Dog Parks Used to be a Fun Place, What Happened?
Remember when dog parks used to be a fun place to take your dog? I still remember the day when we got the go ahead to take our dogs everywhere. They finished their puppy vaccinations and had healed perfectly from their spay and neuter surgeries. The littermates were now ready to be introduced to the dog park.
Rodrigo got car sick on the way, I got lost even though the dog park is just down the road from our house, and the dogs were read for an adventure.
It was fall, it was sunny and warm, and there were only a handful of dogs at the park. We walked through the double gates, took the leashes off our puppies, and let them explore.
Rodrigo’s reaction – he immediately got low to the ground (his hunting stance) and watch the dogs; my guess was that he was checking everyone out and deciding who he was going to interact with first. He took to the dog park like a fish to water and had a grand time.
Sydney’s reaction – she was walking in and sniffing everything and failed to notice the welcoming committee (which included two Great Danes) bearing down on her. When she did notice, she turned and ran, crying, to me and at the last minute figured that I wasn’t capable of protecting her and ran around me and straight to my boyfriend. She never did warm up to the dog park.
We were there for an hour or so watching Rodrigo play and keeping Sydney close (she was mostly interested in the senior dogs). When the park became too crowded and our puppies were starting to wind down, we leashed them up and headed home. They slept until dinner time.
We went back the next day.
That was 3 years ago. Today, we don’t go to the dog park. EVER. It’s off our list of places to go for a laundry list of reasons…
Rodrigo was attacked.
The winter following our introduction to the dog park, I took the dogs on a snowy afternoon, thinking we’d have the place mostly to ourselves. They were having a grand time until an older black dog attacked Rodrigo as he walked by and he leaped into my arms. That was his first negative experience with another dog.
The owner apologized and shared that her dog isn’t socialized so she only comes to the dog park when no one is around (because that helps with socialization?).
After this interaction, Rodrigo slowly grew into this “I’m not taking your crap” type of dog, aka, an alpha. This required me to step up, because it’s my role to protect the pack, not his. But with so many other dog owners who aren’t alphas in their family, it became difficult for me to monitor Rodrigo and his interaction with other dogs while keep an eye on our two other dogs (until mid October 2013, we had 3 dogs).
Untrained and unsocialized dogs and humans.
Another thing we noticed over the 2 years following our first experience at the dog park were the number of dog owners who used the dog park as the sole means to socialize their dogs. I can understand the misconception; I used to think that this was the best place to socialize your dogs too. But if you have a puppy, going to a crowded dog park is like tossing a non swimmer into the deep in of the pool and shouting SWIM FOREST, SWIM!!! If you have a senior dog, a crowded dog park is equally overwhelming.
We were encountering fearful dogs, aggressive dogs, and aggressive dog owners. The day a man threatened to kick Sydney and I turned around and threatened to make him choke on my foot (yeah, I kind of have a big mouth), was the day when I realized how dangerous dog owners can be; the dog park can be overwhelming for all of us.
I know you know that your dog just took a crap.
And you have to chuckle at the person who either choose to ignore that their dog has assumed the position 15 feet to their left. Another thing that became common are the people who inform the rest of us that (1) I don’t like to pick up dog poop, (2) that’s too far away, I’ll never find it, or (3) forgot my dog poop bags (this despite the loaded dog poop bag dispenser at the entrance).
Dog poop happens. I’m not a fan of it either, but it’s part of being a dog owner. What I don’t like I stepping in (or our dogs stepping in) someone else’s neglected pile.
Toddlers at the dog park just sounds like a bad idea.
And the final reason why I stopped taking our dogs to the dog park are the families who brought their kids. Initially, I thought it was a great idea (can you tell that I don’t have kids?), because they’re socializing their kids with dogs. But then I saw a kid reach out to grab a stranger’s dog, I saw another kid knocked on the ground as a group of dogs chased each other, and I saw a parent flip out, because of an “aggressive dog” that was just wasn’t used to children.
I was terrified that my dogs would unintentionally hurt someone’s child so I walked away.
I know that my experience with dog parks isn’t shared by everyone and I envy people who go regularly without incident, but it’s no longer a fun place for us to go.
Do you still go to the dog park?