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Tragedy in St. Louis Sheds Light on Real Dangers of Dog Parks

Earlier this week, a tragic event happened at a St. Louis area dog park. A Great Dane attacked and killed Buddy, a 10-year-old Golden Retriever, at an off-leash area of the park. It serves as an unfortunate reminder that dog parks are not necessarily the fun and welcoming places that we all might want them to be.

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Photo Credit: Montgomery Parks Planning Commission

While there certainly are benefits to dog parks such as providing an outlet for physical exercise and social interaction, there are a number of dangers to dog parks that I believe in many cases out weigh the benefits. Consider these downsides before your next trip to the dog park.

Risks Posed By Other Dogs

Your dog may be very well trained and socialized, but that does not mean that the other dogs at the park are the same. Injuries from dogs acting aggressively at dog parks are not uncommon and smaller dogs are particularly at risk of being injured.

Not only do you face the risk of your dog being harmed by another dog, but your dog’s previous good natured disposition could be changed if your dog experiences unpleasant interactions at the dog park. As the ASPCA notes, a trip to the dog park can be stressful, especially if your dog is shy. Any intimidating interaction can make your dog act out and react to other dogs, especially by acting aggressively. Do you really want to risk undoing your previous socialization of your dog? All it can take is one bad experience to cause your previously happy dog to become reactive to other dogs in the future.  

The dog trainers I took my corgis to also always warned that dogs can pick up bad habits from other dogs at the park. You work hard to train your dog, so be cautious about letting him or her learn bad habits from dogs with less training.

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Photo Credit: Blue Gum

Health Hazards

If you are going to go to the dog park, vaccinations are essential. But aside from protection via vaccinations, keep in mind that parasites such as fleas can be picked up at the park. So can various worms such as roundworms and tapeworms. Also be aware of the risks posed by unaltered pets at the park. For example, taking your female in heat to the park is begging for trouble and, if you have an unaltered male, you cannot be assured that someone won’t inadvertently bring a female in season to the park.

People Problems

Sometimes people are the problem. What could be a good experience can be ruined when owners at a park disagree on how their pets should interact with others. It isn’t unusual for owners to not properly supervise their pets or fail to remove their pets from unsafe situations. Learn more at the ASPCA. Years ago, I used to take my black lab, Molly, to the dog park but stopped after repeatedly coming across a fairly aggressive dog there accompanied by a young girl. With no parents ever in sight, the girl seemed to lack any comprehension that her dog was often behaving inappropriately, and she would not take any actions to control the dog. It caused me to cease going to the dog park, which in hindsight was probably a good thing!

If you are going to take your dog to the dog park, consider these Dog Park Safety Tips.

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