trapped. Dog parks aren't for every person and every dog.

Older children who accompany you to a dog park must understand there will be no teasing, running around, chasing dogs, or petting dogs without the owner's permission. Do not take aggressive bully-type dogs to a dog park. Female dogs in heat should not be taken, and never take a sick dog to a doggy park.

When You Take Your Dog to the Dog Park

  • Have your dog wear a collar with ID, license, rabies tags, and be up to date with vaccinations.
  • Carry a dog leash with you even if it's an off-leash park.
  • Keep your dog under voice control and within sight at all times.
  • When your dog is off leash at the park, 100% of your focus should be on your dog.
  • Leash your dog at the first sign of aggression and remove your dog from the park immediately.
  • If a dangerous or out of control dog shows up, leave the park. Don't risk a dog fight.
  • Do not bring more dogs than you can handle -- some parks have limits on how many dogs are allowed with 1 owner.
  • Socialize with other dogs owners only when you have your dog on a leash.
  • Closely supervise your dog and stop any mounting or other anti-social behaviors immediately.
  • Clean up after your dog -- if you see feces pick it up and dispose of it in provided containers. Scoop up the poop!
  • Prevent digging! If your dog digs a hole, fill it up.
  • Frequently offer your dog water.
  • Abide by any local dog park rules.

If your dog loves playing with other dogs, and you find the local dog park is not what you expected and isn't a good experience for you, don't despair. Consider doggy daycare, group dog walking, or invite other dog owners who have friendly dogs over to your house.