Man’s best friend now has a place to play in Claremore.

Since opening shortly before Christmas, the Cat Creek Dog Park has received near-universal praise, and with unseasonably warm days on the horizon, it’s the perfect time to check it out.

But before you and your fluffy buddy drive over to Dupont, Claremore Animal Control Officer Dani Boling and Hooves, Paws and Claws Veterinarian Lesleigh Cash-Warren offered health and safety advice to ensure you and your best friend enjoy a good time.

• Get up-to-date on vaccines, tags and microchipping

Cash-Warren said the most important thing is for all animals at the dog park to be up-to-date on their vaccinations.

The rabies vaccine is required by state law, and comes with a tag that should be displayed on the dog’s collar while they are in the park.

Boling also recommended the DHLPP booster shot, which protects dogs from distemper diseases, which they can contract from other dogs or even raccoons in your own back yard.

“It’s not required by law, but if you take your dog anywhere, they should have it,” Boling said.

• Make sure your pet is happy and healthy

Dogs are, by nature, territorial animals. While some breeds are more likely to be social and happy to meet strangers, most have to be trained from an early age to have positive interactions with strangers.

“If you have an aggressive dog, don’t think that taking them to the dog park to get socialized with other dogs is a good idea,” Cash-Warren said.

For a dog that is aggressive or used to being alone, the over-stimulation of multiple strange dogs at the dog park could cause them to react negatively.

The best way to socialize dogs is to start by taking them for daily walks, where they will see and interact with other dogs along the way. It may also be prudent to introduce them to other dogs in one-on-one play dates to start.

Also, Cash-Warren said, “If you have a sick animal, it would be a good idea not to go to the dog park, because there are so many animals there.”

Keeping a sick dog at home not only prevents the spread of disease, but also keeps your sick dog safe from getting any new disease while their immune system is fighting off their current illness.

• Get a well-fitting leash and collar

The dog park rule is that all owners must have a leash in their hands at all times, though the dog need not be attached to the leash when they are inside the fenced area.

It is recommended that owners use a collar and leash as opposed to just a leash.

“You need to have the collars and leashes secure, so that the collar doesn’t pull over the animals head because it’s too loose,” Cash-Warren said. “I see that a lot. Some owners won’t get the dog collar tight enough, then they get in a confrontation and the dog gets loose.”

“Make sure if your dog is not dog friendly, keep it on a leash,” Boling said.

• Keep an eye out for signs of aggression

The experts agreed it’s important to keep an eye on your pet at all times, and watch out for behavior signs in your dog and the others around it that indicate stress, defensiveness or aggression.

Signs that a dog is acting territorially include raised hair on the neck and back, tails raised straight up over the back, growling, a wide stance with some bouncing, and pushing up against the owner in order to guard protect them.

• Clean up after your pet

It’s a dog park rule, and also a generally good practice. Stepping in dog poop is disgusting; even more so if that poop carries a parasite, virus or bacteria that could harm other animals at the park.

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