Dog Parks: To Use or Not to Use--That is the Question!

Dog Parks: To Use or Not to Use--That is the Question!

by Kathy Green

Dog parks are a great concept--a place where dogs can run freely off-leash and socialize with other dogs. They are becoming more popular all across the country. But are they right for your dog? Dog parks can benefit most people and their pets but you need to read the benefits and risks listed below to assess whether a trip to the dog park is right for your and your dog.


To keep your dog happy, healthy, and well behaved, you need to find ways to exercise her brain and body. Visits to your local dog park can greatly enrich her life. Benefits of goin tot he dark park include:

  • Physical and mental exercise for dogs
    • Your dog can run off-leash, investigate new smells, wrestle with other dogs and fetch toys until she is tired, but happy
  • Opportunities to build and maintain social skills
    • Dogs are social creatures and most enjoy spendin time with their own species. At the dog park, your dog gets practice with r5eading other dogs' body languae and communication skills. As well he gets to meet unfamiliar dogs. These experiences can help build confidence in your dog
  • Enjoyable experience for pet owners
    • Pet owners can excersise their dogs without much effort, socialize with other dog lovers, play with their dogs and practice their off-leash training skills


There are many benefits that dog parks provide, but it is important to be aware of the risks as well:

  • Health risks
    • Healthy, vaccinated dogs are at low risk of becoming ill as a result of visitin the dog park. Some veteranarians sugest vaccinating for kennel cough if you become a regular park user
    • Fleas are everywhere, including on squirrels, rabbits and raccoons. So the key to flea control is providing adequate protection on your pet
    • Fights or rambunctious play could cause injiry to your dog
  • People problems
    • Everyone has a different perspective on what good behavior looks like
    • Pet owners don't always agree about what is normal dog behavior, what is acceptable during play, and what kind of behavior is truly aggressive. This can lead to arguments
Best Dog Park Features
  • Enough space for normal interaction
    • The area should be big enough for dogs to run around and space themselves out. If there's not enough space, crowding can lead to tension among dogs and fights
  • Secure fencing and gates
    • Even if your dog reliable comes when called, it's safest to take her to a securely enclosed area to play off leash
  • Clean-up stations
    • A dog park should have trash cans and bags available for people to clean up after their dogs
  • Water and shelter
    • Especially in water climates, dogs should have access to both drinking water and shade
  • A separate area for small dogs
    • Small dogs need exercise and play time as much as larger dogs, but tey can sometimes get injured or frightened by larger dogs. The best dog parks designate separate areas for smaller or younger dogs so they can play safely

Many people feel that the benefits of dog parks outweigh the risks. Others decide that they're not comfortable going to dog parks. To make the best decision for you and your dog, consider the pros and cons above and visit local dog parks without your dog to observe and learn more about them.