HOW TO KEEP YOUR DOG SAFE AT DOG PARKS

To make the most of your dog park experience, here are a few suggestions to keep you and your pooch safe:

Conduct a dog-free scouting mission

Check out nearby dog parks before bringing your pets. Familiarize yourself with park rules - and make sure gates function properly. It also helps to identify multiple exit routes in case things get crowded. Some parks even group dogs based on size, which makes it easier to monitor the action. If your dog tends to prefer more low-key play time, visit early in the morning, around 7 or 7:30 a.m. Avoid the Summer time 7 to 8 p.m. window, which tends to be popular among dog owners.

Prepare a dog park kit

Be sure to carry plenty of water, a travel water bowl, and mutt mitts, just in case the park runs out. An air horn and a canister of citronella serve as good go-to items for quickly resolving skirmishes among dogs.

Pay attention to your pooch

Take a proactive approach by being aware of your dog's location at all times and monitoring any problematic or aggressive behavior. If your dog makes friends at the park, chat with the owners. Find out their names as well as the dog's name. This will help if you need to get the dog's attention quickly.

While dogs play, keep conversations at a low volume. Dogs typically are hyped about playtime. Too much excitement can cause rough play and aggression.

Pet owners should also protect their pooches' health by taking proactive measures before visiting the park. Dog parks could be a breeding ground for fleas and ticks. To ensure your dog will not come home flea-bitten - or spread fleas to other dogs while at the park - always administer a monthly dose of flea and tick medication.

Keep dogs up to date on vaccinations. Dogs that frequently interact with other dogs - at dog parks or even dog daycares - should request the kennel cough vaccine to protect dogs against an upper respiratory infection that spreads easily. Dogs are required to be licensed and wearing the license, this is the law.

If dogs do tussle, intervene with care

It is inherently dangerous to intervene in a dogfight. Close observation and early intervention with a command to "leave it" or a spray of Citronella may prevent a fight. When an owner tries to pull dogs apart, they typically will clamp down even harder. Grabbing your dog's collar during a dogfight only increases the chance of getting bitten. Slip a leash around the loin (waist) of each dog or grab the back legs and pull them backward. Alternatively, use an inanimate object (stick, broom handle) to separate the dogs.