Potential dangers of dog parks to watch out for (2023)

Taking your dog to a dog park sounds like a lot of fun. Which dog doesn't want to run loose with other dogs? While many dogs enjoy socializing and exercise, some dogs are not as social and may not enjoy it. There are also health and behavioral risks to consider when taking a dog to the dog park. For these reasons, it's important to look at the risks of going to the dog park, find out how much your dog enjoys the park, and talk to your vet about the best option for your dog.

Let's take a look at the risks associated with dog parks and what you can do to ensure your dog has an enjoyable and safe visit.

Health hazards at dog parks

You and your dog are at risk of picking up disease and parasites from the soil, water and other dogs at dog parks. Such diseases and parasites that can potentially infect your dog at the dog park include:

  • Darmparasieten: voorbeelden hiervan zijn haakwormen, rondwormen en zweepwormen

  • Respiratory infections: Examples include kennel cough (Bordetella) and dog flu

  • Other infectious diseases: Examples include parvovirus

Disease Prevention The importance of maintaining your dog's vaccines
AdoptionDog Socialization 101

To avoid or reduce the risk of your dog becoming infected, they should be fully vaccinated and up to date on their heartworm, flea and tick prevention. Being fully vaccinated for a dog park may mean your dog needs additional vaccines in addition to the standard vaccines. Let your vet know your dog is going to a dog park and they will arrange for your dog to receive vaccines such as Bordetella, which causes kennel cough.

(Video) Beware of These Dog Park Dangers

If you frequent dog parks, it's important to know that in the United States, 85% of dog parks and 20% of dogs were found to have intestinal parasites. It will help to keep your dog on a monthly preventative to prevent common intestinal worms. Consider a routine stool analysis for your dog every six months. Your vet can prescribe deworming medication at this point if needed.

Don't let your dog use communal watering places, which are breeding grounds for some diseases. Instead, bring your own water and water bowl from home.

Be sure to wash your dog's paws and body after their visit to the dog park to remove any leftover debris. It can be as simple as having a wet towel by your front door to use when you get home.

Risks of Injury at The Dog Park

Mixing dogs of different sizes and temperaments can greatly increase the risk of serious injury and even death. Bites can happen quickly and can be very serious, especially if a large dog bites a small dog. People often have trouble distinguishing play behavior from fearful or aggressive behavior. It's a good idea to talk to a vet or dog trainer before going to a dog walker to learn how to recognize signs that your dog or another dog is aggressive or fearful. People often interpret predatory or stress behavior in dogs as signs of play, when in fact it is quite the opposite. Another common mistake is not watching your dog all the time and getting caught up in looking at your phone or talking to another pet owner. Always monitor all interactions closely to ensure safe play and pause play if you notice a change in play dynamics.

Never bring an unspayed or unneutered dog to a dog park. Unspayed and unneutered dogs can cause additional fights due to hormone levels and behavioral tendencies. Many dog ​​parks will not allow dogs that have not been spayed or neutered in the park, and even if your dog has been fixed, look for a park with this rule.

Behavioral hazards at dog parks

Dog parks are free for everyone in regards to what dogs can be there. This includes different playstyles, different social behaviors, and a variety of abilities from different owners to safely manage their dog's interactions with others. Different races can have different playstyles. For example, a sheepdog can play very differently from a terrier. Pay attention to what your dog likes and indicates whether he's having a good time or not. Just as some people like to be the center of the party and others are wallflowers, so are dogs. Some of the more concerning behavioral risks of going to the dog park include the following:

  • Being attacked by another dog can cause long-term anxiety or fear of other dogs.

  • Practicing inappropriate social interactions, such as bullying, chasing, rolling, or constantly mounting other dogs. While a dog may have good intentions, they can start a dogfight if they don't listen to other dogs' corrections.

  • Being a victim of inappropriate social interactions. If a dog's warnings are ignored, they will escalate into more aggressive responses. And while justified, it still results in dog fights.

