Updated: Jul 21, 2020
After a few months of quarantining and social distancing, both humans and dogs alike are beyond excited that their favorite places are reopening.
For humans, those favorite places maybe the gym or a restaurant. But for many of our sociable dogs, that favorite place is none other than the dog park.
Is it safe to return to the dog park? Like anything else right now, it’s up to your own discretion on whether or not you feel safe in the environment depending on sanitization measures, amount of people/dogs, and the time of day that you go.
In general, dog parks can be hit-or-miss for dog owners. Dog parks can raise many safety concerns, often due to defensive aggression, disobedience issues, problematic play styles, resource guarding, facilitated aggression, and frustration aggression in dogs. But, are dogs at an increased safety risk at the dog park in the midst of COVID-19?
According to the CDC, the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low and it appears that the virus that causes COVID-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations.
That doesn’t mean you don’t need to take extra precautions in order to keep you, your dog, and everyone else at the park safe. Follow these safety tips and practices for going back to the dog park:
Things to keep in mind:
You are using the park at your own risk.
The dog park is just like any other establishment -- stay home if you are sick!
COVID Safety Practices at the Dog Park
1. Keep at least a six-foot distance from other dog owners. Just like anywhere else, social distancing is a must to keep you and others safe.
2. Keep groups of people small and spread out. It’s easy to get distracted while talking to other dog owners, but keeping groups spaced out is in everyone’s best interest.
3. Visit the park at off-peak hours. If you’re still working from home, this will be fairly easy! Morning, lunchtime, and early evening are peak times at the dog park given work schedules. But, going at off-peak hours will decrease any safety concerns.
4. Sanitize hands before, during, and after using the park. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are your best friend!
5. Avoid petting other people's dogs. We know this is the worst tip on the list -- but, a small number of pets worldwide, including cats and dogs, have been reported to be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, mostly after close contact with people with COVID-19. So for now, it’s best to fight the urge to pet all the dogs.
6. We hope this one is obvious but -- cover your mouth with your arms if you cough. And of course, if it’s mandated to wear face masks in your county, please abide by that!
7. Be extra cautious when you come into contact with surfaces that are frequently touched such as waste bag kiosks and fence gates.
General Safety Practices at the Dog Park
1. BYOW...that’s right, bring your own water. It’s summertime and it is HOT outside -- you always need to be equipped with water to keep your dog hydrated! Check out our article on safety practices for the summer here. Be especially mindful of this now, considering most public water fountains have been turned off.
2. ...and poop bags! Picking up your dog’s business after they relieve themselves is essential in keeping your community healthy. Read more about the negative health effects of poo-lution here. It’s always best to be equipped with bags in case the park runs out!
3. Make sure your dog is up to date with their vaccinations.
4. Master basic obedience. It’s important that your dog replies to basic commands in case a situation arises with another dog or group of dogs.
5. Keep an eye on your dog at all times! It’s easy to get distracted while talking to other dog owners, but a situation could go south at any point and you’re the first in command to dismantle it. Stay alert!
The dog park is a great place for your pup to burn off extra energy, socialize, and play with other dogs. But with great fun comes great responsibility, especially if you’re getting out to the dog park during coronavirus.
Many safety concerns can arise at a dog park, and as a dog owner, it’s imperative that you take extra safety precautions to keep you, your dog, and your community safe. We hope these tips help you enjoy the dog park safely!