Pet Tips With Dr. Meghan Kirsch

Safety and socializing tips for enjoying the dog park with your canine companion this summer.

Summer is here, and what better way to bask in the sun and get some exercise than by taking your dog to the park? Fresh air, activity and women who love dogs make for a perfect afternoon. The dog park is a great venue for your pooch to romp around leash-free and socialize. However, not all dogs play nicely. Here are some tips to keep your canine companion safe this summer at the dog park.
 
Know your audience. 
Take a few minutes to watch the park from a distance to deter-mine if a particular group is a good fit for your dog. You want to find a group of dogs close in size, age and activity level. There’s a good reason for the division between big dog and small dog sections in most parks: Similar size generally means safer play. 
 
Size matters
Ideally, a park should be big enough for your dog to run and play, but not too big that you lose track of her. It’s important to monitor your dog closely to prevent injury. The park should be an interactive time for you, as well, and an opportunity to gush about your pooch while socializing with like-minded people. Double-check to make sure the park itself is fenced-in and away from traffic.  
 
Toys, balls and treats
Though your dog may be good at sharing, obviously not all dogs are. Leave favorite toys at home. Many dogs tend to guard their possessions, and while you may think it’s cute, this behavior can lead to aggression between dogs. 
 
Body language
Know the difference between play and aggression. Playful dogs have a relaxed posture, and they often run, jump and pounce with their tails wagging. Typical signs of aggressive behavior include a rigid posture, growling, fixed gaze and raised hackles. If you notice these behaviors, resist the urge to yell and calmly remove your dog from the interaction. Should a fight break out, do not intervene; instead, try to break up the fight by distracting the dogs’ attention elsewhere with a spray bottle, hose or sand.  
 
Visit your veterinarian
Keeping your dog updated on vaccinations is important to ensuring his safety in case of an incident. Always consult a veterinarian if your pet is bitten by another dog, as even seemingly mild injuries can potentially prove far more serious.
 
The park is a fantastic opportunity to meet people and spend time outdoors with your dog. Knowing the risks can help keep your pooch safe this summer.