The Municipality of Meaford recently announced the re-opening of the popular Beautiful Joe off-leash dog park, located on Aiken Street. This comes as a relief to many of the town’s dog owners, who are desperately searching for much-needed outlets for their pent-up canines to burn off excess energy.
However, experts warn that jumping back into the action too quickly may create an increased risk of spreading COVID-19, so it’s important to follow some modified dog-park etiquette rules during the pandemic.
Although it was previously believed that cats and dogs could not catch COVID-19, that has recently been disproven. Some pets who have tested positive for the virus also displayed symptoms conducive to human infection, including respiratory problems. This means that animal-to-animal transmission is possible if your pooch comes in contact with an infected animal. Information about COVID-19 is changing on a week-to-week basis; at this time it is not believed that COVID-19 is transmissible from pets to humans.
Keep in mind that the virus requires a vehicle to spread, whether that means infecting a host, or simply clinging to a surface. If you touch an animal that has been touched by an infected person, you may contract the virus as well. The same may be true for your pets, and since dogs play using their mouths a great deal, transmission of COVID-19 may be difficult to prevent.
While having fun at the dog park, it is important to practise proper social distancing, among other things. For the safety of both pets and people alike, follow these simple guidelines.
Limit Dog Park Time
At times, dog parks can be a revolving doggy door, with furry friends coming and going. The more time spent at the dog park, the more dogs you and your pooch are likely to come into contact with. This in turn increases the risk of coming into contact with the virus. It is also advisable to avoid going to the park during the most popular times of the day when distancing may be more difficult.
Maintain Social Distancing
Catching up with your dog park friends is a great way to socialize, especially after being isolated for weeks on end. However, this is no time to falter in our diligence. Isolation fatigue is a real thing, and the moment we let our guard down is the moment we put ourselves and others at greater risk of infection. It is perfectly fine to socialize at the dog park providing everyone has a safe space, and maintains a distance of at least six feet from others.
Don’t Pet Other People’s Dogs
The more things we touch, the greater our risk of exposure. Though it is considered to be low risk for transmission, it is believed that COVID-19 may remain present on pet fur for an undetermined period of time.
Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Up
Whether it’s at the dog park, in a store, or out walking in your neighbourhood, limiting your dog’s exposure to others may be challenging. It’s perfectly acceptable to politely ask others to refrain from petting your dog. As dog lovers, it is always tempting to greet other dogs, however we also must be mindful of what we touch.
Avoid Playing with Toys
Frisbees, ball launchers, and other fun toys are part of what makes visiting the dog park so great. However, as other dogs may try to play with your dog’s toys, it may be best to put them away.
As we continue to develop this ‘new normal’, wearing a mask and gloves is becoming a standard. The dog park is a great place to do so, as it is a well-frequented public area. It is never a bad idea to take extra precautions by wearing a mask, gloves, and sanitizing your hands before and after visiting the park.
Don’t Be Afraid To Let Your Dog Play
It is healthy and necessary for dogs to play and interact with other dogs. After all, that’s what the dog park is for. However, be very selective, and limit the number of dogs they come into contact with each visit. If you’re not yet comfortable with your dog coming into contact with others, it may be better to find alternate outlets for exercise and stimulation for the time being.
Overall, the re-opening of the community dog park could mean a great opportunity for Meaford’s canines to blow off some steam. However, this privilege only stays great if everyone follows the basic rules of social distancing. So, get out there, be safe, and have fun!
Brandon Forder, known as The Pet Expert, is vice-president of Canadian Pet Connection, an industry leader in healthy pet lifestyles. Brandon holds multiple certifications in pet nutrition, and has more than twenty-five years’ experience specializing in pet health and behaviour. He has written hundreds of informative pet-related articles for newspapers, magazines, radio, and the popular Ask the Pet Expert Blog. Brandon is highly skilled in pet problem solving, and enjoys teaching others about smart and responsible pet ownership. To learn more, visit www.CanadianPetConnection.ca.