Saturday, March 30, 2019 | 2 a.m.
There are few things as joyful as a happy dog. Our fluffy friends can make our worst days bright, and in return, we pamper them, buy them treats, adorn them in Halloween costumes and make sure they are properly socialized and exercised. When it comes to filling the activity requirement, Las Vegas is home to multiple dog parks. In fact, the Trust for Public Land recently released a survey that ranks the top dog park cities based on the number of parks per human, and it’s clear the Valley loves dogs. Henderson garnered a No. 3 ranking with five off-leash parks per 100,000 residents (15 off-leash parks total). Las Vegas tied for seventh with 3.9 parks per 100,000 residents (25 total). With so many options, there’s no reason not to give a few a try, but before you go, be sure to keep the following guidelines in mind to encourage a happy and safe experience.
To find a Las Vegas Valley dog park near you, go here.
How to safely intervene in a fight
Pet owners may be legally responsible for their dogs and any injuries or damages that their dog causes. Visitors of the park, both human and canine, enter at their own risk.
Even with the most well-behaved dogs, fights do happen, and it’s important to know how to safely step in.Don’t put yourself at risk of being bitten by reaching your hand in the middle of a fight. Instead, distract the dogs with loud noises or whistling. Once they’re distracted, take control of and move your dog to a neutral area. Remain calm and don’t get upset. This will only aggravate and excite the dogs further, potentially escalating the situation. Check involved dogs to make sure they’re OK. If there are injuries, exchange contact information with owners and take your pet to your vet. If there are bite injuries to humans, seek proper medical attention and report the bite to Clark County Animal Control at 702-455-7710.
A community for humans, too
Pick up the poo
Owners are responsible for picking up after their dog. Many local parks have disposable bags and trash cans specifically for this purpose.
“Dog parks are built for dogs, but are fantastic resources for people,” said Diane Regas, president and CEO of the Trust for Public Land, in a press release. “As anyone who has chatted with a neighbor while taking their four-legged friend to the dog park knows, community is created there,” Regas said.
Las Vegas residents Steve Pillion and David Hulls are one such example. Pillion moved from Southern California to Southern Nevada in January, bringing his rescue dog with him. He didn’t know a soul at the time.
Don’t bring treats to the park
Food often causes aggression and jealousy in dogs, not to mention that some dogs have life-threatening food allergies. It’s best to leave treats in the car so pups can focus on playing with their friends.
Now, “I meet David every morning, and our dogs like to play together,” Pillion says, while sitting on a bench at Sunset Dog Park.
Nearby, Pillion’s 2-year-old shepherd mix, Pepper, and Hulls’ 2-year-old pit bull mix, KJ, chase each other, rolling in the mud.
“This is better than a kid in Disneyland. This is the happiest hour and a half of her life, every day,” Pillion says.
The same can happen for humans, too. Don’t hesitate to use your dog’s playtime as an opportunity to meet new friends, learn training techniques from others and enjoy the outdoors.
Familiarize yourself with the park and its rules
Read the signs posted outside the gates. Each park has different hours of operation and guidelines. For example, at Henderson parks, owners cannot have more than three dogs present at a time. Children younger than 5 are not allowed in the fenced-in, off-leash areas, and adults must accompany children under 12. For the complete list of Henderson dog park rules, go here.
Keep track of your dog and make sure it is on its best behavior
Don’t let dogs dig holes
And if they do, it’s important to fill them in so dogs and people don’t break a leg.
Fido should never be allowed to play at the park without an owner nearby. Be aware of your dog’s body language and watch for nipping, barking or mounting. Be sure you are always close enough to your pet to control or protect it. Have access to your dog’s leash and collar to make a quick exit. If your dog continuously pesters others or is being pestered by others, it’s time to leave the park and come back later.
When dogs fight, it's typically for territory (think toys) or to assert dominance over another. People, on the other hand, are more nuanced, and every individual has his or her own parenting style when it comes to pets. Some are helicopter parents while others have a more laissez-faire approach. At the end of the day, everyone is sharing a common space and must be respectful of other pets and other people.
Make sure your dog is properly licensed and vaccinated
Don’t take an unhealthy dog to the park
Community spaces have the potential to be a breeding ground for disease. Don’t spread the sickness.
While Clark County does not require that your dog be licensed, they must be microchipped and vaccinated for rabies. They must also wear a tag indicating they've had a rabies vaccine, as well as an owner identification tag. The county also recommends the following vaccines: 5-in-1 DA2PPV (includes distemper, adenovirus I & II, parainfluenza, parvovirus) and Bordetella.
The difference between public and private parks
Most dog parks are publicly operated by city or county governments, but there are a few private dog parks that require membership fees to enter. For example, the Hydrant Club Las Vegas serves as a doggy daycare facility, boarding school and a private dog park. Private dog park services, especially ones that encompass training, are often good for owners who don't want to risk running into aggressive dogs.
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.