Wish you took better pictures of your furry friends? I take a lot of pet pictures to send to dog owners that miss their pets. Here are a few basic tips that I have learned to help capture your pet’s best side:
Location — Look for colorful and pretty backgrounds. Pets look great outside in nature. Don’t take them somewhere scary. I took Betty on a road trip from Texas to California during the blue bonnet bloom. I tried to get good shots in the beautiful blooms. None of my pics turned out great because the traffic noise terrified her. She could not wait to leave the side of the road that I selected. If you can catch them having fun naturally — that is even better. Always check out what is lurking in your background also. I have taken what I thought were great pictures only to later see too much clutter in the background ruining my shot. Things like poop bags on your leash and trash in the yard won’t make for a great picture. Fallen leaves can be really pretty though.
Time of day and lighting make a huge difference. The “Golden Hour” is the hour before sunset. Everything is bathed in a perfectly golden light. Cloudy days can make for some pretty awesome pictures too because you don’t have a lot of shadows.
The classic “sun behind you” angle makes for great clear shots. Sometimes taking a picture facing the sun can be very beautiful too though because it can make the picture glow from behind. Play around with lighting. Natural lighting is the prettiest. Try to avoid using a flash. It will annoy your pets and make their eyes look funky.
Composition matters. Try using the rule of thirds in photography. It gives you a nice balanced picture that is pleasing to the eye. When you are looking at your picture in the camera, imagine your photo divided into 9 equal squares and arrange things in the shot so that they line up at the inter-sectional lines where the thirds meet. Click on the link above for more details. Try to get things lined up in the frame so that you need to do minimal cropping. This will help keep your photos crisp.
Get down at their level instead of taking the picture from above them. If you can zoom in, do it. It makes it easier to catch your dog doing something naturally cute.
Teach a good “stay” and a good “look”. Makes it much easier to get a good clear shot. Treats definitely help too. Some people tape a treat to the camera near the lens.
Make sure the eyes are in focus and open. The eyes tell a story in pictures.
Play with your dogs or take them for a short walk before photographing them. A panting dog looks like it is smiling. Open mouths always look happier.
Use the burst feature on your camera or camera phone. This comes in very handy with active dogs. Take numerous pictures while they are running around. I often take 20 pictures to get one great one.
More bad news… Anybody that promises you that if you follow their advice, your dog will be completely trained in a few months is, more likely than not, lying to you. Yes, we have all seen the puppies that are a few months old and seem to be completely trained. I don’t have one of those dogs. And, you probably don’t either.
Don’t get me wrong. Someday, I hope Betty will be much closer to a perfectly well-behaved dog. I do train with her most days and she has made wonderful progress when I compare her now to what she was like when I first brought her home 18 months ago. Her first year of life was spent being ignored in a backyard and escaping that same backyard. She has a typical rescue dog story. Too much work and energy for her previous owners to handle.
I met Betty when she was 11 months old. She has always been sweet-tempered. But, she had not been exposed to very many things so she was reactive to most noisy common things. Babies crying, small children running, bicyclists, skate boarders, cars, other dogs on leash, leashes, and collars were scary things. She also barked at coffee pots and ceiling fans. She had terrible nightmares every night. During these nightmares, she would bark ferociously in her sleep. I got her a crate. This helped her as she was already used to this from being in the shelter. We worked on potty training. She learned basic commands so quickly that I thought I had a genius on my hands. She learned all the basic obedience commands the first week that I brought her home. She dug holes in the yard with true passion. She jumped up on every person she met with exuberance. She barked — like a fiend some days. She tied herself up in curtains after months of being good in the house and chewed up a windowsill trying to free herself. I kept training her. After about 9 months of exposing her to new things and training her at home, she had overcome many of her initial fears. She was really great at home and with low distractions. It was time to up the distractions. We signed up for group classes. We have been taking group classes for about 6 months off and on now. We took some time off during a major move. The training never stopped though. She is a pretty great dog nowadays — not perfect yet though. I spent a lot of time training my grandchildren how to be calm around dogs and they are a large part of the reason that Betty is great around kids now. We have done a ton of training at parks full of kids playing. We started far away and have gotten closer and closer.
