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Dog Park Safety | Pets

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Dog Park Safety
Dog Park Safety

Dog parks are great places for dogs to play and socialize with other dogs. Unfortunately, the fun can sometimes turn violent. Without proper knowledge, a dog and its handler are both subject to injury.

Robin Bennett, an author and trainer with All About Dogs in Woodbridge, Va., believes that in order for dog parks to be safe, dogs need to be properly supervised. This means that dog owners must know what to watch for if problems arise between the dogs.

“Early warning signs indicating that a dog is stressed include lip licking, yawning, half moon eyes, stiffening and avoidance,” Bennett said. “These signals all happen before things get too far out of hand.”

Bennett suggests interrupting any play that lasts longer than a few minutes to ensure that play doesn’t escalate to violence. She also says that should a dog fight break out, there are a few ways the owners can intervene.

“Try making a loud sound to distract the dogs enough to cause them to stop fighting,” she said. “Also try putting something between the dogs to startle them, like a chair, a bucket or whatever is lying around.”

For pet owners whose dogs aren’t involved in the fight, Bennett recommends removing them from the park quickly, since dogs often get a pack mentality and join in the commotion.

Dog fights aren’t the only hazards that dogs and owners can encounter while at a dog park. There is always a chance of dogs getting injured while running and playing. In fact, the top category of insurance claims paid out by Business Insurers of the Carolinas (BIC), the company that underwrites the majority of bonding and liability insurance policies for members of Pet Sitters International, resulted from accidents that occurred while the pet was walking, playing or running.

David Pearsall, director of sales and marketing for BIC, said his company has also paid out large claims for dogs knocking people down while at the dog park.

“We’ve paid two claims for more than $200,000 that involved dogs knocking down people at dog parks,” Pearsall said. “One occurred at an off-leash dog park. The dog jumped on a jogger, causing her to fall and injure her knee. The injury called for reconstructive surgery.”

That is another hazard that Bennett cautions dog owners about. Bennett recommends that people keep their knees bent and be aware of what is going on around them while at a dog park to help lessen the chance of being injured.

Bennett suggests pet owners make sure a dog park has two key features before taking their dogs for a visit: double gates to keep the dogs safe while entering and exiting the park and separate areas for large and small dogs.

Keeping these tips in mind before hopping in the car and heading off to the nearest dog park will ensure that both you and your pet have a howlin’ good time.

Laura Stauffiger is the proprietor of Laura’s Critter Care, an in-home pet sitting service in Amherst, and a member of Pet Sitters International. For more information, visit her website or send an email


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