About Dog Parks

What is a dog park?

A dog park is a place where people and their dogs can play together. These facilities offer dogs off-leash play areas while their humans can also enjoy the park setting. Amenities, such as fencing, water, parking, and even grass, vary greatly among these places, but ‘off-leash’ and ‘park’ are the key elements that dog owners desire. There are also some dog park rules every dog owner should be aware of and be sure to obey.

Dog parks offer an area where your dog can play and socialize with other dogs off the leash. All dogs need an outlet for their energy. Dogs who can run around with a feeling of freedom a few times each week will be more fit, less destructive, better neighbors and more socialized around other dogs and people. Plus, non-dog owners will appreciate fewer dogs in their parks.

How are dog fights avoided?

Dog fights can and do occur. An active and engaged community of dog park users can reduce the risk of dog fights significantly. These park visitors will step in and encourage or demand (as the case requires) removal of aggressive dogs. Most dogs are not aggressive because they are not "on their own territory"; the dog park is neutral ground. The dogs that use it most successfully are dogs that were socialized from puppyhood and had good experiences with their fellow canines. Depend upon and learn from the dog park savvy people to see indications of an impending squabble. Redirecting your dog's attention at the right moment can make all the difference. Your calm tone of voice and body language are also very important.

Keep an eye out for these warning signs of stress:

  • Lip licking
  • Freezing (body goes still for a second)
  • Lifting a front paw
  • Shaking off (as if wet)
  • Sneezing
  • Yawning
  • Showing “whale eye” (showing lots of whites of the eyes)

Also watch out for warning signs of aggression:

  • Unbroken staring
  • Lip curled, teeth exposed
  • Tense body, hackles on neck up
  • Fur sticking up
  • Tail straight out

If you see these warning signs from your dog (or someone else's dog!), calmly leash your dog and leave the park.

What should I do if a fight occurs?

When a fight breaks out in a dog park, especially one that involves your own dog, emotions run high. A person’s natural instinct is to grab the feuding dogs by their collars, scream, and yank. Such tactics can actually increase the severity of a situation and put one at higher risk of being bitten. Here are some smart ways to break up a dogfight if you ever find yourself caught in one.

If your dog isn’t the one fighting:

  • Do not get involved, as much as you’d like to help. Concentrate on calling your own dog away and leashing him up. Leave the park.
  • If your dog is loose in the park and you jump in to help break up the fight, he may take it as a cue from you to join in.
  • Keep your dog’s leash with you at all times. It comes in handy for emergency moments when you need to leash your dog up quickly.

If your dog is the one fighting:

  • Remain calm and avoid shouting.
  • Screaming may increase your dog’s arousal level and make the situation worse.

Use the following tactics to break up the fight:

  • Use a loud, startling noise. Carry a whistle around. Other options include tossing a trashcan to the ground, banging a large object against the metal railing of the enclosure, or blowing an air horn.
  • If your park has a water hose, spray the fighting dogs down. If a hose isn’t available, but you have a large bottle of drinking water, dump the contents on them.
  • Use Direct Stop(TM) or Spray Shield(TM), a high concentration citronella spray meant to deter aggressive dogs. Aim for the dogs’ faces. The smell, the spraying sensation, and the loud hissing noise from the canister can help to interrupt fighting.
  • If none of the above work, you may have to get physical. DO NOT grab the dogs by their collars. This puts your hands in a vulnerable area and increases your chance of getting bitten. DO NOT grab hold of each dog and yank. This may cause puncture wounds to turn into large skin tears. DO grab the dogs by the hind legs as if you were holding onto a wheelbarrow. This will throw them off balance helping to release their grip on one another.
  • As mentioned above, always have your dog’s leash with you. When fighting ends, immediately leash the dogs up and separate them.
  • Be aware that no matter what tactic you try, there’s always a chance of getting bitten when breaking up a dogfight. These strategies are meant to help minimize, not eliminate, your risk.

The Aftermath:

  • After all dogs are leashed, bring them to separate areas to check for injuries.
  • If needed, exchange important information with the other owner, including contact and vaccination information.
  • Continue to remain calm.
  • Regardless of whether or not a dog was involved in the fight, all park goers should leave. There is increased tension in the area and most likely between all dogs. If dogs are released to continue playing, another fight may very well break out.

Adapted from Give Paw Dog Training. The goal of the Tri-City Dog Park is that you will never have to use this information!