Dog parks can be a great way to socialize and exercise your dog but they can also be extremely dangerous since dog fights are common. To help minimize your risk and increase the enjoyment of the neighborhood dog park, follow the steps below.
- Most importantly, make sure your dog likes the dog park! Some dogs, like some people, would prefer to relax in their neighborhood instead of going to a crowded restaurant (or in your pup’s situation, a dog park) with a bunch of strangers!
- Make sure your dog is under voice control. This means that he must come to you when called and stop doing a behavior when told “No”. If you don’t have this basic control then you will have no way to help him if he gets into a dangerous situation.
- When you get to the parking lot, take a few minutes to observe the dogs and people in the park. If you are uncomfortable for any reason…LEAVE.
- Take your dog off leash before he enters the park. This will give him a greater ability to get away from trouble if it erupts but it will also help him to feel more comfortable.
- Move away from the gate as quickly as possible. The gate is the main area where dog fights start because dogs that are already there try to prevent new arrivals from entering.
- Don’t hang out with large groups of people. Lots of people go to the park to socialize. They sit around one table or stand in one area. As a result, the dogs cluster in this space so there is a greater chance for a fight or disagreement. Plus, if you are busy chatting with a friend then you may miss the early warning signs of a pending dog fight.
- Heavily praise your dog every time he looks at you or comes up to you. This will encourage him to come to you more often and thus he will be more likely to listen when it is time to leave.
- Verbally reward your dog for all proper social interactions. Did he just allow a dog to sniff him? Good job! Did he move away from rough play? Good boy! Most dogs will look to their owner for guidance so make sure to show him which behavior you want!
- Be aware of any of the following changes in the behavior of your dog or others because they can be warning signs that a fight is going to start. If you see any of these signs quickly but calmly (being calm is key-if your dog is already nervous and then he sees that you are nervous it will make the situation 20 times worse!) get control of your dog so you can remove him from the situation.
A. Sudden change in flow of play
B. Change in vocalization
C. Hard eye contact or rigid body posture
D. Unevenly matched “play mates”
E. Excessive greeting postures or submission
F. Bully behavior
G. Pack/prey “play”
Website of City owned dog parks: http://www.sandiego.gov/park-and-recreation/general-info/dogs.shtml