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Dogpark safety

General safety tips
Kids in a dog park
Dangers of choke and prong collars
Other safety tips
A cautionary tale for chemo patients

General safety tips

Adapted from www.dogromp.com, "Tips for new visitors."

  • Make your first visit without your dog.
    Familiarize yourself with the posted rules and how the park works.

  • Observe the posted park rules.
    Complaints about you or your dog threaten the success of these sites.  Remember, dogs must be leashed upon entering and leaving the off-leash area.  Please know and follow the rules!

  • Let your dog off leash as soon as you arrive at the site.
    Mixing leashed and unleashed dogs can be an explosive situation.  Leashed dogs, and their humans, often display body language and behavior that is threatening to the free dogs and may provoke them to be threatening and defensive in return.

  • Keep walking.
    Walking defuses defensive behaviors and helps keeps the off-leash area a neutral territory. This means your dog is more likely to pass by another dog with just a curious sniff rather than a stare-down. Limit the time you spend standing or sitting and chatting. When folks congregate, many dogs may become protective of their people and their space, making scuffles more likely to occur.

  • Be aware that dogs have different play styles.
    Educate yourself about dog behavior. Behavior that concerns some dog owners may simply be a rambunctious play style. Always respect other dog owners' wishes if they are not comfortable with how your dog is interacting with theirs. Simply move to another part of the park for awhile. Leash up and leave if your dog is acting in an aggressive manner or having a bad day.

  • Closely supervise your dog. 
    Do not reach in to break up fighting dogs.  Instead, squirt the dogs in the face with your water bottle or distract the dogs by throwing a jacket on them.  If it is your own dog, try grabbing its tail. PARENTS, KEEP YOUR CHILDREN WITHIN REACH.  Many dogs do not live with kids and have not been socialized to children.  Teach children not to run, scream or ride their bikes near the dogs.  Train your children always to ask permission from the dog owner before approaching an unfamiliar dog.

  • Prevent injuries.
    Under Missouri law, a dog owner is liable for injuries and damage inflicted by their dog.  Watch your dog carefully!  If your dog injures a person or a dog, give your name and phone number to the injured party.  Report to law enforcement authorities any handlers who refuse to take responsibility for damages/injuries and who are endangering the safety of others. Record their license plate number if possible.

  • Know your dog.
    Not all dogs like meeting new dogs. If your dog has not regularly interacted with other dogs, find out how he will react before forcing him to meet lots of unfamiliar dogs. Invite a few mellow dogs over to your friend's big yard to play.   Check for obedience schools that offer socialization classes for adult dogs. Be sure to socialize puppies (8-16 weeks of age) at a puppy kindergarten class. Early socialization is one of the most important things you will ever do for your dog!

  • The first few times you take your dog to a site, choose a time that is not busy.
    Weekday evenings are peak times. Weekends and holidays tend to be busy all day long. The first visit can be a little stressful for both you and your dog, so keep it short and happy. Gradually work your way to longer visits.

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Kids in a dogpark

Dangers

  • Not all dogs are child-friendly. Never allow your child to approach or pet a strange dog without the owner's presence and approval.
  • Herding dogs may nip at children while attempting to "round them up."
  • A running, squealing or screaming child may become a target for many dogs, because the child resembles an injured animal or prey.
  • Direct eye contact is confrontational to dogs. An interested child wants to stare into a dog's face, but this may provoke a dog unintentionally.
  • Never let your child have toys or food in a dogpark . A friendly dog might knock down your child to get at a bright ball or cookie.
  • One adult to supervise several children and the family dog is not sufficient to ensure everyone's safety and control. Be sure you can take care of everyone you bring to a dogpark.
  • All dogs have the potential to bite.

Parents: If you do bring your children to a dogpark, please teach them how to behave with animals and what to do in an emergency:

  • Never run.
  • Hide your face.
  • Tuck your arms and legs into your body.
  • Curl up in a ball, face down on your hands and knees.
  • Be as still and quiet as possible.
  • Wait for help or until the dog has left.
  • Do not stand.

Health risks

  • Children are more susceptible to contracting intestinal worms and other infections from touching grass where feces or urine are present. That is one major reason dogs are prohibited from children's playgrounds and school yards.
  • Be sure your children (and you) always wear shoes in a dogpark .
  • Children can pick up fleas, lice, or skin mites from infected dogs.
  • Tennis balls may carry disease and contamination.

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Dangers of choke and prong collars

Read about and learn a lesson from a preventable tragedy that occured at Paw Park of Historic Sanford in Florida involving a choke collar. Don't let this happen to your dog.

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Other safety tips

Start safe by following these guidelines

  • Pay attention to your dog and be aware of where he is at and what he is doing at all times.
  • Stay close enough to control or protect your dog in the face of a potential fight.
  • Keep a collar on your dog at all times so you have something to grab, if needed.
  • Leave the Park. Some days it's just a bad mix. Go for a walk or come back later. You and your dog will be better off.

Prevent a Dog Fight Before It Happens-Learn the 4P Warning Signs

  • Posture
    A dog's body language can communicate fear, hostility or submission. Learn to read and respond to your own dog's body language, and others.
  • Packing
    More than 2 or 3 dogs packed together can lead to trouble. Break it up before it starts by leading your dog to a neutral area at least 30 feet away.
  • Possession
    Whether it's you, a ball, or a treat, most dogs will protect what is theirs. Remain aware.
  • Provoking
    If your dog is continuously annoying another dog or dogs, or provoking attention, it's time to leave the park.

What To Do If a Fight Occurs

An injured dog may bite anyone near by. A dog fight can be violent and is upsetting to everyone present.

  • Keep calm. Even the calmest, most pleasant, well-adjusted person may become upset, angry or belligerent, if they or their dog is injured in a fight. Emotional behavior is automatic; try to remain calm and as objective as possible.
  • Never reach your hands into the middle of a dog fight. You may get bit, and often by your own dog.
  • Distract the dogs and divert their attention. A blast of water from a water bottle, a loud whistle, or a pocket air horn may work.
  • If your dog is not in the fight, make sure he does not join in.
  • If a fight occurs, control your dog and remove him to a neutral area.
  • Maintain a cool head. Getting upset and yelling will only add to the frenzy.
  • When warranted, exchange contact information with the other dog owners. If you can't because you must attend to your dog, designate someone else to get information. Remember, owners are solely liable for injuries or damage caused by their dogs. This includes injury to another dog or person, no matter how it began, who said what, or whatever.

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A cautionary tale for chemo patients

One day at the Quail Ridge Off-Leash Area one of our members observed a woman entering the dog park with her dog, and saw one of the dogs already in the park becoming aggressive toward the woman. He started harrassing her, that is, he growled at her, barked aggressively, jumped at her to try to knock her down, and in general, did everything he could to scare her, possibly to chase her away--except bite her. Luckily, the owner of the aggressive dog was paying attention and got to him before any real harm was done.

A talk with the owner of the aggressive dog and the woman that he was harrassing revealed that the victim of the harrassment was a chemo patient and the owner of the aggressive dog was a nurse in an oncology unit. Both individuals reported that they had seen this behavior before in certain dogs toward chemo patients. Something about a chemo patient, probably the smell, but no one really knows, sets some dogs off, as it did the dog in the dog park that day. According to the nurse and chemo patient, there is nothing that a chemo patient can do to improve the situation.

The moral of this story is that if you are receiving chemotherapy and want to take your dog to the dog park, proceed with caution while entering the off-leash area. Make sure the dogs in the park are not affected by your proximity.

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This page last modified on 10/13/2005