I know that I am on the right track with Betty. I also know that it takes time to work out the kinks. She still pulls a little (sometimes a lot) when we go for walks. We go on four walks per day on average. She still is leash-reactive if you walk your dog too close to us. If I pull to the side to give you room to pass, that is not a cue to come over and say hello to us. If she was in a backyard or at the dog park off-leash, she would not bark at you or your dog at all. She doesn’t dig anymore. She doesn’t bark at home unless she has a good reason. She might still jump on you if you greet her with an excited voice. So, please be calm. Don’t tell me that it is okay for her to jump on you as you pet her. I am training her to not jump on anybody and you are making it take longer. I will try to step on her leash and keep her from jumping up on you in the first place if you insist on greeting her. I am trying to teach her that she doesn’t get to greet everyone. So if she is already worked up and you ask to pet her and I say no… it is not about you. She is in training. If you greet her calmly, she will sit (most of the time) and wait for you to pet her. You can bike past her and skate past her now. She can watch your kids playing at the park and not bark. Yes, I work with dogs full time. I love what I do. No, my dog is not perfect and may never be. I know that people will judge my skills with animals based on the manners of my own dog. After all, Betty is the face of my brand. The one thing she has always mastered is making me smile. Please go easy on us if you think she should be better after all these months. We have come a really long way already.
Most people realize that dog leash laws exist to protect all dog owners. The majority of dog owners say that they always leash their pets when taking their dogs with them into public places. A relatively large percentage of dog owners actually ignore the leash laws at least some of the time. You may be one of them and it could cost you your dog’s life. Are you guilty of any of the following justifications?
“Don’t worry, my dog is friendly”. Great! You have a friendly social dog that doesn’t want to start a fight. Even if that is true (and I’m not saying that it necessarily is), can you vouch for the other dogs? Dogs, like people are not all social butterflies. Some want or need to be left alone for too many reasons to list here. Service dogs need to be left alone to work. Is it so important to let your friendly dog run free that you are willing to risk their lives? Friendly dogs are killed every single day. Just today, I heard about a puppy that was killed when it ran up to the wrong dog that was leashed. We want everybody to rescue a dog and save them. Once we rescue these poor dogs, they often need rehabilitation and socialization. They are not instantly friendly. Please respect that all dogs should have a chance to take a walk without your friendly dog testing their level of socialization. You set their training back by weeks every time your dog spooks these fearful dogs.
“I only let them off-leash when I am hiking and nobody is around.” Are you sure? If you are out walking or hiking, can you see around every corner and under every bush to determine that you are truly alone? Seriously? I live in Los Angeles and urban coyotes, mountain lions, skunks and gangs are a real risk here. When I lived in Arkansas, wild hogs, deer, and bears were among the real risks on every trail that we hiked. Do you live somewhere where wildlife isn’t a concern? How about that other hiker around the corner with the dog-aggressive dog? Or, is that you?
“I can’t believe my dog did that! They are never aggressive!” I have heard this one before and so has everybody else. We know you are lying. So stop it. Really. Just. Stop. Don’t let your dog that is aggressive hurt or kill our dogs. Please. Our dog is everything to us. Plus, Animal Control or the police will take your dog. It isn’t fair to your dog either.
“I only let him off-leash in my own front yard.” No I don’t have a fence. Of course my dog would never run into the street after a ball, cat, bird, or another dog unexpectedly. His recall is perfect. I am envious. I have never met a perfect dog. Have I mentioned the story about the Maltese that was taken by a coyote while his owner stood in the yard. This dog was taken two weeks ago in within 5 miles of where I live. A small poodle was also taken a few weeks ago within a few miles of my home from the neighbors yard.
If you want to enjoy your dog running free, and your dog IS really friendly and well socialized, go to a dog park or off-leash dog beach. Please don’t risk your dog or mine. If this article gets one person to re-think their leash habits and it prevents an injury or death, then it is worth it. This article is not aimed at service dogs that legally are allowed off-leash to perform their tasks.
Would you like to understand your dog better? Love dogs and can’t get enough of stories about how dogs make life special? There are many great books written to help you understand and train dogs better. This list is just a taste of what is out there. This is a short list of the top 5 titles that made the list of favorite books to read for dog lovers in a recent informal poll taken in a couple of my most active Facebook dog groups (30,000+ members).
The Other End Of The Leash by Patricia B McConnell, Ph.D. This book was at the top of the list as a favorite book. I am currently reading it now. This book written by an Applied Animal Behaviorist and dog trainer is a great book to help understand how our human body language translates to dogs and affects how they behave in response to us. It is an interesting book to help connect with your dog in a way that they can easily understand.
Plenty In Life Is Free by Kathy Sdao. This book was written by an Asssociate Certified Animal Behaviorist. It focuses on the humane treatment of animals and the effect of training in a more positive manner. The author has 26 years of full-time experience in animal training. She runs Bright Spot Dog Training in Tacoma, Washington.
Top Dog: The Story Of Marine Hero Lucca by Maria Goodavage. This is the true story of a military working dog who served in two bloody wars. It is a heartwarming story of the bond between a dog and its handlers and the traumas that these dogs endure. The author is a New York Times Bestselling author.
From Bird Brained to Brilliant by Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell. The author left law practice to become a full-time dog trainer. She owns Bona Fide Dog Academy LLC in Omaha NE. This book focuses on sporting dogs. This book delves into understanding the sporting dogs instincts and how to train them effectively.
I am always trying to learn better ways to communicate and understand my dogs and my client dogs. If you have any great books to add to this list, I would love to hear about them. The books pictured above are the books on my current reading list.
Apps have definitely changed the way we live and share information. How we take care of our dogs is certainly easier with apps. Here are a few of my favorite apps to help you to be a better dog mama or papa. They are listed in the order that they appear on my phone:
Facebook — Facebook has many dog specific groups and pages. Many have trainers, vets, and behavior specialists among their members. Have a favorite breed? Most breeds have a dedicated group as well. Search topics like obedience, trainers, walkers, etc. to connect on subjects that matter to you. There are even raw food groups and nail maintenance groups.
Instagram — Love taking pictures of your pup? Instagram has great filters and companion apps to make your dog pictures even better.
Rover — Need a dog walker, dog sitter, someone to drop-in on your furry baby? Rover offers local sitters and walkers as well as in-home boarding and doggie daycare. Full disclosure here: I started as a Rover sitter and still take an occasional client from the site. Basic criminal background checks are done on all Rover sitters/walkers and Rover insures your dog and property. See Rover for full details and disclosures.
Pet First Aid — This is a great app for canine and feline first aid and wellness. In addition to basic first aid, it also has articles on dog training, dog friendly hotel locator, preventative care, and tips on how to give your dog medication (just to name a few categories). Love this app!
Nextdoor — This is an app that helps neighbors connect with each other about local topics. Get a recommendation on dog friendly businesses or dog parks. Lost dogs are also posted here.
Chewy — This is a great place to get a good deal on dog stuff.
BarkHappy — Want to set up a doggy play-date? Locate dogs nearby, pet friendly places on the map, see pet policies and amenities, attend dog friendly events and host your own, as well as lost and found alerts.
YouTube — Wonderful place to find training videos. YouTube has so many trainers and cute puppies. It is a classic at this point.
Dog Breeds 101 — Curious about other breeds or want to know more about your dog? This app has basic information about 80+ of the most popular breeds.
Weather Puppy — Smile every time you check the weather. The puppy changes dependent on the weather forecast. You can even add photos of your own dog.
These are the apps that I have on my Iphone that help me have more fun with Betty, my border collie. What is on your phone that helps you with your furry friends?
Are you thinking about getting your first pet? Are you wondering what to consider before bringing that adorable little furry ball of kisses and wagging tail home?
My daughter loves dogs. She always has. She has been married now for several years and her two daughters also love dogs. Her husband has given the green light for a family dog and they are all looking forward to having a dog baby. So, I have been thinking about ways to help her be ready for her new baby. This article is for her and any other person thinking about adding a new pet to their family.
Here are a few things to consider BEFORE you start looking at shelters or online at places like www.petfinder.com. Please rescue your pet as a first choice. There are so many pets looking for a family. Many are purebred pups that turned out to be too much work for their families. Many have been abused and neglected by people that had no idea what was involved with raising a puppy. Mixed breeds can also make for some pretty awesome family pets. They are often hardier than purebred dogs because inbreeding among purebred dogs can increase the likelihood of many health problems. Okay, now that I have that out of the way, I can get off of my soapbox and get back to some other considerations to make before bringing that adorable puppy home:
How much room do you have? Some dogs need a lot more space than others do . Research breeds and learn a little about general dispositions of breeds. All dogs are different but the breed does matter.
How much time do you have to train a pet? A puppy will need a lot of attention. It will not necessarily sleep through the night. It is a baby. It is very similar to bringing a bay home. They are adorable — but a lot of work too.
How old are your kids? Kids and pets are wonderful together if properly trained and introduced.
How often is someone home? It is not fair to bring a dog home that will be alone all day. Bored dogs are destructive dogs.
Are you physically strong enough to manage and exercise your pet when it is full grown? Smaller pets are easier to manage if you are older, less active, or have a disability that would affect the management and care of a pet.
