Comedic, Dramatic, Romantic or Tragic; Which Type of Player Would Your Dog Be

But "should" All Dogs? Thanks to the city of Santa Rosa for the Photo

I am an avid dog park lover.

I hate the dog park.

Actually both of these statements are true.

Dog training and the world of dogs is rarely black and white.  Most of it is shades of grey, somewhere in between and it also depends on your individual dog.

Do You Use the Dog Park or Would You if You Could?

Let’s Break It Down…

My Old Man Playing with a Pitbull at the Dog Park!

My Old Man Playing with a Pitbull at the Dog Park!

The Pros

Dog parks can be a great place for a super social dog to play and expend some serious energy.

My 12 year old dog has always been the most social dog to dog, dog that I have ever met.

He has basically never met a dog that he didn’t like or one that he couldn’t play with.  If he meets a dominant dog, he becomes submissive and to a submissive dog he is playful and helps to bring them out of their shell.

For him the dog park was often a godsend.  When he was little he was incredibly naughty and so the dog park gave me an opportunity to take him somewhere to run, run, run until he nearly dropped.

However not all of my dogs are appropriate to take to the dog park.  Although my female dog "puts up with" other dogs and is highly trained, she doesn't like other dogs and has no desire to play with them!

The Cons

The cons usually seriously outweigh the pros.

Dog parks can be a host for diseases and parasites.  Most dog parks unless they are membership oriented do not check for vaccinations, and many of the dogs that go to play are not up to date on their vaccines nor have they probably been checked or treated for parasites.

People often bring dogs that are aggressive, shy or have no social skills to dog parks.  Everyone wants to think that their dog is social and wants to play with other dogs, but this is simply not the case.  Some dogs have social anxiety, and some dogs are very possessive and/or aggressive with other dogs.

And a dominant dog faced with an equally dominant dog is a good set up for a dog fight even if the dogs aren’t blatantly dog aggressive.

Some dogs get use to ruling their doggy world and being the dominant or alpha pack member.  When they meet a dog exactly like them at the dog park the odds are very high that there will be a fight to see which dog comes out on top.

Frequently the owners of these dogs have no idea that their dogs pose a risk to other dogs until it is too late and a fight has broken out.

Serious Fights Can Also Happen at Dog Parks

Once a fight has started it is often very difficult for regular owners and people to break them up and sometimes the owners are wounded in the process.

I think the majority of dogs that go to the dog park have little to no dog training.

And last but certainly not least is that many dog owners let their dogs play with “training collars” (choke chains or prong collars) on and when dogs play with one another they can get caught in these training collars.

Unfortunately I witnessed a dog almost kill another dog once at a dog park.  Dog number one got his tooth stuck in dog number 2s collar and panicked.  When he panicked he pulled the choke chain tight around the other dog’s neck which caused it to panic.  The first dog almost lost his tooth and the second dog nearly lost his life.  Thankfully I was there to separate the dogs and we were able to cut the choke chain off.

So What Do You Do If You and Your Dog Love the Dog Park?

Keep your dog up to date on all of his vaccinations including Bordetella and make sure he is up to date on his de-wormings and fecal tests and currently treated for fleas and ticks.   You can’t ensure that other dogs are well taken care of, but you can make sure you take care of your own dog.

Be sure that your dog wants to socialize with other dogs and has had the opportunity before.  The dog park is not the place to “see” if your dog wants to play.  Try socializing your dog with a friend or family member’s dog first to see if your dog is playful or has any desire to play.

Make sure that your dog has the social skills to be there, social skills must be learned not all dogs have good doggy social skills.  If your dog is very dominant, remember that if he meets his “equal” someday you might have a serious fight on your hands.

If you see a dog playing too rough, don’t be ashamed to leave the park!

Be very careful about breaking up a dog fight.  People can get seriously bitten and even mauled for getting involved in a dog fight.  If you decide to get involved know that you are putting yourself at risk and also know what you are doing so that you can keep your risk to a minimum!

And, if you see a dog with a training collar on first educate his owner and see if he will take the collar off of his dog and if he refuses; leave.  It is not worth risking your dog’s safety or “saving face” to stay at a dog park where your dog is not safe!

Dog parks can be a wonderful tool for exercise and socialization, but they can also be very dangerous.  Every time you step into a dog park you are risking your dog’s and your own safety, be willing to take this risk before you get there!

You can also read Cheryl S. Smith's book, Visiting the Dog Park; Having Fun and Staying Safe.

What do you think?  Do you take your dog to the dog park??

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  1. Sonia Mills says:

    I used to take my very affecionate and playful medium-large size dog to the dog run until he was bit two consequetive times by two different large dogs. He has since been barking and showing aggression at all dogs. I now plan his walks when other dogs are not around. Advice: be extremely careful or better yet avoid dog runs!


  2. Tess Brady says:

    We have a lovely dog park in our neighborhood and is frequented by as many as 20 dogs at one time.

    We all love our own pets but there are times when things get out of hand.

    As you have suggested if a fight starts or aggression is obvious be it your dog or anothers, leaving the park is the best idea. Thanks.

    We cannot expect our dogs to “behave” when they are running in the pack.

    We have to remember to let our dogs be dogs and not children.


