Dog parks are a great place for your canine to exercise and socialize; but there are some important things to keep in mind.
The Basics: Make sure that your companion is fully vaccinated for Rabies, Distemper-Parvo, and Bordetella, to protect him or her from illness. Do not bring your cherished companion to the park if they are sick or injured. Do not bring female dogs that are in heat. Supervise your buddy at play, and clean-up behind him or her to make our parks a pleasant and safe place for everyone.
Keep your buddy protected from external and internal parasites. Most facilities do not use pesticides to control fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other insects because of the toxicity concerns for the animals. Products like Frontline do not have Pyrethrin, and can be used monthly to protect against fleas and ticks. In our area, external parasites are a year-round concern because it doesn't freeze. Make sure your cherished companion is also protected against Heartworm. Mosquitoes, the vector for Heartworm, are everywhere; and this deadly disease is easily prevented. Products like Heartguard also protect against many internal parasites such as Round worm that can be picked up by eating the grass, walking through poop from other animals and then grooming feet, and/or sniffing tails. Don't let your dog drink water from the ground; and it is safest to bring your own water supply. Parasites such as Giardia can be present in puddles; and other illness such a Kennel cough can be spread by sharing water bowls. Your pet can also spread parasites to you, so don't let him or her lick you on the mouth.
Protect yourself and your canine from fights. Don't bring food to the dog park. Even the sweetest dog can become protective and aggressive over treats. Avoid fights between dogs by not bringing anything that can trigger problems. Be careful with toys; some dogs will show the same dominant behavior with balls, squeaky objects, and stuffed animals. If another dog approaches yours in a non-playful manner, make sure the owner is aware of it, and move to another area if it continues. Animal control should be contacted if there are ongoing problems with a specific dog provoking fights. If a fight does take place, seek medical attention for your buddy right away.
The dog park is not necessarily good for every canine. If your dog is anxious around other animals and people, than turning him or her loose in the dog park can make things worse. In this situation, I would recommend working with a trainer in group and/or private obedience lessons before going to the dog park. Most dog parks have a separate area that is smaller and less utilized. This could be the perfect spot to try to acclimate your buddy.
I hope these guidelines are helpful, and wish all of your canine companions happy romps in the park. Check out our local dog park group, OLD PALS--The off leash dog park alliance of Stockton. We have a website at www.oldpalsstockton.com and a Facebook page, Old Pals.