Will you be able to keep the pet for the rest of its life? 5–20 years? A pet deserves to be kept for its entire life. I am not bashing anyone that has ever re-homed a pet. I have been in a situation where I have re-homed a pet. It was not planned and it broke my heart. I still feel guilty about it — even though my pet went to a much better home than I could provide at the time.
Can you afford a pet? Vet bills, food, grooming, etc. are not cheap. Can you budget for all of these items?
What do you want to be able to do with your pet? Again, be realistic about your lifestyle goals for your new pet. A chihuahua may not make a great running buddy. It makes a great couch buddy though. Most border collies don’t want to lie around watching tv all day either. They do make great hiking buddies though. Check out different breeds to know their tendencies.
Okay, now that you have figured out that you are really ready for a dog and you are ready to find your new family member, what do you need to be ready?
Is the puppy old enough? Has the puppy had a chance to be with it’s mother and litter mates for at least 8 weeks? This is the law in many US states. There are many reasons that puppies need to stay with mama for at least 8 weeks in addition to just the health reasons. Critical socialization occurs with mom and the litter. Do not take a puppy any sooner.
Bedding should be comfortable and fairly inexpensive at this point. Puppies and fearful older dogs have a high likelihood of chewing up whatever bedding you provide. This is not the time to spend $100 on a designer dog bed. A simple blanket will do for now.
Crate — I highly recommend having a crate for your new dog for their safety as well as the safety of your home. New puppies and newly rescued dogs can be very chewy. For tips on crate training, read my article on crates.
Food — There is just as much debate about dog food as there is about people food. www.dogfoodadvisor.com is a great objective website that compares all the major brands of food. Many people are huge advocates of raw feeding. It can be a great option with one caution. If you have anyone in the family with a compromised immune system (babies, elderly, sick), I do not recommend raw because if the increased chance of salmonella or Ecoli. Therapy dogs are not allowed to be raw fed for this reason. A dog that is raw fed can spread bacteria with their kisses.
Food and water bowls — Ideally durable bowls that can’t be destroyed easily and are dishwasher-safe.
Collar and leash — You won’t get far without these. A flat collar is a good choice for a puppy. Puppies will outgrow them quickly. Leashes can be chewed through in about a minute if you don’t monitor a new puppy. Have a few — just in case. I always keep a spare collar and leash that I have picked up at a dollar store (In my doggy first aid backpack) in my car. You never know when you will need a new one. Best to be prepared.
Clicker if you plan to use clicker training. I like them because they consistently mark the desired behavior at the perfect time. Think of it like taking a mental picture for your dog of the exact behavior that you desire. Many people also use a “yes” instead of a clicker. I have done that when I don’t have a clicker handy.
Treat bag and treats — I like ones that have holders for poop bags and magnetic closures at the top. A waist belt to secure the bag will drop less than one that clips onto a waistband.
Vet address -The location of the nearest emergency Vet is something that you need before you need it. Plus puppies need a lot of shots the first few months. Check with your vet to see what is recommended in your area.
Poop bags — Lots and lots of these little bags. You can always find them at dollar stores. It is the law to pick up after your pet in most US States nowadays. You do get used to it
Patience -lots and lots of patience. You could get really really lucky and get a dog that is a breeze to train, doesn’t chew anything up, and never causes trouble. The chance of that is about as likely as finding a unicorn in your backyard though. It is going to take longer than you think. Be consistent and patient. Having a dog is one of the best things around in my opinion.
How to curb excessive barking and keep the neighborhood peace.Does your dog bark at cats, people, other dogs, squirrels, boredom, or the washing machine? Maybe they just bark at people or other dogs while on a leash?There are too many things to list that a dog can and will bark at. What can we do about it?
The quick answer is that it depends. Dogs get noisy for a variety of reasons. How we solve the problem depends upon the reason the dog is barking in the first place. Here are a few of the main reasons that dogs get noisy and things you can do to help curb the noise:
Anxiety — Scared dogs can be noisy dogs. Many dogs experience separation anxiety, anxiety in new surroundings, or anxiety around new people. Dealing with the anxiety and desensitizing the dog to the source of the anxiety will usually diminish barking if it is a new habit. The longer the dog has been barking, the longer it will take to teach them a new response. The sooner you deal with it, the easier it will be.
