dog park play nice“Run, be free!” is the message off-leash dog parks send to your dog, but your role as a responsible pet parent doesn’t end where the dog park begins.

For your dog’s health, safety and well-being, not to mention the well-being of other dogs and humans, it’s important to consider the risks as well as the rewards – the steps you might take and situations to avoid.

The benefits for your dog, of course, are easily identified. All dogs need fresh air and exercise, but for some breeds it’s critical to work off high levels of energy, which otherwise might be spent overturning trashcans and destroying sofas. Since dogs are social animals, the park also gives them the chance to meet new friends, both canine and human, and to work on their body language and communication skills. The same is true for their owners.

Get Your Shots

Health risks are reduced if your dog is up-to-date on shots, but you might want to ask your veterinarian about a shot for Bordatella, commonly known as kennel cough. As for other risks, you’re in charge, and there are things you can do in advance.

Stretch it Out

For example, according to Dogster, you should exercise your dog well before you visit the park to avoid out-of-control behavior. Leave the kids at home, so you can focus on dogs, and leave your dog on the leash for a minute so that you and your pet can adjust gradually to the mood of the park. Checking out the park in advance lets you observe other pets’ body language and identify potential troublemakers, who you can then avoid.

Be Alert

Stay conscious of any signs of escalating aggression so you can intervene if play turns ugly. This also means that a dog park is not appropriate for dogs with extreme issues with fear or aggression. Be aware of your dog’s play style. For example, if rough, physical, high-contact wrestling play makes your dog uncomfortable, remember that in a dog park you’re part of the play and can make the decision to steer your dog toward playmates of similar temperament.

Equipped with these guidelines, you should be good to go, but why not create a special dog park backpack, filled in advance with essentials like pick-up bags, water, first aid kit, sanitizing wipes, and, of course, treats

How will you know when it’s time to go home? If at any point you feel your dog’s just not having fun, it’s time to leave – and live to play another day.

This content post is provided by the pet experts at Hartz.

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