|I hate public dog parks. As someone who worked as a full-time emergency vet for 6+ years, I have seen the worst from these parks. Infectious diseases, parasites, and dog fights are all risks you take when you take your dog to a public dog park. I understand that these parks provide a space for dogs to run, and that is helpful for owners who don’t have fenced in yards at home. However, you need to make sure you and your dog are prepared if this is a regular part of your routine. Your dog needs to be up-to-date on all vaccines. This include the core vaccines of rabies and distemper, as well as protection against Bordetella and influenza. A fecal test should be run on a regular basis, as the risk of acquiring intestinal parasites is high. Regular use of heartworm preventatives will help, but don’t cover all parasites your dog may encounter.
Make sure you have control over your dog with the basic commands. Come, sit, stay, and leave it can all come in handy. You need to understand your dog’s body language and be able to read other dog’s body language. That way you can intervene early before things escalate. If things are out of control at the park, leave before you have a problem. Don’t assume that other people’s dogs are friendly and well behaved or that the owners have control over their dogs.
Luckily, in this area, we have two parks that are privately run and can help mitigate some of these risk factors. Awesome Dawgs and Godfrey’s Dogdom both run private dog parks. Both require proof of vaccines, and all the dogs are screened for behavior before being allowed to play in the park. If your dog is not social, these parks can also be rented for private use. Yes, there are fees to use these parks and they are not open 24/7, but at least you know that your dog will have less risk, and hopefully a better experience.
Ann E. Bastian, V.M.D.