Every morning and evening we take my dog for a walk. Walking is one of my favourite forms of exercise, especially in the morning since it helps to clear my mind and prepare me for another day. For my dog, it burns off some of her excess energy and gives her an extra reason to nap after her breakfast. Depending on where you live, there are different pathways available for walking your dog. Some people live near dog parks, which can be a great place to give your dog some exercise, but many come with a list of dangers. Addressing some of the potential dangers in dog parks can help to hopefully avoid negative situations.
Parasites can be easily picked up from the dog park when a dog either sniffs or licks another dog's feces, the area where another dog's feces has been, or water sources. These parasites can also be acquired from many other sources such as sniffing or licking another animal's rear end, drinking from puddles, eating the intestines of deceased rodents, or ingesting fleas, just to name a few. We recommend sending away our pet's feces at least yearly for parasitic testing, since many of these parasites are microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Important tip: Help your dog avoid other dog's feces by being aware while on a walk.
Bordetella is a bacteria otherwise known as Kennel Cough which can cause a severe hacking cough in dogs. Since this bacteria is most often transmitted in areas where other dogs are present, the dog park is a high-risk location. Vaccination for Bordetella can help to decrease the risk and severity of this disease.
Parvovirus is a virus spread via contact with feces, typically from ingestion. Depending on the level of vaccination of your pet, parvovirus can cause either a mild diarrhea to a potentially fatal form of bloody diarrhea by killing the cells lining the intestines. Keeping your pet up-to-date on their vaccinations can help protect them from this terrible disease.
Always remember that not all dogs are friendly. Always ask for the dog owners' permission before having your dog's interact. Keep both dogs on a leash at first, so if you see any signs of aggression or discomfort, the dogs can be taken apart from one another.
If the encounter escalates and a dog becomes wounded, pull the dogs apart via their leashes. Do not get in the middle of a dogfight, they will not recognize you as being their owners when their adrenaline is pumping. Many people have gotten severely injured by getting in the middle of a fight.
We commonly see bite or laceration injuries from dogs in a dog park, some are mild and require some antibiotics, but they can be quite severe, leading to broken bones, lung punctures, or death. With any issue, please bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
Halter-type leashes are great for walking, and to give a good hold of your dog if you needed to grab them quickly. Wonderful to use in the car, since many have seat belt buckles to help hold your dog in place.
Gentle Leader Collars work by the same principle as nose-leads for horses. If you control the direction the head is pointing, you control where the animal is walking. These collars are great to help control animals on a walk and guide them, gently, with less pulling and tugging than with traditional collars.
Yellow Ribbon Initiative
This newer symbol instructs pet owners that yellow ribbons tied on a dog's leash mean they need space. There can be many reasons they need space: recovering from a recent surgery, being fearful of other dogs or people, or even being aggressive, but this is a rule that should be followed for everyone's safety.
Understand Dog Body Language
Just because their tail is wagging, doesn't mean they are excited and happy- there is so much more to understanding dog behaviour. Check out the Dog Decoder App which helps to evaluate dog behaviour, as well as Dr. Sophia Yin's great posts on evaluating dog posture over at CattleDog Publishing.
Children- The Be a Tree Program
Yearly, 1-2 people are killed in a dog attack, and children are at a higher risk than adults. Teaching children how to appropriately approach an animal, or what to do if a strange dog approaches them, can help to reduce the risk of injury. The 'Be a Tree' program is offered by our clinic, where a Registered Veterinary Technician (RVT) can come to a classroom and teach children to evaluate how to act around a strange dog. Give us a call if you would like more information.
As a general rule, if your dog is not friendly with other dogs, keep them away from dog parks, and keep them on a leash. Train your dog to come on command. Always ask permission prior to engaging with any other pets at the park. Stay safe!