  • Increased chances of resource guarding between dogs, whether dogs become possessive of their own toys, found balls, sticks, or even their owner.

  • Predatory Behavior: Rarely can some dogs be predatory towards other dogs, and this can be dangerous as they view the other dog as prey.

Never bring a treat to a dog walk, as this increases the likelihood of you being harassed by dogs and prompting them to fight over access to food. There is also an increase in negative interactions if a dog is on a leash in an area with off-leash dogs.

(Video) Dangers of Dog Parks

Will your dog enjoy the dog park?

You may be surprised to learn that many dogs don't like interacting with unfamiliar dogs. This is completely normal! Most dogs are "dog selective," meaning they have one or two canine friends that they enjoy playing or hanging out with. There is no reason to force your dog to go to the dog park, as it could result in a bad experience and cause future behavior problems such as anxiety, fear or aggression.

Consider whether your dog shows playful interest in other dogs. If so, they can enjoy playing at the dog park. If they show little to no interest, they are probably happy with their routine and circle of canine friends. Before heading to a dog park, it may be a good idea to play with one or two other dogs because you can research the other dog's behavior, play style, and vaccination status beforehand. You can also sign your dog up for a doggie daycare trial to better understand if he likes a group environment.

Dog parks are not intended for initial or restorative dog socialization. However, they can be used to maintain socialization in already socialized adult dogs. They are also good for the dogs to exercise. Puppies are too young to go to dog parks during their main socialization period (seven to 16 weeks) due to the risk of illness and disease since they are not yet fully vaccinated. If you're looking for socialization help, whether it's a young puppy or an adult dog, it's best to work with a dog trainer on proactive, systematic, and safe socialization exercises.

Is a particular dog park right for you and your dog?

Once you've determined if your dog qualifies for dog walking, it's a good idea to visit a dog walker without your dog. When you arrive, walk around and note the following:

  • Is the fence secure?

  • Is the entrance double locked for security to prevent dogs from slipping out when another enters?

  • Is the park well maintained? Are there muddy areas or stagnant water (a breeding ground for parasites)? Is the terrain uneven, where it could injure running dogs?

  • Is the dog park large enough for the number of dogs present?

  • Are other dog owners involved and actively monitoring their dogs? Or are they not paying attention, to their phone, or are they letting their dog run amok?

  • Are there any dogs behaving inappropriately?

  • Is there a separate area for small dogs?

  • Is there a sign that dogs should be spayed or neutered and vaccinated?

    (Video) Dangers at Dog Parks

If your first visit without your dog doesn't raise any red flags, schedule a visit to the park with your dog. Don't rush to the park - do another visual check and read the energy of the current dogs at the dog park. If you notice another dog engaging in worrying behavior that you know your dog won't respond well to, such as bullying, chasing, or rough play, simply leave and come back another time. If you are uncomfortable with the number of dogs in the park or if the owners are not actively engaged with their dogs, come back another time to try again.

While dog parks can be an excellent exercise option for dogs who live in apartments or don't have a yard to run in, they are not a requirement for your dog to live a happy, fulfilled life. If the dog park environment isn't right for your dog, consider alternatives such as doggy day care (there are many different styles to suit different temperaments), a dog walker, or yard rental for a private dog park experience.


Potential dangers of dog parks to watch out for (3)

Dr. Berst is the medical lead of Above Brand at Zoetis. In this role, she serves as a medical partner to both the veterinary and consumer marketing teams.

Heather has been involved with both state and national veterinary organizations. She was editor of the quarterly magazine PVMA and was the Pennsylvania delegate to the AVMA House of Delegates. She served on the Penn Vet Alumni Board and was a board member of the Collaborative Care Coalition.

Heather has a veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and in April 2018 she completed a master's degree in Health Communications from Southern New Hampshire University. Prior to joining the industry, Heather was a veterinarian in private small animal practice, and continues to provide outreach services in the practice.

(Video) Are Dog Parks Safe?

She currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband Rich and Chinese Crested rescue dog Dottie. She also has a horse that she shows in the show jumpers, Elroy.

