Advice for a happier, healthier trips to the dog park

It takes just a little preparation to make the visits positive for pets and owners alike

The author is manager of TrailBlazer Pet Supply and an advocate for pets. She is trained in pet nutrition and loves traveling with her dog, Izzy.

I’ve visited numerous dog parks with my dog, Izzy, from Oregon to Florida. Many of them have agility equipment, swimming pools, hiking trails and even community-driven wine and cheese “yappy hours.”

Nearly every community has a dog park and no two are alike. It is with this experience that I’ve come up with some tips to help keep a dog park visit positive.

Stay healthy: Bring bio-degradable poop bags to keep the park clean. It’s also important to bring your own fresh water; this will keep your dog from ingesting a toxin. I put slices of cucumber and blackberries in Izzy’s water to help boost her immune system for our visits. Before you leave a park, be sure to wipe down your dog. This will decrease the spread of parasites and bacteria. I like to make an apple cider vinegar/green tea spray that I keep in my car.

Be present: Put your cellphone away. Issues often arise when an owner is distracted. Stay active with your dog. I like to walk and toss treats for Izzy to find. She loves this brain-boosting exercise that tires her out.

Timing is key: Find the right time of day to visit the park. Some dogs like a more quiet atmosphere, while others want to be the life of the party. Leave your dog’s favorite toy at home. Toys encourage resource guarding.

Be your pet’s advocate: Not all dogs get along. That’s OK, but keep a leash handy to safely remove your dog from the park. Offer your dog a peaceful timeout if needed. Not all dogs are “just playing.” Be proactive and take a training class in dog body language. This will help you identify problems before they arise, which will keep your dog safe.

Use these tips to keep the dog park experience positive and, most important, have fun with your dog!