Off-Leash Dog Park Safety Tips

Off-leash dog parks in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities have become increasingly popular spots to let your dog run free and get the flat-out running exercise that is so necessary to relieve pent up energy. These trips can be the highlight of your dog’s week and are a great social and exercise outlet for the pet owner as well — providing you follow some common sense rules and precautions. Always remember that “dogs will be dogs” and that some degree of vigilance on your part will make this a happy time for the both of you.

I recommend that when you arrive at the park for the first time you locate the Rules and Regulations Board that is posted at all dog parks. Much of this information can be about etiquette for fellow pet owners, like cleaning up all feces and trash, but there may also be specific ordinances peculiar to that municipality that must be followed. Next, I would carefully observe the other dogs playing there already. If all are having a great time interacting with each other, then proceed. Occasionally there may be a dominant “bully” that is not being controlled by it’s owner and you may want to try another day.

Current vaccinations and flea / tick prevention products like Advantix or a Seresto collar are strongly recommended, as are modern Heartworm preventatives that incorporate effective deworming medications, such as Interceptor, Heartgard Plus, or Iverhart Plus. As a precaution, you should wipe your dog’s feet after dog park play to remove sources of bacteria , viruses, and parasites from fecal exposure.

Hard play can lead to overheating and dehydration, so take plenty of water and a collapsible bowl. Early morning and late afternoon / evening are the safest times for play to avoid heatstroke. Remember, if humidity is very high, it doesn’t take roasting hot temperatures to overheat your dog. Take frequent water breaks while playing and if your dog is panting excessively, vomiting, is becoming mentally depressed, or has dark red or blue mucous membranes, stop playing and cool off your dog with splashes of water all over the body in the shade. If not responding within minutes consider a trip to our veterinarians for further care.

Take some basic first aid supplies like gauze pads, adhesive tape, a clean towel, and some type of non-alcoholic first aid cleaning solution. Cuts on rocks, broken glass, or fencing materials can occur, and while usually not serious, can bleed a good bit. Direct pressure over a wound can be very effective in controlling bleeding. Applying make-shift bandages until you get home or to the veterinarian can save you hours of car clean up.

Many dog parks post signs for monthly maintenance days. Funding for dog parks is limited, so these volunteer days are essential to maintaining your park and are a fun way to get to know your dog-oriented neighbors.

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