It seems like every month we hear about an injury that occurred with a dog in an off-leash play environment. Sometimes these injuries are minor, but more frequently we hear about severe injuries and even fatalities that occur during off-leash play. YIKES! That is definitely not the plan when we take our furry friends to play with other dogs!
One of the main safety factors for any off-leash play environment should be the size of the dogs interacting. Dogs of vastly different sizes should be separated during play.
We know this policy is controversial. Many owners will disagree saying their large dogs often plays well with small dogs, or that some small dogs are feisty and need a larger dog for play, or that this type of separation policy is a hardship for owners with different sized dogs in the same household. There is truth in these statements. But this does not negate the fact that there is a risk when you put large and small dogs together at the dog park.
Here are three dangers of having dogs of vastly different sizes play together in an off-leash environment.
- Small dogs can get injured quickly by a group of large dogs playing. – Large dogs cannot always move out of the way of small dogs who might be running in the play area. And not every tiny dog is aware enough to move out of the way of two large dogs rolling on the ground wrestling. Dogs of different sizes are likely to get in each other’s space more easily when they run to the gate to see a dog entering or leaving the playgroup. While it’s nice to believe that every large dog will handicap his behavior to accommodate the small dog, it just doesn’t always happen. The small dog is at risk of injury and the larger the dogs he is with, the greater that potential.
- Small dogs can look like prey. It’s a sad reality but one we have to face. Dogs that like to chase things may mistakenly chase a smaller dog just because, from a distance, the small dog looks like something that should be chased. This is particularly true in a play area where dogs get riled up and run around quite a bit. Some dogs will chase one another during routine play, others will chase a ball, other dogs just like the fun of running. But when a small dog begins these fast moving activities, it’s possible to trigger a large dog into a predatory chase. If this happens, it’s possible for a bite to occur when the large dog catches up with the smaller dog. The small dog is at risk of injury.
- n the event that there is a bite or fight incident, a large dog can do significant damage to a small dog. It’s not that dogs of the same size can’t hurt one another, but we rarely get calls that a 70 pound dog killed another 70 pound dog. We hear about the 70 pound dog who killed a 10 pound dog. Dogs of all sizes can fight and bite. But when the dogs are two different sizes, the large dog has an advantage in a fight or bite. The small dog is at a much higher risk of injury.
The best option when you take your dog to a dog park is to play it safe and keep your dog in the appropriate area based on size.