Potential dangers of dog parks to watch out for (4)

Potential dangers of dog parks to watch out for (5)

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  1. Detection of Gastrointestinal Parasitism at U.S. Recreational Dog Sites: The DOGPARCS Study. BMC.https://parasitesandvectors.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13071-020-04147-6#. Accessed February 20, 2023.
(Video) Cesar Millan Explains Why Dog Parks Aren't Good For Dogs


What are the negatives of dog parks? ›

These parks aren't recommended. It can be a dangerous place at times: you may witness fights between dogs, or your dog may be preyed upon by more aggressive dogs. Your dog can pick up bad habits like fear, aggression, rough play, and he may begin to ignore his commands. Illnesses can be passed from dog to dog.

Is taking your dog to the dog park everyday bad? ›

While there are dogs that go to dog parks and have a great time, there are sometimes behavioral problems that can arise from too frequent visits. The big issue with the dog park is dogs are engaged in “over-arousal” play and for long periods of time.

Do dog parks make reactivity worse? ›

Since dog owners are not always paying attention to their dogs in the dog park, they miss those telltale signs of discomfort or aggression. This teaches the dog that they need to fight their own battles, since their owner fails to step in and advocate for them. Again, this can lead to reactivity in dogs.

Are dog parks bad for reactive dogs? ›

Many reactive dogs live well with other dogs or play well at dog parks, because reactivity is just your dog reacting to a specific stimulus. Dogs can be reactive to a variety of different stimuli like people, other dogs, and bicycles.

Are dog parks safe from disease? ›

Even if you do not frequent dog parks, your dog can pick up parasites just by walking around the block. 42% of puppies under one year of age were positive for roundworms or Giardia. Approximately half of the sampled parks were positive for hookworms, whipworms, or roundworms.

Are dog parks stressful? ›

However, dog parks can cause stress and anxiety for pets because it is an outlet where your dog cannot fully control the situation. The lack of control at the dog park can cause stress for some dogs and can cause some dogs to develop negative behaviors when left alone at home.

How long is too long at dog park? ›

Even if your dog is having the time of their life, don't overstay your welcome. A 30 to 60 minute visit should allow your pooch time to run and play without getting too tired.

Can dogs pick up bad habits from dog parks? ›

Dog parks are also great places for exercise. However, just like playgrounds for our kids, dog parks hold hidden dangers, such as opportunities to catch whatever sickness might be going around, to get bullied, and learn bad habits.

Do dogs get bored of the same park? ›

Yes. Like humans, dogs need the mental stimulation that new sights and experiences bring.

Why do dogs get aggressive at dog parks? ›

The reasons why dogs become aggressive at parks are due to dominance and prey aggression. Both types of aggressive behavior can easily get out of control. Correcting the aggressive dog (at the appropriate time) can prevent a disaster from occurring.

What is appropriate behavior at a dog park? ›

Keep your leash with you. Even in off-leash parks, keep your dog's leash with you at all times. You may need to quickly remove your dog from an unpleasant or aggressive dog visiting the park. While you can bring your own dog toys like tennis balls or Frisbees®, make sure that no other dogs will be competing for them.

Should I let my dog hump at the dog park? ›

Mounting ("humping") is often a way by which one dog expresses dominance over another. Do not allow your dog to mount another dog, as this behavior is very likely to lead to a fight. Even if your dog means no harm, the other dog is very likely to take offense.

Can you desensitize a reactive dog? ›

The most effective way to help a fearful or aggressive dog is to change the way the dog feels and responds to whatever he is scared of. This is done through a process called “desensitization and counterconditioning”.

What is the difference between a reactive dog and an aggressive dog? ›

A reactive dog is usually a fearful dog. Causes can be genetic, but they are more likely due to a lack of socialization, prior bad experiences or a lack of training. Aggressive dogs show similar signs but are determined to cause harm and destruction.

Should I take my unsocialized dog to a dog park? ›

Putting an unsocialized dog into a dog park can be damaging. Most dogs will not tolerate rude play behavior created by inexperience. For the novice dog, this lack of understanding can result in escalating levels of corrections from the pack.

What disease do dog parks spread? ›

Wildlife mixing with dogs can increase the risk of diseases, such as rabies and plague, as well as the risk of injury. In some areas of the U.S., prairie dogs often invade dog parks. Prairie dogs carry fleas that can carry the bacteria that causes plague.

At what age do you stop vaccinating your dog? ›

At what age do you stop vaccinating your dog? Senior dogs do not generally stop requiring vaccinations, but it will depend on your dog's lifestyle and overall health. Once a dog reaches seven years of age, its senior status requires some special considerations to keep them healthy and happy.

Can dogs get giardia from a dog park? ›

Giardiasis in dogs can be caused either by ingestion or by sniffing. The main places it will come from is from dogs either sniffing feces outside and contracting the cysts that way, or by eating or drinking it from a contaminated source, such as feces at a dog park.

Why do dogs stay at feet at dog park? ›

When a dog stays close, they knows their owner has their back. “At a dog park, you may notice a dog sitting on its owner's feet,” Dr. Burch says. “This protects the owner or signals to other dogs, 'This is my person.

Why dog parks are a good idea? ›

Dog parks may provide a safe place for older people or people with disabilities who may not be able to walk their dogs. Dog parks provide areas where dogs can exercise and run freely while their owners can socialize. In addition, spending time with their dogs at the dog park reinforces the dog-owner bond.

Should I take my anxious dog to the dog park? ›

Signs You Should Avoid Dog Parks

Dogs that are already fearful or anxious at home are at a high risk of getting into a squabble at the dog park, Marks says. Skip going if your dog displays any of these fear- or anxiety-driven behaviors at home: Yawns a lot.

How often should I take my dog out to the park? ›

On average, dogs need to go outside at least 3 to 5 times per day to have the opportunity to relieve themselves. Veterinarians recommend that adult dogs go no more than 6-8 hours between trips outdoors.

What time are dog parks least busy? ›

It's easier to monitor your dog at a small, less-crowded park. Avoid dog parks on the weekend or visit during off-hours to avoid large crowds. Early mornings can be a good time to find a regular crowd with well-mannered dogs that know each other. Keep dogs safe by keeping them off their leash inside the dog park.

What time do most people go to the dog park? ›

Go during off-peak hours the first several times. Parks are usually busiest after work on weekdays and on Saturdays. Try early in the morning, mid-day, or late in the evening on a weekday. Take your pup for a walk first to help her burn off some energy.

Why do people bring balls to dog park? ›

Dogs are instinctive, and when you throw a ball they are just as likely as your dog to run after it. This doesn't make them bad dogs, just happy dogs having fun! If you do bring a ball or toy, be sure to take it with you when you leave (even if that means asking for it back from another dog!).

Are dogs affected by clutter? ›

Clutter. Living in a mess can be just as much of a nightmare for your pet as it is for you. Sure it might seem like fun for your dog, when they have to jump and walk around items that are sprinkled all over the floor, but it's actually a potential safety hazard for them.

Why you shouldn't pick up your dog around other dogs? ›

For small dog owners, it's instinctual to pick up your dog to protect them but don't. Picking your dog up could trigger the approaching dog to jump up and possibly attack. While in your arms, your dog will not be able to defend themselves or run away.

How do I know if my dog doesn't like the dog park? ›

Your dog appears uncomfortable

While at the park, pay close attention to your dog's body language, particularly their stance and the position of their head and tail. If your notice your dog hunkering down, bowing their head, or tucking their tail, chances are they're uncomfortable and want to go home.

Do dogs have to be walked at the same time everyday? ›

According to Dr. Wilson, having a routine is “really comforting to the dog and helps them anticipate what the schedule is.” Dogs are better equipped to regulate their emotions when they know what to expect, so that means taking regular walks around the same time each day.

Do dogs like walking to new places? ›

Many dogs really enjoy new places to explore with fresh smells and places to free run, but other dogs can find it stressful. Any problems you encounter on regular walks are likely to be amplified on a longer day out and will potentially be really overwhelming for your dog.

How do you break up a dog fight at the dog park? ›

Throw a blanket or jacket over each dog so they can no longer see each other. Or spray the dogs' faces with citronella spray, lemon juice spray, or a vinegar spray. Use an object to separate the dogs. Be certain to keep your hands and face as far from the dogs' mouths as possible.

How do I desensitize my dog to the dog park? ›

How can you help your dog desensitize to the world around them?
  1. Start slow. With dogs, slow is fast. ...
  2. Remain positive. ...
  3. Keep sessions short. ...
  4. Don't be afraid of giving lots of treats! ...
  5. Reward your dog for small steps. ...
  6. Don't flood your dog with their fears. ...
  7. Seek help if you need it!
May 6, 2021

Do dogs enjoy going to dog park? ›

The short version: Do Dogs Like Dog Parks? Many dogs do enjoy the exercise, stimulation, and social interactions dog parks provide. But for small, anxious, or easily overwhelmed dogs they can be a nightmare.

How do I know if my dog is good at a dog park? ›

Here are 5 ways to know if your dog is ready for the dog park.
  • Vaccinations. In order for your dog to go to the park, they must have a number of vaccinations. ...
  • Basic Obedience. ...
  • Socialization. ...
  • If Your Dog Is in Heat. ...
  • Rowdy Behavior.
Jan 21, 2021

Is it okay for dog to bark at dog park? ›

Your dog should be fairly confident and sociable toward other dogs. Reactive, fearful, or aggressive dogs are not appropriate for the dog park. Incessant barking or barking with a serious or aggressive intent should be curtailed.

Why do female dogs hump their female owner? ›

Perhaps the most common reason dogs hump is to demonstrate social dominance. Humping another dog or a person is an effective way of declaring that they are in charge. Puppies that are just learning to explore the world and discovering appropriate behavior may hump quite frequently.

Why does a dog stand over another dog? ›

The Root of the Behavior

Most experts who have weighed in on the topic of a dog standing over you, or another dog, seem to agree that this is an act of dominance. Your pooch might be trying to establish himself or herself as the Alpha in the pack.

Is dog mounting aggressive? ›

Because, as we'll see, mounting is often not a sexual act. Mounting often occurs amongst dogs in social settings. Although it's often viewed as a dominance display, which it sometimes is, it's more complicated than that. Mounting displays can be associated with generalized aggression in dogs.

What is the bubble theory for aggressive dogs? ›

The safety bubble is a huge factor for reactive and fearful dogs. Their need to feel safe is bigger than that of confident dogs, so their bubble is bigger too, sometimes it's huge. With careful observation, you can tell when a dog's bubble his safe space is under threat because his behaviour will change.

What is the window theory in dog training? ›

The Window Theory is all about helping dogs understand what behavior & state of mind is appropriate throughout day to day situations by dividing your time into different "windows".

What dog breeds tend to be reactive? ›

Dogs considered highly reactive also include the Boston, Fox, Cairn and Yorkshire Terriers, Pekingnese, Weimaraner, Pug, Irish Setter, Shetland Sheepdog, Shih Tzu, Poodle, Bichon Frise, Springer Spaniel, the Westie, Chihuahua and the Dachshund.

Should you punish a reactive dog? ›

Do not punish. Punishment won't help and, in fact, will make the problem worse. If the reactivity is motivated by fear, punishment will make your dog more fearful, and could lead to aggression.

What dog is most reactive? ›

While a dog of any breed can develop reactivity, we mostly see it in high-strung herding breeds or guard dogs. Dog breeds in which reactivity is common are Australian Shepherds, Heelers, German Shepherds and crosses of those breeds.

