Comedic, Dramatic, Romantic or Tragic; Which Type of Player Would Your Dog Be
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…
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 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.
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??
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.