If you have a dog, what could be more fun than going to the “Dog Park” in your neighborhood. I decided to visit a few of them in my own neighborhood and neighboring towns as well.
However, unlike everyone else in the park, I was alone. I did not bring my dog. Why? Because I needed to know a few things first. Is it safe? Is it clean? Are there separate areas for small dogs and for large ones? Is anyone monitoring the park? Do you need a membership to show proof that your dog is vaccinated? Does anyone but me even think of these things or am I over-protective of my canine family?
You be the judge. Here’s what I found.
Danger came unexpectedly by way of dogs that should not have been allowed to run free in a park with other dogs and their human families. Anyone can bring any dog of any breed, size, and temperament to most dog parks and take them off-leash. A dog will never bite another dog UNTIL THE MOMENT HE DOES!
Dogs in dog parks urinate wherever they want. Plain and simple. That goes for defecating too. The large majority of female dogs that visit dog parks go home with a UTI, as your veterinarian would call it. That stands for Urinary Tract Infection. If your female dog is urinating more often than usual, licking herself more than usual, and showing other signs of discomfort, it’s a good idea to call your veterinarian. If your dog had a recent wellness visit you may be able to bring a urine sample for testing without bringing your dog to the veterinary office for an exam.
In addition, I found that most of the dog parks I visited had standing or stagnant water. Drinking water was either made available in old, donated bowls left by well-meaning visitors or water had accumulated in puddles from rain. The latter most probably had been contaminated by urine from dogs and wildlife and harbored a toxic brew of bacteria and disease.
Small & Large-
Yes, I’m happy to say most parks had contained areas for small and large breed dogs. However, depending on the layout of the park you may have to walk through the large dog play area to reach the small dog area. Carrying your small dog through the large dog section may seem like a quick fix but being jumped on by multiple large dogs trying to get to the small, frightened dog in your arms may change your mind.
I have not been to a members-only dog park but they do exist. Some offer swimming and other activities and are strict about cleaning up after your pet. Membership dog park may restrict breeds and health and vaccine records may be required.
Here’s something interesting. People tell me they love to take their dogs to the dog park because it is nice to spend time with their dogs. However, not many people were actually “with” their dogs. They were with other people talking in groups and ignoring their dogs who were in wandering around or in groups with other dogs jumping on each other. No one was playing ball or throwing a Frisbee or supervising any activities. Is the dog park really just another social place for people to meet?
If going to the dog park is not the best idea for you then what can you do to socialize your dog? Everyone knows someone who has a dog. Why not start your own playgroup with friends you know and dogs that are appropriate playmates?
Playdates for your dog would ensure your dog’s playmates have been recently vet checked, vaccinated, and have acceptable behavior and social skills. Even if no one in the group has a fenced-in yard, just walking with a group of friends and their dogs is a better alternative if you feel there are too many risks in the dog park. The walking will be beneficial to you as well physically and socially.