Boredom — Bored dogs will sometimes bark (among other unwanted behaviors). Gone are the days that dogs must be left alone all day at home or alone in the backyard left to their own devices while you work. Doggy daycare, pet-sitters and dog walkers are everywhere now. Daily walks and playtime are good for the pet owners too. All work and no play makes for destructive and noisy behavior. Crating will often help to settle down a dog that has been crate trained.
Interesting creatures outside the window — If your dog goes crazy for squirrels or cats, an easy fix is to block windows or close off rooms while you are gone. Another popular way to manage this is to reward the dog for calm behavior around these critters. Have treats handy.
Reactivity/Over-stimulation — I won’t sugar coat this one. It can take a while to teach a dog how to be calm. It can be done — but it can take months (or even years) for some dogs. Lots of praise and rewards when the dog is quiet and calm are the way to go. Another popular method for dealing with reactivity is to play the engage/redirect game and to desensitize the dog to the stimulation. I care for a dog that lives next door to a small dog that is let out into the backyard a few times each day. Whenever the dog is let out, it runs out of the house yapping in delight. This has become something that my client dog can hear from anywhere in the yard and will run over to greet the neighbor dog by barking back. I have practiced with my client by teaching her the command “quiet” and rewarding her with high value treats for not barking. The client dog has already been taught to bark on command so it was not hard to teach her quiet. Obedience training in general will help calm a dog. I also practice obedience drills when the neighbor dog is outdoors to redirect the focus away from the barking neighbor.
Leash reactivity — If the reactivity is towards other dogs while out walking on a leash, the most common method to train for quieter walks is to maintain distance around other dogs and to reward quiet behavior, change directions and gradually shorten the distance. Again, this is easier in theory than in person. I have moved to a much busier metropolitan area and sometimes it is not possible to avoid other dogs. My progress with my own dog with this problem has been slower than I would like. My border collie is too friendly and she gets frustrated on a leash when she cannot greet people and dogs. She wants to be everybody’s new buddy. I had to stop letting strangers pet her because it caused too much stimulation and frustration for her. Many people want to pet the pretty dog. It just isn’t what is best for her training at the moment. We are still working on teaching her how to greet people and other dogs politely while on leash. Another thing that I have learned the hard way is that if you have two leash reactive dogs, DO NOT WALK THEM TOGETHER. They will feed off of each other’s energy and the barking will become exponentially worse. Work on the dogs individually. Walk them separately.
Attention seeking — If a dog is getting extra attention from barking and you yell at them to stop, they are getting what they want. Do not yell at a dog that is barking. They will just think that you are barking too. Ignore them until they stop. Once they are quiet and calm, praise and reward. Never praise or reward during the barking to distract them — unless you want more barking.
Guarding — Some dogs have issues with resource guarding and will bark to keep other dogs and people away from their resources. Working on desensitizing to whatever is triggering this will help. If it is food, hand feed the dog to help them understand that good things come from you and do not need to be guarded. If it is a person that they are guarding, teaching them to go to their mat, will help reduce guarding their people.
Keeping your dogs fairly quiet can be a legal concern in many cities such as Los Angeles where they can revoke your dog’s license, confiscate your animal and bar you from owning any animals for one year. If all else fails, some people have had success with ultrasonic anti-bark devices that emit a high pitch unpleasant to dogs when activated by barking. I have one of these at home and it worked on both animals in my home immediately. The first day, the dogs activated the device by barking at some dogs walking by the patio. Once the device was activated, the dogs stopped barking and looked around. Then they hid under the bed. They were skittish for the first few days — but quiet. After a week, the dogs acted normally and were still not barking. It did not teach the dogs to stop barking altogether. My dogs still gave me a little woof when they needed a potty break or wanted to play. They learned to bark softly instead of big crazy barks. My dog also barks much less in general now. When we are out and away from the device, she hardly barks at all. These do not work on all dogs and tend to work best for dogs that bark at home because the transmitters have an effective radius usually less than 35 feet. However, if you have tried everything else and your dog is still barking and you need to get it under control immediately, they are humane and worth a try. The sonic device and all the other training combined has taught her to bark much less. I don’t have any experience with bark collars so I can’t comment from personal experience regarding them. These tools are not a substitute for training. But, they can speed up the process. As with many other issues related to dogs, there isn’t one right way to fix the problem instantly for every dog. It can be time consuming and frustrating at times. Stick with it and be consistent. Give yourself a break if the first few things you try don’t work right away. It is a process…
The idea of a dog park is wonderful. Your dog gets to run around off-leash as nature intended with other dogs while getting much needed socialization with other dogs and people, plenty of exercise and new things to sniff. Ideally, only pleasant and healthy dogs will attend. What actually happens can be very different.
