Dog Beach and Park Summer Safety Tips

FLYBALL_FeaturedWho can resist getting your pup and family outdoors to catch the surf and rays and get some exercise this summer? Dog beach and dog parks can be wonderful places to exercise and play with your dog, however, they come with some built-in caveats as well. Make the right decisions at the right time for your dog. Here’s how to stay safe!

  • Look for parks with separate large and small dog areas. During play small dogs may be accidentally injured by large boisterous dogs. For beginners, or to avoid the crowds, Del Mar Dog Beach has a nice quiet area just south of the bridge that leads to the main area of Dog Beach. Some very progressive private parks have four separate areas; one for small active, one for small quiet, one for large active and one for large quiet dogs.
  • Don’t overwhelm your dog. If your dog is a beginner, go at quiet times of day to allow your dog to acclimate to the new environment and to feel safe there.
  • Then, arrive first so you dog can greet one stranger dog at a time.
  • Start games with one dog, then two, then four, etc., and monitor how your dog is doing with each increasing level of intensity.
  • Move away from the entry gate as soon as possible. That’s where all the other dogs rush to meet newcomers at a dog park.
  • Exercise early in the morning or later in the evening especially during summer. Forgo dog beach or park when temperatures are extreme.
  • Provide small amounts of fresh water in order to avoid bloat/gastric torsion associated with exercise and gulping water. Offer fresh water that is cool notice cold.
  • Offer frequent breaks with shady rest. Your dog won’t know when to stop when aroused.
  • Evaporation has a cooling effect. Pour some fresh water down your dog’s back and/or rub a bit on the tummy.
  • Educate yourself on the symptoms of heatstroke especially if you have a senior or or a dog with a short upper respiratory tract, such as a pug, Boston Terrier or Pekingese, etc. The first signs are increased panting, dry, sticky and discolored (bright pink, reddish or purple) gums and tongue. If your dog begins to vomit, become unsteady or pass bloody diarrhea take your dog to the veterinary emergency immediately.
  • Dogs should not wear gear, collars or harnesses that are unsafe for group play.
  • Use baby sunscreen on noses, thin-skinned and light-coated dogs, and upright ears – all those pink spots.
  • Young children should not be allowed to run or play in dog parks. Children playing with their own dog in a high intensity environment may be at risk. Other dogs may join in and dogs can be unpredictable. Don’t bring babies, toddlers or young grade schools kids into a busy dog park. Nancy Kerns, Chief Editor of the Whole Dog Journal, tells us, “A small child who gets knocked down and starts to scream is like a magnet to some dogs. It gives me shivers.” Children and the elderly, both human and canine, young puppies and small dogs mixed in with a group of big rowdy dogs may be at risk of being hurt even quite accidentally. Supervise older children at all times.woman on stand up paddle board with her swimming dog
  • Most dog parks have signage with instructions. In addition, Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips, owner and author of dogbitelaw.com, Beverly Hills, California, warns pet parents about possible legal problems that include: inappropriate dogs at dog parks resulting in dog fights and bites/injuries, canine business-owners who bring in as many as 6 -10 dogs to a park at one time, and pet parents not cleaning up after their pet resulting in possible disease transmission. Understand that when you enter, you enter at your and your dog’s own risk. You waiver your rights and assume all risks if your dog is injured or hurt.
  • Watch the dogs. Pat Miller, Behavioral Editor for the Whole Dog Journal, tells us that at least half of the problems seen at the dog parks stem from inappropriate human behavior. It’s the pet parent responsibility to observe and monitor their dog’s interactions at all times. Talking distractedly on a cell phone or with other pet parents isn’t fair to your dog or the other dogs who are playing.

Dogs are, after all, 2-year olds for life. They simply can’t be trusted to make good decisions by our standards on any regular basis. Plus, they play by their own rules. It’s up to us to learn to keep them safe and protect them as well as to provide great exercise and fun this summer!

Originally published in the Literary Journal, ArtforBarks.org © 2014 Linda Michaels


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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


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