Skip To Content

Dog Park Safety Tips

What to Consider Before Going to the Dog Park

Anytime can be a great time to take your canine companion to the dog park, but you should consider the following factors before making the trip:

Hot Weather: Dogs will often play until they are worn out and can subsequently become overheated on hotter days. This makes mornings and evenings ideal since temperatures are cooler. It's safest to avoid hot, humid days when there is a high risk of heat stroke, unless you have a climate controlled indoor dog park in your area.

Rain:  You may want to consider the mud and dirt associated with a rainy day. Dogs that frolic in the mud will need a bath when they get home. On rainy days, it's best to play at a local  business who offers an indoor dog play space for a daily fee.

Vaccines:  Dog parks can be a source of infectious diseases, such as parvovirus, canine flu, and kennel cough. It's a good idea to check with your veterinarian for dog park vaccination recommendations based on their knowledge of local risks.

Age:  Because there are so many dogs at the dog park, including some with no or inadequate vaccinations, there is risk of infectious disease (such as parvovirus). This is especially true in unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated puppies. The highest risk is for new puppies less than five months old. For young dogs, consider one-on-one play dates with healthy, vaccinated pups -- save the dog park until they are five to six months old.

Off Peak Hours: Visiting the park when there are fewer dogs is more enjoyable and helps avoid some undesirable or aggressive behavior. Try visiting early in the morning, later in the evening, or when other people are at work. Leave early -- and don't stay if the park is over-crowded.

Top Ten  Dog Park Safety Tips

To ensure a safe and fun trip, follow these dog park safety tips:

1. Know the Dog Park Rules

Off-leash dog parks have rules regarding dog size, vaccine requirements, collars, leashes, use of toys, and more. Know the rules for your off-leash park and make sure it's the right match for you and your dog. Dogs must be leashed before leaving the Dog Park.  

2. Master Obedience Commands in Distracting Environments

If your dog is used to tuning you out when they’re having fun, then you won’t be able to get their attention during a chaotic moment at the dog park. Have your dog do “sits” and “downs” during walks and even do a recall (“come”) command as well. Say “come” and then run backwards from your dog; when they reach you, reward them with treats. Eventually, transition these commands to various locations -- both on and off-leash, with or without food rewards.  

3. Don't Bring Dog Toys

Toys may give dogs something to “resource guard.” Some dog behaviorists advise against bringing toys to the dog park. If you decide to take along a plaything, be sure to bring extras for playmates.

4. Watch Dog Body Language

Leave if you see any dogs exhibiting aggression. Staring, crouching, and other tense body language is a warning sign. Rough play, like a group of aggressive dogs chasing another dog, is also very dangerous. Don’t forget to keep an eye on your dog's body language to ensure that they're comfortable.

5. Stay for 30-60 Minutes Max

Have you ever seen a child get overtired? Suddenly, the laughter turns to tears and tempers flare. A similar thing happens to dogs, which may result in rough play or an overly sensitive demeanor. Instead of staying for hours, go home before your dog reaches this point.

6. Don’t Zone Out

 Both humans and dogs have to behave at the park. Pay attention to your dog. Do not engage in texting, social media, reading, or extensive human conversation. Keep your eyes on your pooch to ensure there is no bad behavior or aggression.

7. Bring a Well-Packed Bag

Many parks require that your dog always have a collar with ID and license. Pack water, bowl, treats, leash, first-aid kit, poop bags, and towels. Encourage your dog to drink periodically to avoid dehydration. Keep a leash with you in case you need to control your dog or remove them from a situation. Treats can be great for basic training or rewarding your dog for good behavior. Towels can come in handy on a rainy day or if your dog gets dirty before getting back in the car.

8. Pick Up Poop!

Many dog owners violate the golden rule of responsible dog ownership, and dog waste ends up on shoes and paws. Worse yet, poop may transmit disease. In general, dog owners who do not pick up poop ruin it for responsible dog owners.  If you see this kind of behavior, offer the person who didn’t pick up their pooch’s poop one of your poop bags, pick up the abandoned dog poop of others, and always pick up your own dog’s droppings.

9. Keep Up with Your Dog's Prevention Meds

Parks are full of dogs, and many can have internal and external parasites. Ensure your dog is up to date on flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medications.

10. Make Sure Your Dog Is Healthy

Before going to the park, ensure your pup is well and not having abnormal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, sneezing, nasal discharge, or coughing, which can be contagious to other dogs. If they're not in good spirits, a dog park isn't the best place for them.

Enjoy your visit to the dog park and stay safe!