Dog parks have become a great source or recreation-for dogs and their owners-over the past several years, especially for those owners who have a high energy dog and want to wear them out.
But there are some things you should know before heading out to the nearest dog park with your pal.
The Pros of Dog Parks
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers says dog parks are great for dog to dog interaction and dog to people interaction. They allow off-leash exercise and can help with socialization because your dog can meet various types of dogs and see people of all sizes, races, features (beards, etc.)
“Dog parks allow dogs to get adequate physical and mental exercise, thereby lessening destructive and annoying behaviors in general which can benefit society as a whole.”
Some dogs are social butterflies and love being part of the action, meeting new friends, and running free. Small dogs should have their own section of the dog park, so they’re safe from larger breeds.
You can organize “meet ups” at the dog park with your friends and their dogs or organize a meeting of a certain breed of dogs, such as Golden Retrievers. You can also make new human friends and have both of your dogs meet later for walks or future dog park dates.
If you have a dog that’s really over-the-top with energy, consider taking them for a short walk before heading to the dog park so their excitement level will be less, especially upon arrival.
However, dog parks aren’t for every person-or every dog.
The Cons of Dog Parks
According to Whole Dog Journal, “Some dogs are perfectly content with a small circle of intimate canine friends. Other dogs prefer the company of their human companions over any other canines. Bringing a dog that doesn’t enjoy the company of other dogs into an off-leash playground isn’t fair to your dog or any others who may approach (them).”
I once had a dog training client who told me their dog cowered with its tail between its legs and stayed behind its owner while in the dog park. I told him that the dog’s body language was saying it wasn’t comfortable interacting with others and suggested they find another outlet to burn off energy.
It’s perfectly fine to have a neighbor or friend who has a dog and go on walks together. Some dogs prefer the company of a dog that they know, rather than being in a crowd. Some people are introverts, preferring to be by themselves, and some dogs are what we call dog-solo dogs; they prefer being with their owner(s) over other canines.
Even dogs that were very social when they were young become dog-solo dogs later in life. So a dog that enjoyed the dog park when it was an adolescent may not be comfortable interacting with others as it ages.
You know your dog is up-to-date on its shots but what about other dogs at the dog park? Dog parks have the potential to be a breeding ground for parasites and disease.
What if an owner knowingly-or unknowingly-brings their female dog that’s in heat? Intact dogs could create problems and some dogs like to bully others. Advocate for your dog and step in if it’s being a bully or being bullied.
Then there are other dog owners at the park. When I used to go to the dog park from time to time, I would always be on my feet, walking around and watching home my dogs interacted with others and how other dogs interacted with them.
“If most owners are chatting with each other or on cell phones, rather than supervising their dogs’ activities, there are bound to be problems. If owners are oblivious to their dogs’ inappropriate behavior and allow mounting, bullying, and aggression to go uninterrupted, it’s not a healthy place for you and your dog to hang out”, states The Whole Dog Journal.
Do you know how to break up a dog fight? There’s a potential for injury and a lawsuit could result from injury to a dog or human.
If you’re going to the dog park to socialize your dog, there are more appropriate ways to do so.
I also find that dogs that socialize at dog parks or doggy day cares regularly think they should meet every dog they see, especially when they’re on a walk. But their owner doesn’t want them to meet then and that causes confusion in the dog which results in lunging, barking, etc.
Only you can decide if going to a dog park is right for you. Visit a dog park at various times of the day and week to see what the interaction is like between the humans and dogs to determine if it would be a good fit for your dog.