What are the disadvantages of dog parks? ›

These parks aren't recommended. It can be a dangerous place at times: you may witness fights between dogs, or your dog may be preyed upon by more aggressive dogs. Your dog can pick up bad habits like fear, aggression, rough play, and he may begin to ignore his commands. Illnesses can be passed from dog to dog.

Is it bad to take my dog to the dog park every day? ›

While there are dogs that go to dog parks and have a great time, there are sometimes behavioral problems that can arise from too frequent visits. The big issue with the dog park is dogs are engaged in “over-arousal” play and for long periods of time.

What happens if you don't socialize with your dog? ›

First of all, they may become anxious or scared in new situations. If you don't socialize your dog, they may as well become aggressive. Those dogs usually have big trouble interacting with other dogs and may miss out on important opportunities to learn critical social skills.

Why are national parks against dogs? ›

These are the main reasons why dogs aren't allowed in national parks: Even the most docile dogs are predatory animals and are therefore a threat to protected wildlife. Native animals are vulnerable to diseases that dogs may carry. Barking and scents left by dogs can scare wildlife and attract other predatory animals.

Why do people like dog parks? ›

Advantages of Dog Parks

The advantages are simple and powerful. Dog parks provide a safe space in which people can exercise their dogs, and watch them play (something I love to do!) Our culture is becoming less and less tolerant of our canine companions, and often they are not welcome elsewhere.

Why do people go to dog parks? ›

It gives it an opportunity to be free of a leash, an opportunity to be able to roam in a large area instead of being confined to a small fenced-in area or enclosure and it also gives it an opportunity to socialize with other dogs, and with other people as well.

Why won t my dog play with other dogs at the dog park? ›

Socialization issues: If during puppyhood, a dog didn't have the opportunity to have positive experiences with a variety of sights, sounds, people, animals and situations, it's possible that he'll feel overwhelmed by group dog play at the dog park or dog beach.

How do dogs get giardia? ›

Your dog or cat might get infected by: Being in contact with infected poop from another dog or cat. Rolling and playing in contaminated soil. Licking its body after contact with a contaminated surface (for example, a dirty litter box or dog cage or crate)

Can dogs have pork? ›

Plain, cooked pork is safe for dogs to eat, as long as you keep it simple and leave off the bells and whistles people tend to cook with.

Are dogs allowed in Yellowstone? ›

Pets are allowed in public areas, parking lots and within 100 feet of any road. They must be on a leash that is not longer than 6 feet in length at all times. Visitors are not allowed to tie their pet to trees or other objects and leave them unattended. Pet kennels cannot be left outside of vehicles.

Do national parks protect animals? ›

National parks are home to hundreds of at-risk species. Park lands and waters provide protected places for threatened or endangered species to find food, raise their young, grow and rest.

Why are national parks threatened? ›

Threatened National Parks. Impacts from sources beyond their borders, overcrowding during some parts of the year, air quality issues, invasive species, and even the maintenance backlog in the National Park System all pose threats of varying degrees to some parks.

How do I know if my dog likes the dog park? ›

If you have a dog who actively engages with other dogs, happily plays with them, and seeks out their company, then that's a good dog park candidate. The dog who spends his time just sniffing around the park, ignoring the other dogs, or only seeks out people, is telling you he probably doesn't like other dog company.

When should you intervene in a dog park? ›

The best way to keep your dog out of trouble and to keep the peace with dog caregivers at the dog park is to keep moving and to intervene when: 1) play gets too rough or seems one-sided, 2) your dog engages in mobbing newcomers, or 3) your dog starts mounting another dog.

What is dog park etiquette? ›

According to DogPark.com, the most common dog park rules include the following: Pet parents are responsible for their animals. Take responsibility for your dogs' behavior at all times. Make sure he's properly socialized and non-aggressive toward strangers and the dogs they're playing with. Pick up after him.

Why are dog noses wet? ›

Noses secrete mucus. The inner lining of the dog's nose contains special glands that produce mucus to keep the nasal canals moist. A thin layer of mucus clings to the nostrils, enhancing the absorption of scent chemicals and improving the dog's ability to smell.


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