Dog parks can be a good place to play with your dog or to give him / her opportunity to socialize with other dogs and people within the confines of a fenced “park.” I have gone to a dog park on several occasions with my dogs and we have enjoyed our time there. However, a wonderful day at the park can turn into a nightmare very quickly if one or two dogs become aggressive or show signs of aggression or if play becomes too rough for unequally matched dogs of different sizes/strength.

When going to a dog park, you must make an informed decision before going in. Some things to consider before taking your dog to a dog park:

  • Intact (non-spayed / neutered) dogs should not go to a dog park (asking for a fight between dogs….especially if a female is in heat)
  • Dogs that have ever demonstrated dog-on-dog or dog-on-human aggression should not use a dog park
  • Dogs who are not current on their vaccinations should stay away from dog parks. Canine diseases can spread easily in such an environment.

Remember, you as the owner, are responsible for your dog’s behavior!!

A good rule of thumb for those who wish to take their dog to the dog park for some play time is to go with the mindset that you may not go in once you arrive. When you arrive, spend a few minutes outside the fence assessing the interactions of the dogs with each other and with the humans that are in there with them. If you see anything that makes you uncomfortable about whether your dog will be safe, turn around and go home, come back at another time or take him/her somewhere else on-leash for a brisk walk. There should be an area designated (set aside in separate fencing) for small dogs. A large lab or other large breed should not be playing in the same area as a cocker spaniel or small terrier. Innocent accidents can happen with unequally matched play-mates.

As much as I love dogs and can see the good in most of them, it is important to remember that any dog under the right circumstances is capable of biting no matter how nice or sweet they seem otherwise. Sometimes timid dogs can incite a more dominant dog to attack without provocation. It is important to have good off-leash control of your dog also so that if you need to suspend play or remove them from a potentially dangerous situation you can do so easily.

Dog parks are only as good and enjoyable as the responsible participants who use them. Most are “use at your own risk” facilities. Be a responsible dog owner and make an informed decision before taking advantage of such a place.