Here are things to keep in mind before you go to your local dog park:
Is your dog healthy? If you have a dog with a compromised immune system or an illness, you really shouldn’t be going to a dog park. This seems like commonsense to me. But, when I was at a local dog park in Los Angeles last week, there was an owner that brought his dog to the park with a very nasty looking eye infection. The eye was oozing and the dog could not see out of the eye. When other dogs were on his bad side, the dog became frightened and then defensively aggressive. This dog did not need extra playtime. He needed to heal. The owner said that it was not contagious — but 50/50 on whether or not he would lose vision in the infected eye. I personally did not want my healthy curious dog anywhere near that dog. Any time that you bring your dog in contact with other dogs, you risk illness. Dog parks are for healthy dogs. Make sure your dog is current on all recommended vaccines. Consult your vet if you are not sure. Many parks do not allow dogs that have not been spayed or neutered. In California, it is the law that dogs must be neutered or spayed to be at any public dog park.
Does your dog get along well with other dogs? Tell the truth. Has your dog been in a fight or bitten another dog? Do not be that person that feigns shock when you dog starts a fight for the first time — except people recognize you and it happens weekly. Please. Just. Don’t. Is your dog frightened of other dogs? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, try a play-date with a dog you know that your dog likes. A dog attack is not worth the risk. As the owner, you will be liable. If your dog is the victim, it can cause additional behavioral issues with any dog — especially with a dog that is already timid. If your dog needs to be muzzled, he should not be brought to a dog park. This will be extremely stressful and potentially dangerous to the muzzled dog. When you arrive, take you dog for a short walk to help them calm down a bit. Most parks have an enclosed entry area with double sets of gates. These are to give your dog a chance to sniff around and calm down before you open the second gate. Give them a minute or two to relax before entering the main park.
Can you watch your dog and supervise their behavior or do you have a “dogs will be dogs” attitude? Nobody want to see you texting or surfing Facebook while your dog humps every dog in the park and jumps on every person. If you cannot supervise and control your dog, please do not bring them. It is not cute. Perfection is not required and probably not possible. Just watch your dog. A dog should have some basic manners before going to the dog park. Again, you will be liable for injury if your dog jumps on someone and hurts them (think about the elderly and children).
While we are mentioning children, dog parks are for dogs. Babies and toddlers can be hurt very quickly at a busy dog park. Some dogs love to play with other dogs but will chase small children and bark at them. Herding dogs are notorious for this. Children (and adults) that are afraid of dogs will attract barking dogs. It is not a good idea. If you want to help your kids be comfortable around dogs, that is wonderful and I wholeheartedly encourage it. Start smaller. Find a friend, neighbor or family member with a good dog and introduce your child to them. Any older child that enters the dog park, should know how to be safe around strange dogs. They should not run or scream around strange dogs. They should be supervised at all times. I have a border collie that naturally wants to herd. She has been taught how to behave around my small grandchildren that do not scream or dart around her. If I see a bunch of little kids running around making a lot of noise, I can’t bring her into the dog park. I won’t risk her getting too excited by the kids and playing too rough. The next person may not be as diligent.
Does the dog park have faucets or water for the dogs? All that running around and playing can make a pup thirsty. Communal water can be filthy and harbor disease. Bring your own bowl and fill it with fresh clean water. Keep your dog from playing in stagnant water.
Is the park secure? I always walk the perimeter checking for holes in the fence that a dog could use to escape. I also look for weeds growing in the grass called fox-tails. These can injure paws and get lodged to the point of infection. Are there tricky potholes that a dog could get hurt running through? If the park is not safe, you are better off taking your pooch for a nice walk.
Is there dog poop everywhere? It can breed disease. You must scoop your dog’s poop everywhere public- even at the dog park. It’s the law in most places these days.
Is the park too big? Will your dog come when you call? I prefer smaller parks because my dog doesn’t tire quickly and although she will come when called, she really doesn’t want to leave the park at times. A over-sized park can make it very difficult to capture your dog if they are not ready to go home.
Ultimately, the decision is yours to make whether or not the dog park is right for your dog. I think they can be wonderful for some dogs and terrible for others. I have a very social active dog that loves the parks. I enjoy meeting the other owners. I always put my dog’s safety first. If something seems dangerous or risky, we leave. We can all make it a better experience by using some commonsense and courtesy. We might even make some great new dog loving friends.