Westbury Animal Hospital
713.723.3666 · 4917 S. Willow Dr. Houston, Texas 77035 

Dog Park Tips 

Victoria Cole, DVM

As an important member of our family, our dog’s mental and physical health is a priority for all pet owners.  Behavior problems in dogs can arise from, or at least be partially contributed to, lack of physical and mental activity.  Evolutionarily, dogs have “jobs” and complex social interactions are key to their day to day lives.  Often, our pet dogs spend most of their time alone at home which can lead to boredom and loneliness and can then further lead to behavior issues (chewing, destruction, anxiety), as well as medical issues (obesity, foreign bodies, self-induced skin infections from licking/chewing, etc).

One way to exercise your dog’s brain and body is by taking your dog to a dog park.  However, dog parks may not be the best choice for every dog. 

Pros of dog parks:

-      Provides mental and physical stimulation

-      Provides social interactions

-      Enables “off-leash” time

-      Can help prevent development of behaviors such as fear aggression toward other dogs (when done appropriately)

-      Provides quality time for you and your pet to enjoy together- BONDING!

*Dogs best suited for dog parks:

-      well-socialized

-      young adults

-      healthy, fully vaccinated

-      physically sound

-      altered

*NOT ideal for:

-      puppies < 16 weeks of age

-      unvaccinated

-      intact/in heat

-      fearful/anxious/aggressive (first need one on one conditioning before exposing to the high degree of social interactions that a dog park provides)

-      bullies

-      physical ailments, in pain, any lameness or sickness

Cons of dog parks:

-      exposure to contagious, infectious diseases

-      stressful if there is a bully

-      risk of being involved in a dog fight

-      risk of trauma

-      risk of toxin exposure without full supervision (standing water, etc)

Alternatives to dog parks: daily walks/playing ball in a yard or area away from other dogs; back-packs for your dogs during walks; in home dog walkers, scheduled play-times; doggie day-cares; consider a second pet under the right circumstances

Basic Guidelines:

  1. Choose a park that is the best fit for both you and your dog (some have separate sections for small and large breeds, some have limits on number of dogs allowed at one time, quality of the ground- free of debris/garbage and injury risks)
  2. First go alone and check out the scene (do this before each visit- if there is a particular group of dogs that looks overly rambunctious, out of control or aggressive, come back at a later time)
  3. Bring a leash, water, baggies, toys +/- treats
  4. Practice commands at home (Positive Reinforcement is key! Train your dog to call at your command and stay by your side if instructed)
  5. Train yourself to learn canine body language and social interactions
  6. Stand outside of the fence for a few minutes before entering each time so that the other dogs can become accustome to your dog before allowing a full physical interaction
  7. Always pay attention to your dog and other dogs around, be aware of what your dog is doing at all times!
  8. If your dog does not seem to be having fun with certain dogs, or just with that visit, end the visit early and try again a different day
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