I know what you’re thinking… If Holiday Barn Pet Resorts is writing about Dog Parks, it can’t be for any other reason than promoting their own Doggie Day Care, right? Well, okay, so there is some truth to that, but please read on… We feel it is our responsibility to raise your awareness on matters that concern the well-being of your pet. I promise… I’ll keep an open mind.
Why Dog Owners Like Dog Parks
It’s an exciting development when the city approves the construction of a dog park in our neighborhoods. Did you know there are 63 dog-friendly parks in Virginia? Dog owners/lovers are excited at the anticipation of seeing their four-legged friends frolic with joy as they play with other dogs. We look forward to having a pleasant place to meet our neighbors and enjoy the company of other dog enthusiasts. Unlike regular parks, we, as dog owners, don’t have to worry about offending or imposing on people who are afraid or just not that fond of dogs.
Why Dogs Like Dog Parks
The physical benefits of playtime with other dogs is obvious, but playtime is more than just a great workout for dogs. Playtime with other dogs teaches them how to appropriately interact with their own species, it helps relieve stress, and circumvents boredom. The socialization is an essential part of our dog’s good mental health. And what a joy it is for our dogs to run off-leash! Dogs are so mentally and physically tired from a trip to the dog park that they will nap for hours afterward.
We can all agree, these are all good things for our dogs. There are certainly many positive aspects of visiting dog parks. Let’s dig a little deeper, though. Before your dog starts playing, there are a few things you should be considering about dog parks. Are you familiar with some of the potential risks associated with dogs parks?
Not All Dogs Are Up to Date on their Vaccinations
What concerns me most is knowing if my dog’s playmates are receiving vaccinations against life-threatening diseases such as rabies, parvo, and distemper, all easily transmitted between dogs. Fortunately, by law, all dogs must get the rabies vaccination, and in the United States, its occurrence in our domestic pets is quite low. Rabies kills and can be passed on to humans too. If another dog has rabies, I surely don’t want him playing with mine, regardless that my dog has been vaccinated.
Parvo, unfortunately, is actually pretty common in some parts of the country, despite it being part of a puppy’s vaccination program. The chances of surviving parvo are not good… more than half the dogs who get the disease will die. If they are fortunate enough to survive, they may face a lifetime of heart and intestinal damage. Also, parvo can live in your house and yard (and the dog park) for months and is difficult to get rid of. Another possibly fatal disease is Distemper. Distemper is tragic. For years it was the most feared of canine viruses. Distemper brings with it a slew of ugly symptoms and along with that, a mortality rate close to 50%. Although it is normally posted at Dog Parks that dogs must be up to date on vaccinations, there are generally no park attendants on-site to check.
Because so many dogs gather at dog parks, it’s an easy place to spread the highly contagious flu virus via sneezing, coughing, and sharing water. If you’ll remember last year Holiday Barn began the requirement of a Dog Flu vaccine, the H3N2 (in addition to the H3N8) [link]. It became necessary when an outbreak of the flu virus swept across the Western and Eastern US causing high fever, pneumonia, and even death. Wouldn’t you be more comfortable knowing that your dog’s playmates have been checked by their veterinarian and have received vaccinations for both flu viruses?
Gastrointestinal Parasites and Fleas Can be Transmitted Between Dogs at Dog Parks
Be sure the grounds are regularly inspected and treated for parasites. I’m not just talking about fleas and ticks (I’ll get to that later). Several academic studies have cited Dog Parks as playing a role in the spread of gastrointestinal parasites among animals. Parasites such as worms (all varieties), giardia, coccidia… nasty disease-causing parasites that are passed via feces and live long periods of time in soil and concrete – even after the feces has been removed. Yuck.
And about fleas… A population of fleas can actually become established in areas where there is a great deal of dog activity… such as a dog park. Adult fleas are easily transferred from one dog to another during the course of play. It is possible to bring home fleas during a high flea activity season, even if your dog is on a regular flea medication. If you bring home one or two fleas, you could soon have an infestation on your hands. It’s a good idea to do a check for ticks when you leave the dog park too. You just never know where those little critters are hiding
The Public Drinking Water for Your Dog May Not Be Clean
This is a biggie… drinking water. Our local dog park has water bowls randomly placed throughout. The water comes from a spigot in the ground, which happens to be about 10 feet away from a holding pond. I can’t help but wonder where that water is coming from, and has it been tested to be safe for my 4-legged friend? Secondly, we have already discussed how sharing water bowls is a good way to share contagions… Gross, right?
Not All Dogs Play the Same Way
Do you have the skills needed to interpret communication and interaction between dogs? Let’s see… Are they playing, or are they starting to fight? If it looks rough, do you know how and when to intervene? How well are you at reading canine body language? Would you be effective in anticipating a dog fight, or stopping one after it begins? Can you recognize sustained arousal and calculate when it needs to be curbed?
Does your dog park have separate fenced areas for small and large dogs? We forget sometimes that dogs are animals. Big animals often prey on little animals. Unfortunately, innocent play can escalate into an instinctive prey situation. Big dogs and little dogs should even further be separated by temperament to provide the best conditions for harmonious play.
What Makes The Perfect Dog Park?
If I could design the perfect park for my dog to safely play in, this is what it would look like:
- • It would have fenced-in areas for both large and small dogs, and each enclosure would have a limit as to how many dogs could play inside.
- • The dogs would have plenty of shaded areas on warm summer days.
- • Water bowls would be emptied and filled regularly with quality drinking water.
- • There would be a parasite resistant playing surface that is cleaned and maintained daily.
- • Likewise, dog feces would be immediately collected and disposed of.
- • All of my dog’s playmates would have to show proof of vaccination against all the awful doggies diseases out there.
- • People who are well trained in canine body language and first aid would be present at all times take an alpha role with the playgroup and to “referee” when needed.
- • Dogs would have to undergo a pre-screening to make sure they are not aggressive towards other dogs or people.
Dog Day Care Eliminate the Risks that Come with Dog Parks
Hmmm…. I’m not being biased, I’m being realistic. If you can find a dog park that provides all of these things, then I applaud you. But I’ll be honest, it’s unlikely. A well-managed, responsible doggie day care like Holiday Barn Pet Resorts is the best way to assure a healthy, safe play environment for your 4-legged friend. But it costs money to send your dog to dog day care, you say? I get it… but what price can you put on your dog’s health and safety?
Visit our facebook page to see how much fun our guests are having! Better yet, call or come visit one of our facilities and talk to our Customer Experience representatives about Camp Holiday Barn. We would love to discuss how we can create a tail wagging dog day care experience for your pet! When you chose Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, you can relax knowing that your dog is in good hands.