America’s 65 million dogs have more ways to play than ever. The growing number of Dog Parks in the U.S. dedicated to off-leash play are estimated at more than 700, the best ones include water fountains and even swimming pools! According to experts, dogs that are highly socialized and exercised are healthier and happier. Studies have shown that dogs that exercise and are regularly allowed to run freely are not as aggressive towards people as dogs that are under-exercised. Allowing dogs to have an off-leash area socializes dogs by bringing them in contact with other dogs causing them to be less aggressive in each future encounter with dogs. In general, time spent at the dog park improves the mental and physical state of dogs.

Dogs at Play

Dog parks are good for people too. They not only allow you to have the pleasure of watching your dog(s) at play, but you too can actually derive the same socialization benefits as your dog. Scientific studies have shown that people somehow find it easier to talk to each other with dogs as the initial focus. You could probably also find “scientific studies” that show that fresh air and exercise is good for people too! So before your furry kids head back to school and the chill of winter blows in, spend some quality time with your dog and other dog lovers at a dog park near you!Here are some basic do’s & don’ts for a trip to the dog park:

Obey posted park rules

Always keep your eye on your dog- mischief can happen quickly

Never bring more dogs than you can watch- 3 is about the limit

Never leave your dog unattended

Always clean up after your dog! Poop bags are typically supplied, but it is still always advisable to byob (bags).

Remove any halters, metal choke chains or link collars. In the rough and tumble play a tooth or nail could get caught in this type of collar, resulting in a scared dog, lost tooth or broken nail and possibly a panic fight.

Make sure that your dog is current on all shots, including Bordetella for kennel cough.

Don’t bring dogs younger than 4 months to an off-leash park. They won’t have all of the necessary inoculations to allow them to play safely with other animals.

Do not bring a female dog in heat!

It is preferable for multiple reasons that your dog is spayed/neutered.

If your dog becomes unruly or plays rough, leash him and leave the park.

If you bring children, supervise them closely.

Help educate other, less experienced park users.
This year’s Top Ten U.S. dog parks, based on criteria ranging from safety considerations to owner educational resources, including urban and suburban settings coast to coast are:

1. Fort Woof Dog Park — Fort Worth, Texas
2. Paw Park of Historic Sanford — Sanford, Fla. (Orlando area)
3. Fort De Soto Paw Playground — Fort De Soto, Fla. (St. Petersburg area)
4. City of Rome Bark Park — Rome, N.Y.
5. Carl’s Dog Run — New York, N.Y.
6. Ohlone Dog Park — Berkeley, Calif. (San Francisco area)
7. Kenton Paw Park — Covington, Ky. (Cincinnati area)
8. Fleet Peeples Park — Winter Park, Fla. (Orlando area)
9. El Paso County Dog Park — Colorado Springs, Colo.
10. Stanley’s Spot — Morgantown, W.V.

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