Back to the Dog Park: How to Stay Safe Outdoors as States Reopen

By: Katy Nelson, DVMUpdated:

Coronavirus Tauber-Romieri

Back to the Dog Park: How to Stay Safe Outdoors as States Reopen

While our pups are surely enjoying the extra family time and couch cuddles, they're probably itching to get back out into the world just as much as you are. But while your dog may be missing backyard puppy playdates or long hikes, there are some things to consider before the two of you head back to the dog park.

Follow CDC Recommendations

With some cities and states cautiously reopening parks and other outdoor recreational areas, it’s vital to the health of yourself, your pet and others that you closely follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendations for outdoor activities. These include staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowded recreational areas, bringing along hand sanitizer, wearing cloth face coverings when in public and not allowing pets to interact with other people or animals outside your household. And of course, to stay home if you feel ill or have recently come into contact with anyone who is ill.

Pack Social-Distancing Products

When venturing back out to the parks and trails, bring your own water containers, like the OllyDog OllyBottle Portable Dog Water Bottle, so both you and your dog can avoid sharing germs via public water fountains or bowls. Ditch the extender leashes which can break and lead to injuries of pets, or allow them to get too close to others. Instead, invest in a good 6-foot leash, such as the Max and Neo Dog Gear Double Handle Reflective Dog Leash, and harness to keep your pets safely at your side. And, as always, stock up on poop bags so you can properly clean up after your pup.

Start Slow

I’ve told my clients for years to avoid being a “weekend warrior” with your pets—meaning to avoid suddenly going from short walks around the neighborhood to all-day, intensive hikes. Why? Pets who exercise inconsistently are more likely to sustain injuries when exercising than those who exercise frequently. 

Rather than going all in when the stay-at-home orders are lifted in your city or state, pet parents should begin finding creative ways of exercising their pet now. If you’re still stuck in your home or your apartment, try running up and down the stairs, the hallway or just jogging around the room with your pets a few times each day. If you have access to a yard, play fetch or a game of hide-and-seek to stimulate your dog both physically and mentally. The goal? To get both your hearts pumping and muscles warm.

…And Small

It’s been a while for all of us since we’ve last socialized. While the CDC still recommends keeping your dog away from other pups and people, once this becomes safe again, I recommend starting with small play dates with trusted doggy friends, so they can be gently reminded of their manners. Jumping right back into the dog park may result in overly excited or antisocial behavior. Once they’re sufficiently warmed up and reminded of proper puppy etiquette, then you can go back to larger groups of pups.  

Update Any Expired Vaccinations

Continue giving all of your pets preventive medications, including flea, tick and heartworm meds. Just because you’re still stuck inside or limited to the backyard, doesn’t mean the pests can’t get to our pets. (Haven’t you ever been bitten by mosquito while sitting on your couch? I certainly have!)

Many veterinarians have decreased office hours and cut back on “well” appointments. As a result, many pet parents have had to put off their pets’ wellness exams and vaccine updates. This puts many pets in danger, especially when venturing back into parks. If any of your pet’s medications or vaccines have expired, give your vet a call to see how you can go about remedying that before you hit the trails, in order to ensure your pup is protected against dangerous, preventable diseases.  

You can learn more about visiting vet clinics during COVID-19 here.

While we’re all wishing for the return of afternoons spent sprinting around the dog park, it’s important to ease your pet’s reintegration into the outside world, continue to socially distance and follow CDC guidelines. Stay safe, hug those puppies tight and remember that Chewy is here for you! 

Read more:

Vet Advice for Pet Care During COVID-19 Quarantine

Dr. Katy Nelson DVM Shares Must-Have Items for a Pet Emergency Kit

Healthy at Home: A Guide for Pet Parents

By: Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM
Dr. Katy Nelson is an associate veterinarian at the BelleHaven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, VA, and Chewy’s resident veterinarian. A proud mom to six (two humans, two dogs and two birds), a lover of travel, and a dedicated animal rescue advocate, Dr. Nelson still carves out time for family, friends and numerous charitable organizations in the D.C. area and beyond.


By: Katy Nelson, DVMUpdated: