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One of our favorite things about the new community we live in is the amazing dog park! It has tunnels the dogs can race through, obstacle courses they can practice run, and lots of room for free play. It’s become one of our favorite places to go and it gives the dogs a lot of opportunities to earn treats for good behavior. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of training exercises with Purina Beggin’ treats. They are easy to break up into tiny nibbles so I don’t feel bad for giving the dogs multiple treats. Plus, my dogs go insane for them which is great for motivating them to obey commands and receive their reward.
We shop exclusively at PetSmart for all of our dog-related products and if you head to PetSmart during the month of June to re-stock your canine cupboards you’ll receive a $10 PetSmart gift card when you purchase $40 worth of Purina products (like the Beggin’ treats my dogs love so much!). Visit here to get more details about redeeming your receipt for your gift card!
We joke about how important our dogs are to us although everyone that knows us knows we aren’t really kidding. My husband suffers from a severe depression + anxiety disorder (which he’s mentioned on here before) and our dogs are therapy dogs, in a way. There is plenty of research that indicates that pets are good for boosting endorphins (less depression!), calming anxiety, and reducing stress. On the particularly rough days, there is nothing that makes us feel as good as having a warm furry pup to cuddle with and make the world go away. It seems that our dogs are able to sense our depression too because they always seem to know when we need cheering up. When are struggling, they are always there to offer a cuddle or a lick to the hand. I think it’s clear that as much as they need us, we need them too.
We don’t have children, we have pets, and we do our best to make sure that they stay as happy + healthy as possible. That includes making sure that we stay current on appointments and get them plenty of outdoor time and exercise. The dog park here is about 1/4 mile from our front door so it’s perfect for a short walk and a bit of playtime. My only concern is that there isn’t a separation between the big dog park and the little dog park. It’s usually fine but since we have little dogs we have to be certain to stay extra aware and follow safety precautions. Since I know that summertime brings a lot of outdoor fun, I wanted to share our top 5 dog park safety tips with you all today.
Top 5 Dog Park Safety Tips
Just a few simple reminders to help keep you and your dogs safe at the dog park this summer.
1 // Learn how to recognize the signs of a good park + dog-friendly situation
Just because it’s a “dog park’ doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for you and your dog. Dogs have different temperaments, triggers, and fears. Before taking your dog into the park to play, take a moment to survey the area and make sure it’s a good fit. We prefer a park with separate areas for big dogs and small dogs but that isn’t always possible. If there isn’t a separation, and there are too many big dogs, we don’t stay.
Check around the park and if there are too many dogs (either too many in number or too many that are different from your dog), inattentive owners (on their cell phones, talking to other dog-owners, etc), or dog waste (gross!), look for another park or plan to visit the park at another time.
2 // Know the signs of heat stroke + have water available
During the summer, we try to avoid the dog park between 12pm – 4pm when it tends to be the hottest outside. Our little dogs are prone to overheating and the last thing we want is for a summer trip to the park to turn into an emergency trip to the vet. 🙁 It’s important that you, as a dog owner, are aware of the signs of overheating and are able to take immediate action if needed. Common signs of overheating include excesssive and rapid panting, thick saliva + drooling, and a loss of balance or coordination. My dogs tend to do a rapid panting any time they are excited (which means as soon as they realize they are going to the park) but the heavy drooling and stumbling steps are sure signs.
Most dog parks have dog-friendly water fountains on site but I always recommend taking your own water bottle anyway. Sometimes my dogs prefer to lap up the stream as I pour the bottle out and I’ll do whatever it takes to get them hydrated when it’s hot.
3 // Learn the difference between aggression + play
This was hard for me because, as the owner of small dogs, I had the tendency to view all behavior from big dogs as aggression. I was overly concerned because I knew that any kind of little accident could result in an injury to my dog. It took a bit of training (on my part) but I’ve reached a point where I’m able to relax and watch for signs of actual aggression. Being overly concerned about every little thing at the dog park can actually cause you to be the problem and no one wants that.
If a dog is bouncing around, wagging her tail, and has a relaxed facial expression then the dog is fine. Even if it’s barking or being hyper-active, those are just signs of play. If a dog is positioned in a determined stance, has a closed mouth, and is hyper-focused then you should remove your dog from the area immediately. That dog is indicating signs of possible aggression. If your dog is involved in an aggressive stand-off and the dogs begin growling, remain calm and call your dog with a simple command. If your dog doesn’t obey simple commands, you shouldn’t be at the dog park.
4 // Know how to safely break up a dog fight
If you noticed signs of aggression in another animal but were not able to get your dog away before a fight broke out, it’s important that you know how to safely and responsibly break up a dog fight. Under no conditions should you ever attempt to get involved, reach your arm between the dogs, or grab the dogs by the collars. You are risking serious injury to yourself and could make the fight worse.
Instead, you should try to use a deterrent spray or loud noise (such as a whistle or air horn) to distract the dogs and break up the fight. I have a small bag that I always take with us to the dog park which includes their rabies vaccination tags, a whistle, a small air horn, a travel bowl, and water. Never, ever, ever take food or treats to the dog park because dogs have a strong sense of smell and fights over food can break out.
5 // Keep your eyes on your dog(s)
The dog park is not the place for you to be distracted by being on your phone or socializing with other people. Keep vigilant of your dog’s whereabouts and behavior at all times to insure that a good time is had by all and that there are no injuries resulting from your negligence. Even if your dog is a sweet and submissive dog, a dog can be triggered at any time. When you enter a dog park you assume legal responsibility for your dog and their actions.
Take the time to know your dog and understand their cues before allowing them to be off-leash around other people and animals.
Of course, when you get home from the dog park I recommend giving the pups water and a couple of Purina Beggin’ treats for good behavior!
We try to go to the dog park at least 3x a week during the summer so that the pups get a lot of good exercise and are able to make doggo friends. During the winter, when it’s too cold and snowy to play outside for long, we try to set up indoor playdates with some of the dog park friends. Following the dog park safety tips now makes it much easier to avoid conflict once you start intruding on each other’s turf later. 😉
Now, don’t forget to get over to PetSmart and pick up your Purina Beggin’ treats for your dogs! You have until 7/9/17 to upload your receipt showing you spent $40 on Purina products (you have to shop between 6/1 – 6/30) and get your $10 gift card. Oh, and yes you can earn multiple gift cards! It’s $10 for every $40 in Purina products you buy so stock up! We found our Purina Beggin’ treats in the aisle along with other bite-sized treats that are good for training so check there when you’re out shopping!
If you have any other fun summer dog park safety tips to share, I’d love to hear ’em!