By Leslie Ingraham
Published: 09/17/2021, edited: 09/17/2021
Dog parks have become a part of every major metropolitan area, and some suburban and rural places, across the United States. Since 2009, their numbers have grown by 40%, and people in urban and suburban areas love them, as they provide a space where their fur babies can exercise and play off-leash. The space also lets the pups learn about how to socialize with other dogs and humans. Pet Parents can greet old friends and meet new ones there, too. But what about the COVID-19 pandemic? Is the dog park a safe place to go with Fido right now?
The coronavirus has been with us for so long that even with vaccinations up and cases down in some areas, it’s often at the forefront of our minds. We’ve been cautioned to avoid gatherings and close quarters, even outside. Masks are the newest fashion accessory and can be seen in all venues, including in dog parks. So what about COVID and dogs? Can they catch the disease? Can we catch it from them?
Studies are ongoing that suggest that humans infected with the coronavirus can pass it along to their pets in rare cases. Other sources claim that our risk of catching it from our dogs is virtually non-existent, but nothing seems impossible with this virus. Dogs seem to carry a resistance to the COVID virus, but they can be infected under specific circumstances. To avoid transmitting it to your neighborhood dog park, stay at home with Fido if you or they aren’t feeling up to par.
Other infections can also spread at dog parks and may make pups more vulnerable to Covid, so be sure all their vaccinations are up to date to keep them protected, including for Bordetella (kennel cough), Distemper, Dog flu, Parvovirus, Rabies, and Leptospirosis. While most dog parks say on their signs that only dogs that are fully vaccinated are allowed inside, but the vast majority don't have a way to enforce that rule, so it's best to think ahead to protect your precious pooch.
Because we know that humans can pass the coronavirus to each other, and maybe to our furry divas as well, maintaining a safe distance from other Pet Parents and wearing a mask to the park are wise steps to take. Even if you’re fully vaccinated against the virus, post-vaccination infections can happen, as is the ability for vaccinated people to pass the virus along from where it may be hiding in their bodies, like in their noses. There’s no evidence that dogs will pass the disease to other dogs, but other bacterial and parasitic diseases can be transmitted.
In addition to COVID-19 precautions like staying home, maintaining a safe distance from others, and wearing protective gear, visits to the local dog park can be made safer all around by:
Visiting the dog park before taking Fido there to ensure entrances and exits are secure, and there are separate small and large dog areas if your pup needs them.
Bringing your pup’s water bowl and a supply of water so that they don’t need to use the community bowl.
Avoiding accidental bites and scrapes by paying close attention to your doggo’s interactions with other pupsters who may be aggressive.
Planning to spend only 30 to 60 minutes there to avoid an over-tired, cranky fur pal.
Slowing down the action if it appears your pooch is playing too hard to be careful. Muscle strains and sprains are no fun, and pups have been known to tear important knee ligaments while playing.
Practicing a recall strategy at home so you can confidently remove Fido from a dangerous situation.
There are significant benefits and some hazards associated with dog parks. For some dogs, the parks represent the only exercise and group socialization they will have. Humans can enjoy the experience as well, meeting new friends or old ones, and watching their fur buddies having a good time. But it’s important to recognize when to cut it short.
COVID has complicated our lives but that doesn’t mean we need to extend those limitations to our doggos in most cases. The dog park can be a safe place for dogs and humans if just a few precautions are taken to ensure everyone’s safety.
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