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Safety at the Dog Park: Avoiding Fights and Injury

Safety at the Dog Park: Avoiding Fights and Injury

The Risks of Dog Parks

Like a car accident, when anyone has been injured, exchange contact info and report it to us. © 2019 Seger Park Dog Owners Association. All Rights Reserved. Photography by Christopher Thorpe. Website Design & Development by Colleen O’Rourke.

As a dog trainer who specializes in teaching bite prevention to kids, the irony wasn’t lost on me when I was bitten by a dog. When I told them, Honestly? Easier than I thought. I did some things right, BUT one thing totally wrong — and that ONE slip was all it took.

However, never one to let an opportunity (or bloody hand) go to waste, I want to share my story — in the hope that maybe I can stop something like this from happening to you and those you love.

Let’s dive in.

Dog Park Etiquette and Safety Tips

Spotting and Preventing Fights

There are a few key things to watch out for when at the dog park that can signal an impending fight:

Posture: A dog’s body language can communicate fear, hostility or submission. Learn to read and respond to your own dog’s body language, and others.

Packing: More than 2 or 3 dogs packed together can lead to trouble. Break it up before it starts by leading your dog to a neutral area at least 30 feet away.

Possession: Whether it’s you, a ball, or a treat, most dogs will protect what is theirs. Remain aware.

Provoking: If your dog is continuously annoying another dog or dogs, or provoking attention, it’s time to leave the park.

The key is to be vigilant and act quickly at the first signs of tension. A little proactive intervention can go a long way in avoiding an all-out brawl.

What to Do if a Fight Breaks Out

Despite our best efforts, sometimes fights do happen. So what do you do?

First and foremost, never reach your hands into the middle of a dog fight unless you know what you’re doing. You may get bit, and often by your own dog.

Instead, try to distract the dogs and divert their attention. A blast of water from a water bottle, a loud whistle, or a pocket air horn may work.

If your dog is not in the fight, make sure he does not join in. Control your dog and remove him/her to a neutral area.

And above all, maintain a cool head. Getting upset and yelling will only add to the frenzy.

After the incident, exchange contact information with the other dog owners and report the event to the park authorities. This documentation can be crucial if any injuries or damages need to be addressed.

My Personal Dog Park Incident

As I mentioned, I’ve had my own scary encounter at the dog park. It was a Tuesday, and I was taking a walk around the park with my two dogs, Cam and Zig.

Close to the end of the walk, I spotted a woman about 100 feet away, struggling to wrangle her 60-pound lab mix who was barking at my dogs. Knowing how difficult it can be to handle a reactive dog, I gave them a wide berth as I passed by.

But as I was walking away, I heard a scream. I turned to see the woman pinning her dog down, frantically trying to put its collar back on. Before I knew it, the dog had slipped out of its collar again and was charging straight for my dogs.

Without thinking, I scooped up my smaller dog, Zig, but had to leave Cam on the ground. I immediately stepped in front of her, trying to break the speed and intensity of the charging dog. Cam and the other dog just sniffed each other at first, but then suddenly, there was a lot of noise and the other dog had Cam pinned to the ground, biting her.

It was horrible to watch. In a moment of panic, I made a big mistake – I reached down to try to pull Cam away, and the dog whipped around and bit my hand. Luckily, Cam escaped without a scratch, but I ended up needing stitches at the ER.

Lessons Learned

Looking back, it’s amazing that even as a dog trainer who knows better, in the heat of the moment, the instinct to save my dog totally overrode my better judgment. I’ve had time to think about what I “coulda-woulda-shoulda” done, and the biggest takeaway is to keep hands (and kids!) well out of the action during a dog fight.

While we may not be left with many options if our dogs get into a fight, there are plenty of ways that everyone can do their part to prevent something like this from happening in the first place. That’s why I’m so passionate about sharing dog park safety tips and educating others on responsible dog ownership.

The good news is that incidents like mine are actually quite rare. But that doesn’t mean we can let our guard down. By staying vigilant, reading the signs, and knowing how to respond, we can keep our furry friends safe and have fun at the dog park.

So the next time you and your pup head to the local dog park, keep these tips in mind. And remember – it’s better to err on the side of caution. Your dog (and your hand) will thank you!

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