It’s fun to visit a park—especially with our canine friends. We enjoy the opportunity to exercise together, and our pets also learn how to get along with people as well as other dogs in a group.
Here are 10 tips and tricks to make the experience even more positive.
1. Vaccinate, spay, or neuter first
Dog park outings are most appropriate for dogs who have been vaccinated.
Puppies should not visit dog parks until two weeks after they’ve completed their puppy vaccine series (including bordetella and parvo vaccines) – usually, after 18 weeks of age.
Adult dogs should go to dog parks only if they are current on their core vaccines. For added protection, dogs may benefit from the canine influenza vaccine.
To prevent unexpected litters of puppies, make sure your dog is spayed or neutered.
2. Preview the park
If your area has more than one dog park, do a little homework to determine which would be best for your pet. You’ll want the park to be well-maintained, and you may wish to go during a more or less crowded time.
Off-Leash Dog Parks near Atlantic Veterinary Hospital:
In Southeast Seattle, just south of the Stan Sayres Hydroplane Pits and just west of Seward Park on Lake Washington.
2.7 acres, completely fenced, with two double-gated entrances. The center 2 acres is covered in gravel, making it mud-free in winter. The park has a doggie drinking fountain and a small and shy dog area.
In Southwest Seattle, above and west of Boeing Field.
8.4 acres with open spaces, paths, shade, trees, and a doggie drinking fountain. There’s even a special little off-leash hiking trail for canines and their people. For people, the off-leash area provides benches, chairs, and a shady place to relax. A special, separated area for small and shy dogs is located on the southwest side of the main off-leash area.
In Southeast Seattle, near I-90.
Fully-fenced, wide, rectangular field on 1.7 acres with grassy side slopes that your dog can run up and down. There are interesting art sculptures throughout the park that make it unique, including a giant reposing “blue dog” at the entrance.
Just south of downtown, on the north end of Beacon Hill.
4 acres with spectacular views of Puget Sound looking west and to the Seattle downtown skyline looking north. There is water available for dogs to drink. The fenced area is accessed from a long set of stairs at the north end of the Park. It is ADA accessible from the bicycle trail. A trail runs through the middle of the off-leash area which is compacted gravel and follows rolling contours.
Locations of off-leash areas maintained by Seattle Parks & Recreation
3. Train your dog to respond to voice commands
Dog park experiences are most satisfactory for everyone if your dog responds to voice commands. You want to know he’ll come when called, and then stay by your side. This helps resolve quarrelsome situations.
4. Leave food—for you and your pet—at home.
Just as you have certain foods you prefer your dog eat (or not eat), so do other pet owners. A dog park offers plenty of new scents for dogs to explore without introducing new food scents as well. The exception might be a small treat in your pocket in the event you need an added incentive for obedience.
Do bring water for you and your dog; water may not be available or accessible at a dog park that day. Bring your pet’s leash and several dog waste bags.
5. Bring dog-friendly toys… maybe
If you bring a ball or disc to play fetch with, use only dog-friendly flying discs (not made-for-people discs that can break a dog’s teeth). Invest in look-alike tennis balls (not the ones with the fuzzy coating that wear down a dog’s teeth). You’ll find these toys in pet stores.
Be aware that tossing a ball or disc for your dog may create a problem with other dogs. Be sensitive and wise to how other dogs in the off-leash area react, and stop if you notice anything out-of-the-ordinary.
6. Be friendly and respectful.
When you prepare to go to the park, clothe yourself with a friendly, respectful attitude. Plan to be part of solution, not the problem, to make the visit fun and safe for both of you.
At the Dog Park
7. Assess the situation before you enter.
How does your dog’s energy level compare with those who are already in the park? Notice where there are dogs similar in size to your dog, so your pet will have someone to play with. (Some off-leash parks have separate areas reserved for small and shy dogs.)
Familiarize yourself with the rules before you enter the off-leash area.
Be prepared to clean up after your pet.
8. Pay attention while in the park.
This is an outing for you and your pet to enjoy together. Stay focused—avoid reading, texting or talking on the phone, or chatting with your friends (whose pets may not be the best playmates for your dog, in size or temperament).
9. Avoid puddles, goose poop, and foxtails.
Some Seattle-area off-leash parks get muddy following a rainy day. Rain creates puddles teeming with dangerous parasites. And then there are those irresistible piles of goose poop! Dogs can contract leptospirosis or giardia by drinking or sniffing contaminated water or eating goose poop or feces from infected animals.
Watch out for foxtails, too! Last summer, we had a big problem with dogs contracting foxtails when sniffing around the edges of some local dog parks. The foxtail awns lodged between their toes, up their noses, and in their ears, eyeballs, and genitals.
Foxtail seeds act like a large splinter, causing a very painful and infected abscess which can result in chronic illness and even, death.
Learn how to identify foxtail and foxtail risks in this article on our blog
10. Know what your dog is doing at all times and read her body language.
Not every dog gets along with every other dog; squabbles will happen, and often your pet will sense the tension before you will.
The most important tip is to simply have fun and treasure the time outdoors with your pet!