A dog park fight can ruin an otherwise great day with your dog, Dr. Caroline Patten, of Liberty Vet Clinic, answers common questions about dog park “best practices” in this month’s “Everything Pets” column.
How do I keep my dog safe at the dog park?
When you first walk into the dog park, all of the dogs crowd around the gate. This creates a stressful situation for the dog entering the park and increases the risk of a dog fight.
To deescalate this tense situation, guide your dog to the middle of the park, away from the pack of dogs at the gate.
It is also important to be vigilant at the dog park to prevent dog fights. It is much safer to intervene when it is a low level skirmish than an all-out dog fight. If you see two dogs tense up around each other, stiffen, with hair sticking up, snapping, and growling, it is time to intervene. You want to nip this behavior in the bud before it progresses to a dangerous fight.
Yelling in a loud firm voice, separating the dogs, or distracting the dogs to avert their attention is often enough to end a skirmish before it escalates. Prevention is always the best policy.
However, you must be aware that breaking up a dog fight always involves risk of injury to the people involved.
My dog just got in a fight at the park, how do I know if he is ok or if he should go to the vet?
Many times a dog fight may sound terrible, but once the dogs are broken up no injuries have actually occurred.
If your dog is limping, bleeding, appears pained, seems lethargic, has labored breathing, or is not acting like his normal peppy self, you should take him to see a vet.
If your dog suffers any skin wounds or lacerations after a dog fight he should see a vet.
Long-haired dogs can hide skin lacerations well so it is important to check them thoroughly. Even with a small puncture hole there can be a lot of unseen damage under the skin.
This damage may not be evident until a day or two later when there is significant swelling and infection. It is best for puncture wounds and lacerations to be treated early so the appropriate treatment can be started right away.
If a small dog, such as a Yorkie or Chihuahua, is ever attacked by a larger dog, like a German Shepherd, the small dog should ALWAYS go to the vet. There may be internal life threatening injuries that only your vet can diagnose.
Dr. Caroline Patten
Liberty Vet Clinic
8919 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia