Dog Park Safety

Dog Park Safety

| May 28, 2021

Dog parks are a place for our dogs to socialize with other dogs, but not all dogs are going to get along. Unfortunately, play can escalate and an incident can occur very quickly, so it’s important to be able to recognize when it is no longer appropriate and when you may need to intervene.

When you initially arrive at the dog park it is always a good idea to watch how the other dogs are interacting with one another prior to entering the park. If you see behaviour you don’t like or could potentially be troubling, maybe today’s not the day you and your dog go to the park.

As you go to the dog park more frequently you will get to know the other dogs and who your dog plays well with.

Appropriate and safe play between dogs:

  • Role reversal (for example, changing roles between the chaser and the one being chased)
  • Frequent breaks in between bouts of play
  • Loose body language

Inappropriate play to look out for:

  • Pinning and not allowing the dog up
  • Prolonged staring
  • Snarling/growling
  • Tense/stiff body language
  • Nervous or fearful body language
  • Cornering or multiple dogs ganging up on one dog
  • Frantic fleeing

When inappropriate play begins to arise it is important to know how to intervene properly so that everyone remains safe. Here are a few ways you can do this carefully:

  • Call your dog away: It is imperative that your dog has a reliable recall ability before they go to the dog park.
  • Place something between the dogs: By placing an item in between the dogs you reduce the risk of harm in the engagement for you or the pets. If you’re at the park, you can use a light jacket.
  • Wait until the dogs have released their hold: If dogs are engaged, or one dog has a hold of another with their mouth, wait until the dog(s) have released before separating them. Trying to do so while they are engaged can cause more damage.
  • Stay calm: Try not to yell or make a loud noise as this can sometimes aggravate the situation.

Your dog’s recall is a key skill to establish before taking them to any off-leash dog park. It will allow you to practice calling them away from play frequently so they can have a calming break. If your dog enters into an altercation which is intervened with a recall, after a short break you can try allowing your dog to play again, or it may be time to leave the park.

It is important to know that not all dogs will be comfortable in a busy dog park nor get along with every dog they meet, which is absolutely natural. Ways to overcome this can be done by going to the park at different times of day with different dogs, entering the park when it is less busy, or by going to private areas with a few of your dog’s pet friends they get along with.

Need more guidance? Toronto Humane Society offers canine virtual training courses. Get help from a certified canine trainer by booking a consultation today!