  3. Bowie and Falcon says:

    I made a few classic mistakes when I first adopted my first rescue “Bowie”, and taking her to the dog park was one of them. This mistake was actually what prompted me to read about dog behavior and inspired me to study to become a dog trainer. Bowie is a rescue Australian Shepherd/Cattle Dog mix who does enjoy play with other dogs, but not all dogs. Her first day at the dog park she was extremely unsure of the situation and ran in with tail tucked and slinking low to the ground. I was told by other dog owners that’s what all the dogs do on their first day, so I thought it was normal. She started to join in a game of fetch and overall it was a positive experience in the end. The second time I took her to the park she showed the same nervous behavior at the beginning, but then relaxed and played. I started to talk with a woman about her young husky pup, about 6 months old, who was chewing on a stick, and then Bowie came over to say hello and the husky pup, without even a warning growl, lunged at her and they began to fight. I didn’t understand what happened until later I realized the pup was resource guarding the stick. Dog parks are unsafe because people do bring their resource guarding dogs to the park thinking it’s okay. We took a break and I decided a few weeks later to try another park. This time Bowie went for a drink at the community water bowl and was full on attacked again. It was very fortunate that neither incident resulted in injury, EXCEPT, the other dog’s owner put his hands between Bowie and the other dog to stop the fight and was bitten by Bowie, though not breaking the flesh. This is a very common outcome in a dog fight because the dogs’ adrenaline is so high they don’t realize they’re biting a hand rather than the other dog, or the hand can be perceived as another aggressor in such a highly stimulated situation.

    After these events I tried a different dog park, again, to see if there was a place where people were regulating the types of dogs they were bringing to the park, but this time Bowie was the one bullying and I could tell she was on edge. She has not been the same around dogs ever since and I believe it was because of these incidents. It’s a long road to recovery for dogs that are traumatized by such events. I however was able to adopted a border collie puppy companion for her (and for myself, of course, how it should always be), and they play beautifully and have never had a fight. I took my border collie pup “Falcon” to the dog park yesterday for his first time because he is a different temperament dog. He is very neutral and knows exactly how to communicate to more aggressive dogs that he is not a threat and engages in appropriate play. I was hesitant to take him but he was able to neutralize all of the dogs and I believe it truly is because I’m a trainer and have worked with him and my other dogs on social skills before ever taking him to the park. But unfortunately not everyone who takes their dogs to dog parks trains their dogs or socializes them, or even if they do it’s not always in appropriate ways. So in the end it is always a risk and I really liked this article and how it explains this.


    hAZEL Reply:

    My pitbull is just a year old and loves the dog park…but he does bully other dogs for their toys or sticks..this is a big concern to me, when he does this I make him sit with his leash on..If he does it again I make him go home.He is not aggressive any other time and plays well..He also goes to doggy day care and they allow NO toys..I want him to stop taking toys from other dogs..


    Minette Reply:

    If he steals things take him home immediately, you may have to do this several times but make sure you are prompt.

    If he continues to do this after several sessions you may need to consider leaving him at home or just doing daycare.

    If someday he meets a dog that wants to fight when he is bullying them for their toy you could have a dangerous dog fight on your hands. Some dogs don’t like to share or be bullied like that, they are fine until another dog gets up in their face but then the fight is on.


  4. Judi says:

    I have 3 wonderful dogs, a puggle Frankie rescued at 5 months, a husky mix Spooner rescued at 9 weeks, and a border collie Princess rescued at 4 years. I don’t have access to a dog park as I live in a rural area, but I fenced in a large part of my yard and we let our neighbors bring their dogs over to play, after we’re sure they have all shots etc…, and we also let the neighbors kids come to play as long as they are over 5 have parental permission and they play nice, if they are 5 or under an adult must stay to watch.

    I no longer work due to medical issues but I will keep dogs if there humans are going out of town or will be out late, kennels can be so traumatic, and once in a while someone will ask me to teach their puppy/dogs the basics (sit, stay, outdoor potty etc…) which I do for free as it keeps me busy and I find it easier to train a dog if there are other well behaved dogs to lead by example and I always show them how to continue the training at home so it is consistent. My dogs love having their friends come over whether they are canine or human, it is a way for me to stay active in my little town, and it keeps the neighbors friendly towards each other.


  5. shira says:

    My 5-month old Shih Tzu mix took to the dog park like a duck to water. She ADORES other dogs and humans and so far they all seem to reciprocate. Her energy can be exhausting. If I could not take her to the dog park we would both be much worse off. I spent the first 3 months of her life making sure she knew the rules of life with only positive reinforcement. – she was 100% outdoor trained within 4 weeks (by the time she was 12 weeks old) and has never chewed one item of mine – and I’m very messy, leaving shoes and papers and books everywhere. She has earned whole-house privileges (alone!) since she was 16 weeks. I attribute this to her general personality and need to please and to LOTS of exercise, which includes 2+ trips to the dog park a week. It’s her favorite reward in the world. I’m very lucky that there are several well-managed dog parks and a dog beach in my area. All but the beach have a small-dog area (under 25 lbs) which makes me feel safer. I’m not sure I’d like her facing off with a Rottie or German Shepherd with personal problems though so I always keep a close eye.

    I believe the parks helped her social skills tremendously as she is normally “Velcro dog” and can’t be more than 10 feet away from me at any time. It’s a joy to watch her run and play with her “puppy friends” and gives me a few hours of tired-puppy time when we get home or when I go to work.


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