Dogs love dog parks! And what’s not to love? With lots of new space to sniff and explore, off leash freedom, and plenty of other dogs to meet and play with, dog parks are a pupperdise for all kinds of pooches. But when a pleasant afternoon suddenly turns into a barking and biting frenzy, injuries can occur that can turn the day into an anxious and painful experience for your furbaby.
While each dog park has its own rules, they can’t always control what kinds of dogs enjoy the park. It’s always possible to encounter aggressive, territorial and possessive dogs, and even sweet, mild-mannered dogs can show aggressive behaviors for a variety of reasons. You may not be able to predict what will happen at the dog park, but if an injury occurs, here are some steps you'll need to take to safely handle this traumatic experience.
#1 Stay Calm
Once the fight or incident has ended, you need to stay clear-headed and calm to help your dog recover, both physically and mentally. Your dog can sense your emotions and will remain anxious and aggressive if you are, so help your dog relax by not yelling or acting aggressively to the other dogs involved, or their owners.
#2 Take Your Dog Out of the Park
When a fight occurs, it raises the adrenaline level of the dogs involved, and all those nearby for several hours after the actual incident is over. It’s best to leash your dog and take them out of the dog park to lower everyone’s aggression levels and avoid another incident.
#3 Assess Your Dog’s Injury
Once your dog is safely away from danger, assess your dog’s injuries to determine if they need emergency veterinary care, or if they have a minor cut or scrape that can wait a moment. If the injuries are serious, including excessive bleeding, trouble walking, difficulty breathing or deep bites that expose muscle or bone, do not wait and take your dog to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic immediately.
#4 Exchange Owner Information
If your dog doesn’t need immediate care, politely talk to the owner of the other dog to exchange information. In most states, the owner of the dog who bites is at fault. In many cases, they will be apologetic and offer to cover your vet costs. If you need to seek immediate care for your dog, return to the dog park afterwards to seek out the owner, or look for witnesses that can help you to identify them.
#5 Seek Medical Attention
If you haven’t already, promptly seek medical attention for your dog. While injuries may seem minor, it’s always a good idea to make sure there aren’t any serious complications such as internal bleeding or secondary bacterial infections. Be sure to keep detailed records of the injury and charges for any future reports.
#6 Fill out a Dog Park Incident or Police Report
parks ask owners to fill out an incident report when a fight or injury occurs. In
some cases, the owner at fault may refuse to give you any information, or may
flee the scene, in which case, you’ll need to call the police and report the
fight. Witnesses to the incident may also be able to help.
We all want our canine companions to have fun at the dog park, but even if we practice basic park etiquette, a lot of things may be out of our control. While some dogs can be trained to not attack other dogs, any number of factors can cause them to lose focus and get carried away in the moment.
Here are some tips to help you prevent aggressive incidents from occurring between dogs.
- Obey the rules- Each park has their own set of rules intended to keep dogs safe. Know them and follow them.
- Don’t bring dogs to the dog park that don’t belong– These include aggressive and territorial dogs, extremely anxious or fearful dogs, female dogs in heat, unaltered male dogs, and young puppies.
- Take off the leash inside the dog park – Dogs can feel trapped and act aggressively if they are stuck on a leash and cannot escape other dogs rushing them. Taking the leash off lets your dog feel more secure and free to meet and greet on their own, preventing any aggressive reactions.
- Monitor your dog – Keep an eye on your dog at all times to make sure they are acting appropriately and staying out of aggressive situations. Make sure your dog isn’t the bully, and stop them from humping other dogs, removing them if needed.
- Watch the other dogs – Observing the behaviors of the other dogs in the park can help you notice tense or aggressive situations before they get out of hand. If you see a fight starting between any dogs, calmly get your dog and leave the park.
- Have a collar on your dog and the leash handy – In case tensions rise, a collar and a leash at the ready can help you remove your dog quickly to prevent them from getting involved in any fights, or help you remove them from one.
- Leave food, treats and toys at home – Prevent possessive aggression in all dogs at the park by eliminating these items that are commonly fought over.
- Keep big and little dogs in their own areas – Little dogs can more easily get hurt at the dog park, whether through aggression, an accident, or simply from rough play. If your local canine hangout has separate areas, be sure to adhere to their size guidelines.
- Exercise hyper dogs before the dog park – If your dog is super energetic or excitable, take them for a walk or run them in the yard before heading to the dog park. This can release some of that crazy energy that can upset other dogs and may cause an incident.
With some common sense, and a lot of observation, your trip
to the dog park can be what your dog is hoping for- pawsitively furbulous and
fun! Play on!