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Human Etiquette Tips for the Dog Park
Before visiting a dog park, call your veterinarian to ensure your dog is current on all core immunizations and a Bordetella vaccination.
Your dog should be current on his flea and tick preventatives.
Always pick up any feces your dog may produce.
Turn off your cell phone or any other distractions and focus on your dog’s play.
Do not bring very small breed dogs, dogs under 4 months of age, intact males, nor females in heat.
If your dog is not having fun, go for a walk outside of the dog park.
Dog parks: they are great for socialization, exercise, and mental stimulation for many dogs. But certain dogs may feel threatened or anxious. Whether you and your dog have a good dog park experience or a bad one depends largely on your understanding of your dog, advanced preparation, proper training, and good etiquette.
Is your dog usually playful and sociable? Does she get along well with other dogs, or can she be aggressive? Is your dog nervous or shy around other dogs? Animal welfare groups say to let your dog's temperament guide you on visiting a dog park1—or whether you should opt for other activities instead.
National veterinary associations urge dog owners to ensure dogs are trained well enough to come when called at a dog park, even in spite of all of the other enticing distractions at the park.2 Ask your veterinarian about a good dog training class in your area and make sure your dog learns how to focus exclusively on you when you issue a command, especially when other dogs are present. This is crucial if you need to call your dog away from an escalating situation.
Being pounced, sideswiped without warning, or having a bunch of high-energy dogs come at you like a speeding train can scare certain dogs, as well as people. Train your dog to greet other dogs and people politely. Also, be present while your dog is playing so that you can interrupt if your dog becomes aggressive, involved in ganging up on another dog, or if your dog becomes the target of an attack.3
Not all dogs enjoy the dog park, and that is all right. Toy breeds should avoid dog parks altogether because their size can make them an attack target for larger dogs. Sometimes a walk around the neighborhood, a game of Frisbee in the backyard, or a smaller play group with dogs your dog already feels comfortable with is a better option.
1. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, staff: Pet Care: “Dog Parks”
2. Yin, Sophia, DVM, MS, The Art and Science of Animal Behavior, “Dog Park Etiquette Poster”
3. Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Dog Park Information: “Dog Park Tips”
4. Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Dog Park Information: “Dog Park Etiquette”
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Don't take a good vet for granted, that's what I say. I currently live in another state and have taken my 10 year old dog to numerous vets over the years (California, Colorado, Vegas, and then some). Never have I ever received the attention and care I've gotten w/Dr. Hines. Within the past 3 months alone, my dog went to 3 different vets for a horrible and painful skin problem that broke out all over her body.
The first vet: I spent more time ponying up the $175 for the visit than the Dr. spent actually looking at my dog. He performed a woods lamp exam for ringworm. Even without Google or a veterinary degree, I could tell it wasn't ringworm. Thanks for taking my money.
Second vet: "Here's some spray, now here's your bill. Bring her back in two weeks so I can charge you another visit." No tests, nothing.
Between the two, I felt like I got nowhere. No definitive answer on why this affected my dog and the medication given wasn't even for a diagnosed condition. Just some general topical spray. I could have bought it at Petsmart and saved myself the time and money.
Recently, on a visit to Idaho, I planned ahead to bring my dog to the Rupert Animal Clinic. I asked the same questions, had the same concerns and now have different results. Dr. Hines gave me options on what route to take, ran appropriate tests and communicated with me every step of the way (even calling me personally when test results came in). My primary concern was cancer. Our dog is like our child- we'll pay the money if we can keep her healthy and safe. In the future, I've resolved to bring my dog to Rupert Animal Clinic on our annual trip for all of her exams. I know she won't be treated as a little cash cow to exploit an owner's love for pets.