Is your dog ready for the dog park, or should you steer clear?
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Is your dog ready for the dog park, or should you steer clear?

Dogs
Health & Safety

Dog parks are dedicated parks and green spaces within the UK that are designed to provide an open space for dogs to socialise and play freely off the lead. They are public spaces that can be highly variable in terms of their size, facilities and settings, but the common elements that they all tend to have in common are enclosed boundaries, possibly with corral-style gates, grass, and other dogs!

Large cities such as London tend to have more dedicated dog parks than other areas, due to the otherwise small amount of suitable dog walking areas in urban spaces, but many other areas have a dog park of their own too, or an unofficial “dog walking field,” which, while not dedicated as a dog park, ticks all of the same boxes.

Dog parks can be an excellent place to take your dog for a safe off the lead run without the risk of them running off or chasing smaller animals, and they also provide an excellent opportunity for your dog to meet and socialise with others in a casual setting.

However, not all dogs are well suited to playing in a dog park, either due to their temperament or because they’re not quite ready for that level of socialisation yet, and being able to judge if the dog park is a good choice for your own dog is vitally important.

Read on to learn more about how to tell if your dog is ready for the dog park, or if it is better to steer clear.

Dogs that should definitely not be in the dog park

There are a few firm reasons to rule out a trip to the dg park for your own dog, and you should not consider taking your dog there if any of the following things apply to them:

  • You own a bitch that is in heat.
  • You own a puppy that has not had all of their vaccinations.
  • You own an unvaccinated older dog.
  • Your dog has a flea or worm infestation.
  • Your dog has or may have a communicable illness, such as kennel cough.
  • Your dog is unreliable or can be aggressive with other dogs in some situations.
  • You are not sure how well socialised your dog is, or how they will react to others; these are things that you will need to assess and find out about in a more controlled environment than the dog park.

The dog park is a playdate, not a crèche

How you view the dog park is important as well. You should think of a trip to the dog park as being equivalent to a play date for your dog, in which the owners of all of the dogs are present, alert and engaged in the process, interacting with the dogs and supervising their play with each other.

The dog park is not a crèche where you can drop your dog off for unsupervised play and hope that all goes well or that other owners will keep an eye out for them, nor should you go to the dog park but be present in body only, spending the time playing with your phone or otherwise not paying any attention to your dog.

The dog park is a different place every time

What makes the dog park itself is the combination of dogs in it at any given time, and the dynamic between those dogs. This means that every visit to the dog park will be different for you and your dog, and should be viewed as something new and different each time, due to the combination of canine (and human) personalities within it.

Is your dog ready to play?

A whole range of dogs can benefit greatly from the play and socialisation experience that the dog park can provide, as well as the valuable opportunity to allow your dog off the lead in a safe and enclosed environment.

Dogs and puppies of any age (after vaccination) can visit the dog park, and starting with visits when they are young is one of the best ways to raise a highly social dog that is excellent at playing with others! However, if your dog is slightly grumpy, unreliable with others or not overly keen on playing, they might find the dog park stressful rather than fun, which can pose problems in itself.

While older dogs, those that are not hugely physically fit and very small dogs can all benefit from the dog park too, special care should be taken with dogs like these to ensure that they are having fun, and not running the risk of getting hurt in play.

You must keep an eye on your dog while they are in the dog park, and be ready to take them home when they are getting tired out or have had enough. Also, keep an eye on the behaviour of other dogs and owners in the park, and if one is causing a problem, you may again need to consider taking your dog home.

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