What to do in the event of an incident with injury while in the dog park
1. Exchange contact information (or have a friend gather the information for you).
2. Note time, date, name and breed of dog, and owner contact information.
3. Leave the park immediately.
4. Report the incident to the dog park coordinator as soon as possible at 504-483-9377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Entering the dog park
Always keep dogs on leash until they are inside the gate.
Make sure the first gate is closed BEFORE opening the second gate. If the outer gate is open, there is always a chance that a dog can run out of the park and into the street.
Unleash your dog within the double gates.
- A dog often feels vulnerable being on leash while other dogs around it are off leash. The leashed dog knows that it cannot maneuver freely and cannot get away if it wants to. This sense of vulnerability may lead to aggression.
Remove metal collars - this includes prong or "pinch" collars, choke chains, and spike collars.
- Chain collars can become caught on the fence. There is also the risk of other dogs breaking their teeth on the collar, especially if engaging in mouthy play.
Users already inside the park should call their dogs away from the gate until the new arrivals have entered.
- It's difficult for a new arrival to enter the park if a wall of dogs is blocking the gate. Dogs are territorial creatures, and the boundaries of a territory are flashpoints for aggression. Once the dog is inside the territory, the chances for conflict are much less.
Guidelines for a great dog park experience
Keep the following recommendations in mind to minimize your risks and maximize your fun:
- Focus on your dog at all times. When your dog is off leash at the park, 100% of your of your focus should be on your dog- NOT YOUR CELL PHONE (one of the biggest problems at the dog park)
- Avoid packing. When a pair or group of dogs plays nonstop for more than a few minutes, playmates can get overexcited and tension can arise. Instead of standing in one spot during your entire visit, move to a new area of the park every few minutes. Encourage your dog to follow you when you walk to a new spot.
- Is the dog park your dog’s only out-of-home experience? He will be better behaved at the dog park if he is accustomed to a variety of situations. People who only take their dog to a dog park for play set themselves up for the dog to be out of control.
- Is your dog kenneled or confined to the house all day while you are away? If this is the case, play with your dog and walk him on-leash before you bring him to the park. Work off some of the pent-up energy before he is in the park with other dogs.
- Who is in charge-you or your dog? It is important that your dog respect you and obey your commands, especially at the dog park in off-leash situations.
- Check out the crowd before entering the dog park. Do the dogs seem to be romping happily? If so, let the fun begin! If, on the other hand, you notice canine troublemakers bullying or fighting with other dogs -- or if you simply feel uneasy about letting your dog play with a particular group of dogs -- come back at a later time.
- Clear the gate area. When a new dog arrives at a dog park, the other dogs often rush over to investigate. This sudden flood of attention can overwhelm newcomers. To avoid a canine mob scene, ask dog owners to remove their dogs from the gate area or simply wait until the crowd moves on. Make sure that you don’t let your dog be a bully at the entrance gate.
- Know the best time for your dog to come to the dog park. If your dog does not like crowds, try early morning or mid-day. Late afternoons and weekends are usually hectic.
*ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist
Children at the Dog Park
(No child under 8 is allowed at NOLA City Bark)
A dog park is not a safe place for young children
Across the country, many dog parks prohibit children from entering. If you choose to bring a child over 8 years old into the dog park, it is vitally important that you supervise your child closely. You must take full responsibility for your child's safety while in the park.
Do not permit them to run, scream, chase the dogs, grab the dogs, or tease the dogs. Some dogs are not accustomed to children; these dogs may feel scared or threatened if a child runs toward them or grabs at them.
Children should never approach or touch any dog without first asking the owner's permission.
The safest place for a child (8+) is by a parent's side. Dogs often run fast and play vigorously with each other while in the park, and they may inadvertently knock down and hurt a child who is standing out in the open.
Remember that your main responsibility while in the dog park is to monitor your dog and to be prepared to intervene if there is any sign of trouble. Before bringing children (8+) to the dog park, consider whether you can effectively supervise both the dog and the children at the same time.
Children under the age of 8 - this includes babies in arms or strapped to the parent's body - are not allowed at NOLA City Bark.
