Dog Park Training Continued
Oh my goodness! I’ve been writing this blog going on 5 years and have never had people quite as outraged as they were over my dog park training article!
I guess it kind of proves my point!
I am still not sure why people get so emotional about it, or offended by it; but let’s break it down shall we!
First off I was mostly being tongue and cheek about “clearing a dog park”, my intention is only to train. However this title seemed more fun and intriguing. And, it was just my humor (although misunderstood).
People come, people go… this is all normal.
Do some people get upset because they think dogs shouldn’t be trained in a “play” place… yes.
However it is not up to me to make everyone happy. It is my job to make my dog happy.
But please understand it is not and has never been my intention to make anyone leave. The more people and dogs, the better the training!
I was trying to be silly, not offensive.
I'm actually a very quiet person that would do anything for anyone. I did work full time for a few years so I could run my own nonprofit and take dogs from shelters and train them, free of charge to my disabled child and adult clients.
I'm not the kind of person that runs around trying to be offensive.
Let’s Dispel Some Myths
Whereas I do use all kinds of noise during my regular training at home and when I train with club members, I don’t bring guns, shake cans, can curtains or anything else that makes noise to the dog park.
For help getting your dog used to noises click here.
I also don’t bring treats.
I only bring my dog’s ball, and often a chuck it.
Sometimes I bring a video camera so I can get film of her going through the motions at the dog park but it is hard to film and work with her.
I don’t ever yell at her for breaking a command or paying attention to another dog, sometimes she needs to in order to read the other dog that approaches her.
I never yell at the other dog, or shoo it away.
I never keep them from playing (my dog simply prefers to train).
If someone yells an apology, because it is clear that I am training and their dog is soliciting play. I am always happy and assure them that there is no problem and that is why we are training in this setting.
I wouldn’t take her into the dog park to train if I didn’t think she and her training was ready for that step.
It takes many steps and months of training prior to going into the dog park to train.
This is not where she learns, it is only where she gets to conquer more distractions per square inch.
She is not on leash (I know this scares some people at dog parks and I understand this principle).
For more on off leash training and how to get there click here.
Although we do some “stays” most of what we do is action based, like attention heeling and turns.
I reward her WAY more often than she gets rewarded at home. This is what makes it so fun for her. It is a constant game so she'd actually rather train in a dog park full of dogs than in a boring environment at home.
Whereas I might expect a 5 or 10 minute obedience routine when we are practicing at home; in the dog park she rarely goes a minute or more without being able to play.
Coming when called, heeling, sitting, laying down, making quick corners, and giving me attention is all rewarded speedily and she enjoys every minute of it.
Why Do I Do It?
Why on earth would I want to train my dog at the dog park.
Number one, is because I compete. This more accurately depicts a dog show or dog trial than any other scenario that I can control.
Anyone who has ever been to an AKC show knows how small the spaces are and how one or more dogs often runs up onto and sometimes over other dogs.
There may not be other dogs in the ring (the whole time) but there are other dogs barking, playing, playing with toys, sniffing each other and often sit and down stays are done in groups (and if one dog breaks and runs, it looks a lot like a dog park).
So this is an awesome way to prepare. And, if I am a good trainer, I am more rewarding than anything else that could be going on to my dog.
The Other Reason??
You never know when your dog will be bum rushed by another dog.
Just yesterday I was out making my 5 mile run to the lake (I run in the street on the left hand side facing traffic so I can see the cars coming), when a black Lab rocketed out of a yard on the right hand side of the street and straight toward us in the middle of the street (she was of course leashed).
On the other side of the street was a sharp curve and a barb wire fence.
Thankfully, I could tell by the dog’s body language that he was not aggressive or I would have had to defend my dog.
So I had a choice… go toward him so that we could get back on his property and he would not be hit by an oncoming car or risk his death by crossing the street.
I am 100% confident that because of our dog park training, my dog didn’t blink an eye or care. Nor did she pull me toward him to visit. Instead she took it all in stride like she does at the dog park.
We went onto his property, I allowed him to sniff her and the dog’s owner came out and thanked me and took him back inside.
If she was dog reactive (more on reactive dogs click here) we might have had a dog fight.
Even if she was overly friendly, I might have had trouble getting them both out of the middle of the road.
If my dog is capable of doing real obedience at a dog park, chances are I have great skills for when she is presented with any other challenge.
20 kids yelling and screaming, probably isn’t as exciting as ignoring playing dogs.
Cows, horses, cats, it all becomes more easily conquered when I can control her in a crazy but yet somewhat predictable environment.
So if she is off leash at the beach or on a hiking trial and I need her to lay down ASAP because I see a car, or another dog, or any other threat she is much more likely to do so.
This is why I frequent many dog parks, otherwise she gets use to the same place or the same dogs and I want her to generalize that she doesn't have to get upset about any off leash dog.
So You May Think that a Dog Park is Only For Playing
You may be passionate about dog obedience belonging only at home, until you sit back and understand the ramifications of sprucing up your obedience and using this great tool.
Even if your dog likes to play, there is no reason not to add a few recalls, a little bit of heeling, some attention work.
Just think about it, if your dog can ignore the distractions there, wouldn’t it make sense that it would be easier for him to ignore the kids across the street that bark at him when you pass?
It makes for a better adjusted dog!
AND, your dog isn’t on a leash so you can’t FORCE it or correct him, you have to learn to be more exciting!
So even those of you who have had an emotional response… should be able to see, that in all honesty it really isn’t that bad.
It is actually quite beneficial.
Actually, it is a goal I have for any dog that is not dog aggressive, reactive, or fearful!
So get out there and give it a try!!! It is really fun, and we can help change some minds and how people view dog park training, while strengthening the relationship with our dogs and the other people that visit 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.