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Know Before You Go

Dog parks offer a safe space for your pet to socialize and exercise. An outing to the park is also a great bonding experience for you and your dog. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on his vaccinations and medications to prevent intestinal parasites, fleas, ticks, and heartworms he could pick up from the dog park. Keep puppies younger than four months old at home. If your pet doesn’t socialize well with others, the park isn’t the place for him. Enrolling him in an obedience class could help develop his social skills; along with basic commands, he’ll learn how to interact safely with other dogs.

Watch the Hello  

You can determine a dog’s temperament by observing his body language when greeting others. Direct eye contact with a head-on approach from a dog is a threat. Pets that have wagging tails and wiggly bodies and avoid eye contact have a friendly nature.

Stay Alert

Put down your smartphone, and keep all eyes on your pet. Pay attention to her mood as she interacts with others. “Possessiveness over a toy (such as aggressive tug-of-war), stalking, and wrestling could lead to a fight,” says Kit Darling at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Signs of foul play? Excessive barking, neck biting, pinning dogs down, or snapping. “Remove your dog if he is being bullied, bullying another dog, or becomes overexcited. Calmly approach your dog, attach his leash, and leave,” Darling says.

WATCH: 30 Small Dog Breeds That Make Great Pets

Be a Mediator 

Leave the dog park if you start to notice your pet becoming afraid, stressed, or aggressive and before any of these behaviors escalate. If a fight breaks out, don’t panic. “Distract the dogs by spray them with water, citronella, or pepper spray. Never physically intervene, as you could also become injured,” Darling says.

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