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Welcoming Committee

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 website as soon as possible at

If a fight breaks out, what should I do?

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:

  1. Clap and yell or blow a shrill whistle

  2. Sound a small hand held fog-horn (available at boating stores)

  3. Squirt their eyes with a water from a spray bottle.

  4. Spray with a hose if one is handy.

  5. 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 website  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. 

I'm new to the park and don't know what is normal play behavior and what is not.

Playful actions to watch for:

  • Back and forth play – dogs change position – role reversals

  • Bouncy, exaggerated gestures

  • Wiggly bodies

  • Open relaxed mouth

  • Play-bows

  • 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

  • Tail tucked

  • Hunched over, head down

  • Tense

  • May urinate submissively

Red Flags that Require Intervention:

  • Excessive mounting

  • 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

  • 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,

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