Playful actions to watch for:
Back and forth play – dogs change position – role reversals
Bouncy, exaggerated gestures
Open relaxed mouth
Twisted leaps or jumps
Pawing the air
Signs of Anxiety/Stress to Monitor:
Fast wagging low tail
Whining or whimpering
Ears may be back
Hiding behind objects or people
Signs of Fear:
Dog will try to look small
Hunched over, head down
May urinate submissively
Red Flags that Require Intervention:
Pinning (holding another dog down and standing stiffly over them)
Shadowing another dog (following) incessantly
Bullying: repeatedly bothering another dog that does not want to interact
Fast non-stop running with a group – high arousal situation
Full-speed body slams
Putting head repeatedly onto another dog’s neck or back
Staring with a fixed gaze directly at another dog
Snarling or raised lips
Hackles up at the shoulders
*Association of Professional Dog Trainers, apdt.com
Big dog - small dog
Size differences and predatory drift
Of critical concern in settings where dogs co-mingle is the danger of prey-driven attacks on smaller dogs by larger ones. The behavioral mechanism that creates this scenario is generally ascribed to “Predatory Drift,” when accidental “simulated prey behavior” by the smaller dog (such as rapid movement accompanied by high pitched barking, whining, yelping) triggers prey drive, (pursuing, seizing, shaking) in the larger one.
Although frequently mischaracterized as aggression, this is not a case of a dog deciding to attack another, but rather the result of a normal canine instinct driving the larger dog. Play becomes prey.
The most alarming fact about predatory drift is that it can happen even with well-behaved, well-socialized, playful dogs who play well and often with no aggression, and no fights. Dogs who are triggered into predatory drift may or may not have ever been in a dog fight and may or may not be generally well-behaved and obedient. There is NO protection against predatory drift. It is not a good dog/bad dog problem.
Predatory drift is not about how brave, strong, feisty, or fearless the small dog acts. Predatory drift is not about how well your medium, large or extra large dog plays, listens to you, or how many times he/she has met, played with or been around a small dog.
Predatory drift can even happen between two dogs that know each other well and have lived and played together and/or known each other for years. In the right situation, a sudden shift happens and the predatory sequence (like dominoes falling) is triggered and completed with lightening fast speed.
While it is not a problem seen every day, all it takes is the slightest trigger -- an injury, a fight, a response to something startling or scary. Predatory drift is a SIZE MATTER! It usually involves a grab and shake, which instantly breaks the small dog's neck. There is no time to react. This is not a fight, it does not escalate. There is a trigger, and then it is over.
The number of dogs killed or injured in this way is significant enough that many facilities do not allow a size difference larger than 50% between dogs kept in the same area, and shelters may not adopt dogs out into a household where such size disparity exists.
In case of a fight
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to monitor playtime, dogs get into fights. These scuffles often look and sound ferocious. The dogs might growl fiercely, snarl at each other, bark, snap and show their teeth. Most dog fights don’t result in injury to either dog. Even so, if a fight lasts more than a few seconds, the dogs’ pet parents should separate them. Doing this can be dangerous. If you grab a dog who’s in the middle of fighting with another dog, he/she might startle and reflexively whip around to bite you.
To reduce the likelihood of injury to all parties, follow these guidelines:
Prevent fights from happening in the first place by actively watching dogs during play. If you think things are starting to look a little tense, end play by calling your dog to come.
Plan in advance. Remember that most dog fights are noisy but harmless. If you stay calm and try not to show fear, you’ll be able to separate two fighting dogs more safely and efficiently.
Try non-physical interventions first to break up a fight:
- Clap and yell or blow a shrill whistle**
- Spray the dogs with a citronella spray** that is safe for dogs.
- Sound a small hand held fog-horn (available at boating stores)
- Squirt their eyes with a water from a spray bottle.
- Spray with a hose if one is handy.
Separate them-last resort-If you’ve tried briefly (3 seconds or so) the interventions listed above but the dogs are still fighting, you and the other dog’s pet parent should approach the dogs together. Separate them at the same time. Both of you should take hold of your dog’s back legs at the very top just under the hips, right where the legs connect to the body. (Avoid grabbing the dogs lower on their legs, such as by their knees, ankles or paws. Doing so could cause them serious injury.) Like you’d lift a wheelbarrow, lift your dog’s back end under his hips so that his back legs come off of the ground, and move backwards away from the other dog. As soon as you can, turn your dog away from the other dog.
DO NOT grab your dog by the collar. It seems like the natural thing to do, but it might startle your dog and cause her to turn and bite you. This kind of bite is like a reflex that’s done without thinking. Many pet parents get bitten this way-even when their dogs haven’t shown any signs of aggression in the past.
LEAVE THE PARK- Put both dogs on leashes after the fight and leave. Avoid giving the dogs another chance to fight.
Report the incident and the date and time of incident along with the names of all people and dogs involved to the dog park coordinator as soon as possible. A dog that repeatedly displays aggressive behavior with a variety of dogs is not a good dog park candidate and should stop coming to the park.
* ASPCA Virtual Pet Behaviorist
**purchase at dog park desk in the Administration Building