Good Dog! Park Etiquette for Pooches and Their People
Most communities, including Trenton, have developed off-leash dog parks. They are perfect places for dogs to socialize, burn-off energy, pick-up parasites, catch kennel cough and get in fights.
Some attention to a few rules can make visits to the dog park safe, fun outings that don’t end in visits to the vet.
The Kinsmen Community Dog Park in Trenton is a lovely spot, with 2 acres of fenced, treed terrain open for off-leash play. There is also a smaller area dubbed the “Puppy Park” which sounds like a really bad idea to me, but we’ll get to that later.
The main facility was opened in 2005, by a dedicated committee of volunteers, now the Quinte West Community Dog Park Association. The Association manages the park, sets rules to promote safety and raises funds for upkeep. It is a real boon to urban dogs that wouldn’t otherwise get off their leashes outside of the house.
Obviously, any area where dogs congregate will be a potential hotspot for disease transmission, but you can protect against most serious illnesses with proper vaccinations, heartworm prevention, effective flea treatments and routine deworming. Sick animals, puppies and aggressive dogs do not belong at the park. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean no one is going to bring them. At Hillcrest, we treat some of the casualties ever year – lacerations, infectious bronchitis (“kennel cough”) cases, fleas, more fleas and even outbreaks of contagious warts.
Overall, I’d say the benefits of the park outweigh the risks. Most of the “casualties” are small potatoes, but there is potential for more serious problems if your dog is not properly prepared for dog-parking.
Here are a few tips:
- Did I say vaccinate? This is crucial because you can be sure someone out there won’t and that could mean parvo virus and other deadly diseases in the park.
- Don’t take puppies younger than six months to the park. They won’t be fully vaccinated before at least four months of age anyway and another two months of training will go a long way to developing acceptable social behaviours. The Trenton park’s “puppy” area is a bad idea if it’s being used that way. The smaller enclosure is a great place for adult small-breed dogs to play, but puppies just don’t belong at the dog park.
- Don’t walk far inside the enclosure before letting your dog loose. Leashed and unleashed dogs don’t mix as restraint can make for fear and aggression.
- It goes without saying…scoop your dog’s poop.
- And, equally commonsensical…use flea and worm prevention.
- Watch your dogs inside the enclosure and intervene if there is bullying going on. If your own dog has any aggressive tendencies, take him for training and accept that he may never be suitable to visit the dog park.
The volunteers who run Trenton’s dog park and all the local dogs who benefit from their work depend on everyone working together to keep disease and bad behaviour out of the facility.
For more information about the Trenton off-leash area and tips about dog park etiquette in general, see the following links.
Dr. Fiona Gilchrist
Hillcrest Animal Hospital