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Are Dog Parks a Good Idea?

labrador, labradors, active labradors, labrador training

In the opinion of this writer…yes. As the owner of two Labradors under the age of three, I have come to realize that exercise is essential to a happy dog as well as a happy owner. I am part of the 70% of dog owners who believe that my beloved pooches are part of my family. Now that all my children have left the “nest”, trips to the dog park have replaced earlier trips to the playground and more recently, endless trips to sporting events. I no longer discuss SAT scores, the best colleges and curriculums, but have migrated to simpler subjects such as the perfect dog food, the best fetching toys, and the love that I have for the two devoted dogs who love me unconditionally and are always happy to see me…always.

Dog parks are a great way for your Labrador Retriever to run, learn to retrieve toys, as well as socialize with other dogs. As an owner, there are several criteria that make a dog park a safe place for you and your dogs.

1. Make sure that the park has secure fencing and gates.

2. Dog parks should have a separate area for smaller dogs.

3. There should be clean-up stations throughout the park.

4. Dogs should have access to shade and drinking water.

5. Parks should be large enough for normal interaction.

Here are some general safety rules for your dog and your family.

1. To be fully protected, you dog should be fully vaccinated, have a good immune system and  have no injuries or chronic pain. Puppies are extremely vulnerable to deadly contagious diseases, so don’t take them until they had all of their shots, and the vaccines have had time to become effective. Ask your veterinarian during your last round of shots.

2. Female dogs that are in heat, male dogs that haven’t been neutered, and anxious or aggressive dogs are not good candidates, and should not be at dog parks.

3. Before you enter the park, spend a few minutes observing other dogs and the way they interact. Dogs will naturally congregate around the entrance gate when a new dog arrives. You may want to walk your dog around the outside of the fence, so that dogs that are already at the park can get a “preview” of the newcomer, and your dog won’t be overwhelmed when entering his new playground.

4. Once you’ve entered the park, take your dog off his leash. Although this is a good opportunity to socialize with other dog owners, be aware of your dog, as well as other dogs at all times.

5. Have a basic knowledge of your dog’s body language. Dogs use facial expressions, ear and tail positioning and overall behavior to express their intentions. Signs of a frightened or threatened dog include eyes that appear to be larger than normal, ears that are pressed against the dogs head, tail that is tucked between the two hind legs, excessive shedding and a tightly closed mouth. If your dog appears uncomfortable, take him home. This is supposed to be a positive experience.

6. Small children should not be present at any dog park. There are too many possibilities for accidents.

The only other suggestion that I would make is to cover your car seats with towels or an old washable blanket or quilt. Outgoing and curious Labs tend to bring home a little mud and grass.

If you follow these simple guidelines, a dog park can be a great experience for you and your pet. Not only will your Labrador be able to exercise and run freely, he will learn valuable social skills.  Most importantly, he will come home tired, allowing you several hours to work, clean, shop or do whatever task that needs to be accomplished.

 

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Comments (5)

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  1. Maggie says:

    This is a great article. I’m among those who want to go to the park, but are afraid of the irresponsible minority who make the experience unsafe for everyone else. I’m talking about the reckless few who have ill mannered dogs, don’t pick up after themselves and aren’t careful when opening and closing the gate. Dogs parks really should use a double gated system to avoid dog escapes.

  2. admin says:

    Thank you for your response to my article. The dog park that I go to has double gates, and I agree that they are very important. If they get out without a leash, they run as fast as they can to a nearby creek…they are labs who love water, this is an action that can get both the dogs and I in trouble. Look for more interesting articles on ClubLab in the near future. Once again, I appreciate your comment.

  3. Zane says:

    Every time I take my 7 month old lab to dog park he is sick the next day .. Sometimes there is a puddle I believe it is rain water and dog urine could this be why he is sick the next day?

  4. admin says:

    Sorry to get back to you so late with this…but I would find a different dog park and see if your dog is having the same reaction. It could be a bad allergy to something. It this continues to happen, ask you vet. My dogs go all of the time and have no problems. Let me know how things work out.