Are dog parks good for dogs?

By Kristen Hassen-Auerbach, Director of Animal Services

Kristen Hassen-AuerbachWhenever someone takes home a new dog, we at PACC give them plenty of advice. We instruct our adopters to give their new dogs time to adjust to people and other pets in the home and to provide plenty of exercise and rest to dogs when they first go home. Adjusting to life with a whole new home and family can be overwhelming. One thing we never tell our adopters to do is to take their new dog to a dog park. That’s because the hustle and bustle of a dog park, along with lots of new people and dogs, can lead to additional stress, which can result in altercations or the dog simply being really scared or overstimulated. 

For dogs that aren’t undergoing a huge change, however, dog parks can be a great outlet for extra energy and a positive way for dogs to socialize with other dogs in a controlled environment. Pima County and the City of Tucson each have seven dog parks, which has helped put us on the map in multiple, national lists as one of the most dog-friendly cities in America. Before you take your dog to a dog park, here a few things you should consider. 
  1. Your dog should be fully vaccinated. Puppies, even those who have had vaccines, may not have full immunity to potentially fatal illnesses like Parvovirus and distemper. Check with your veterinarian to make sure your dog can safely go to a dog park without a risk of contracting a contagious illness. Some sicknesses, like Leptospirosis, can’t be prevented with a vaccine and do spread at dog parks, so be aware of the signs of this illness and call your vet immediately if your dog falls sick after being at a park. 
  2. Not every dog at a dog park is guaranteed to be friendly. Anyone with any dog can walk in to a dog park. If you notice a dog who appears to be aggressive with other dogs and/or your dog seems especially fearful about a dog in the yard, you should take action to protect your pooch. This may involve moving to another area of the play yard or leaving the park. If a dog McDonald Parkis attacking other dogs or people at a dog park, you should call Pima Animal Care Center or your local animal control agency to report this. 
  3. Not every dog enjoys the dog park. If your dog isn’t having a good time at the dog park, pay attention and find another way to get your dog exercise and enrichment. Signs of stress may include fearful, tail-tucking and running away from other dogs, growling or snarling defensively, hiding between your legs, or cowering near the entrance or under a table. Shy and quiet dogs may not be able to come out of their shells enough to relax and play. If you want your dog to socialize but are noticing these behaviors, consider going to the dog park during the week or at quiet times of the day or finding your dog a play buddy for one-on-one play time. 
  4. Pay close attention to your dog. Zoning out and paying more attention to your phone than your dog can be dangerous. As your dog’s protector and legal owner, your job at the dog park is to be like a lifeguard. It’s fine to be hands-off and let your dog play and have a great time, but you should always be watching closely to make sure your dog is safe and having positive interactions with other dogs and people. Even a highly social dog can escape, get into an altercation, or have another problem that requires your intervention. 
Dog parks are amazing places where most dogs can interact and play in a safe, secure environment. Our community is home to many dog parks and if your dog enjoys the dog park experience, you’ll want to visit them all to give your dog a wide variety of dog park experiences. Dog parks can be a wonderful part of a fulfilling life for some pets. And for dogs that don’t like the dog park, there are literally hundreds of trails around Tucson that are ready to be explored by you and your dog! 
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