We at the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic are often asked by our dog-owners if taking their dog to a dog park is a good idea or a bad idea. Unfortunately, we don’t have a cookie-cutter answer that works for all dogs. Dog parks are great for some dogs, and not too good for other dogs.
Let’s go over the benefits that dog parks can provide:
- Dog parks give great opportunities for exercise, and your dog will probably come home tired.
- Playing with other dogs is fantastic socialization for your dog.
- For dogs with arthritis, swimming is a better type of exercise for their joints than running on a sidewalk or up and down trails. Dog parks that offer swimming opportunities provide wonderful exercise for these dogs.
But there are some drawbacks to dog parks:
- With a concentration of dogs comes a greater likelihood of parasites and communicable disease: fleas, ticks, viruses, bacteria, and intestinal parasites. This stresses the importance of practicing preventive medicine with your pet: keep them current on their vaccine status and use monthly heartworm preventive (which also provides intestinal parasite control) and flea/tick control.
- Not everyone who takes their dog to the park is as responsible as you’d like for them to be. Don’t be the dog owner who reads a book or talks with others to the point of not paying attention to his/her own dog.
- Sometimes dogs who aren’t the nicest or most well-socialized can make your dog’s experience less than pleasant. We’ve repaired bite wounds and lacerations on a handful of our patients following disappointing incidents at dog parks. If yours is “that dog,” be sensitive to the other owners and their dogs.
It is important for you to weigh the pros and the cons for your dog before you take him/her to a dog park. If you decide that the dog park is right for you and your dog, make sure you follow appropriate dog park etiquette (for instance, Rule #1: Promptly pick up after your dog).
The American Veterinary Medical Association has some good advice for you, too, before you pack up the car and head to the park: