Beautiful weather means dog park season is in full effect! Off-leash dog play has many benefits, but safe play requires diligent preparedness, supervision and knowledge of canine body language. Here are a few tips from the ASPCA for a safe and happy park visit:
- Small dogs can sometimes get injured or frightened by big dogs. If you have a small breed, make sure the park has an area for “littles.”
- Teach your dog a few key skills — such as come, sit, down, stay, and settle — before visiting.
- Watch the crowd for a few minutes before entering, to ensure happy romping vs. any bullying or fighting. Return later of something makes you feel uneasy.
- When a new dog arrives, others will rush to investigate. To avoid a canine mob scene, linger outside the park for a few minutes, letting other dogs notice your pup’s presence. Likewise, don’t let yours mob a new visitor; call her when you notice newcomers arriving.
- Focus on your dog and her playmates. If you see signs that play isn’t going well, stop the interaction before things get out of hand.
- Avoid canine clumping (multiple dogs playING nonstop for more than a few minutes), as playmates can get overexcited and tensionS can arise.
- Look for signs of happy dog play: Relaxed bodies, play bows, bounciness, open mouths and smiles on dogs’ faces, wrestling that is loose and easy, and dogs alternating between running, chasing, taking breaks and sniffing around.
- Interrupt when you see signs of trouble: stiff bodies, fast movements, growls or barks that become louder and more intense, dogs pursuing/playing too roughly, knocking others down or standing over another dog, and multiple dogs chasing a single dog (especially if it’s small).
- For more tips on interpreting dog behavior, selecting an appropriate playmate for you pup, and breaking up dog scuffles, click here for the ASPCA’s dog park resource.