Top Five Tips to Help Maximize Dog Park Safety

Category_Dogs Category_Dog_Parks Category_Dog_Training Category_Dog_Walking Category_Safety Writer_MaryBeth_Bittel

Sparky Steps - Top Five Tips to Help Maximize Dog Park Safety

Top Five Tips to Help Maximize Dog Park Safety

If you’re a canine lover from Chicagoland, you’ve probably got a favorite local dog park. These open-air, off-leash havens are popular places to let your pooch roam free. They can also let you switch up your daily walking routine, while still enjoying the spring and summer sunshine. And the greater Chi-Town area offers so many options: from the fenced-in Grant Bark Park; to the 3.83-acre Montrose Dog Beach; to outlying alternatives like Naperville’s sprawling Springbrook Prairie Forest Preserve Dog Park. Here at Sparky Steps, we believe these numerous Rover-friendly retreats can give active, energetic pups a fun chance to socialize. But canines trust their owners to help them stay safe — so it always pays to be mindful of any hidden hazards that might put pets and/or people at risk. As the weather warms up, here are five tips designed to help maximize dog park safety for our favorite furry friends.


Understand animal aggression

When dogs feel uncertain or irritable, they’re more likely to lash out — and several things can trigger this state of mind. Factors may include painful ailments, like unresolved injuries or arthritis. Some canines haven’t been sufficiently socialized, or simply dislike dealing with swarms of peppy pups. Certain rescue pets may harbor negative associations from past abuse. And there are a few breed-specific tendencies that don’t necessarily mix well with crowds of unrestrained critters. The point is, even the most faithful or well-behaved companion animal may become aggressive under the right circumstances. At Sparky Steps, we always keep a constant, watchful eye over the canines in our care. Similarly, when it comes to dog park safety, your uninterrupted attention is key.


Recognize leash anxiety

In the caring hands of our Chicago- based Sparky Steps team, the proper leash is an invaluable tool. It can keep an excited animal from bolting into perilous situations. It can also help shape and reinforce desired pet behaviors over time. But remember that in the specific context of a dog park, a leash could feel confining to your canine. A dog who wants to get away from a dozen sniffing, free-range noses may feel helplessly held in place. So to maximize safety, consider taking full advantage of the between-gate staging area many parks provide. Remove the leash in that less-congested space, and spend some time letting your dog get acquainted through the fence. This can help your pooch feel more comfortable and familiar when you finally do proceed to enter. You can also try visiting your favorite dog park during off-peak hours, when conditions are much less crowded.


Appreciate canine body language

At home, or on a Sparky Steps walk, the wagging tail of your canine companion usually signifies joyful enthusiasm. But realize that in unfamiliar environments like a dog park, tail-wagging can sometimes indicate uncertainty. A lot depends upon the larger picture: Is the animal in question showing other signs of anxiety? These might include repeated yawning, excessive panting, “shaking off” movements, cowering, eye-rolling, constant lip-smacking, or a curled-in tail. Similarly, looming aggression can often be tipped off by tense posture, a set jawline, hard stares, agitated growling/snapping, or lunging. To keep pets safer at dog parks, stay alert and observant for these signs at all times.


Prioritize appropriately

It really does stand to reason — a bunch of animal lovers hanging out in close proximity tend to enjoy interacting. Sometimes, watching pets happily play provides a sense of secure contentment, and you’ll start comparing notes or sharing stories. You might even begin checking your phone, texting, or chatting away on a call. It’s important to remember that our pups prioritize scents, sounds and sights much differently that we do; and they may signal their emotions very subtly. So constant alertness at close proximity is vital. Should certain canines begin to get unruly, your ability to act quickly could prevent a scuffle. As a fifth and final tip, don’t be afraid to speak up politely when necessary. Like humans, certain canines simply aren’t going to get along. So if you notice your furry friend having repeated issues with another visiting hound — or vice versa — either say something, create some distance, or keep out until that particular canine departs. Practicing respectful etiquette is one of the best ways to maximize dog park safety for everyone. Here at Sparky Steps, encouraging pet well-being and fresh-air fun is always our top priority.


Written by Marybeth Bittel


### Paragraph One: Dog Parks:

Bullet Point One/Animal Aggression Triggers:

Bullet Point Two/Leash Anxiety:

Bullet Point Two/Staging Area Etiquette:

Bullet Point Three/Dog Body Language:

Bullet Point Four/Scent Prioritization:

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