The Top 3 Reasons I Refuse to Utilize a Dog Park
I’ll admit it.
I will confess!
I used to LOVE the dog park.
15 or so years ago it was a great place to go.
At the time, I lived in Colorado and I spent hours walking my dogs at Chatfield State Park and Cherry Creek State Park; both have extensive off leash dog parks where dogs can walk, run and swim.
I look back and wonder just how many miles an outing we would walk.
Times Were Different Then
Times were different. Not only, I suppose, does it date me that I admit this was 15 years or so ago but I might also mention that very few people had or cared about cell phones at that time. I am not sure Facebook and other human distractions even existed.
When you went to the dog park, the intention was to BOTH get some exercise while sharing some canine sociability.
In the past, I have even written articles about enjoying the benefit of the dog park.
I shudder to think of those articles out there now because things have certainly changed.
Dog Parks Are Dangerous
Dog parks have become dangerous places for a couple of different reasons, in my opinion.
#3. People Use Dog Parks as an Excuse Not to Train
People come home from work and are often greeted by a wild an unruly dog, or they get up in the morning and are greeted by this dog; so they pop it in the car and head to the dog park.
They mistakenly think that the exercise and stimulation that a dog gets at a dog park can be a substitute for actual dog training.
And, unfortunately nothing is farther from the truth!
Dog parks encourage rough play and absolutely no impulse control.
Dog run around terrorizing other dogs and the dog owner has absolutely no control.
Gone are the days of taking a well-trained, well behaved dog to the dog park.
As a matter of fact a few year ago I wrote an article about how I utilized the dog park for training only (my dog at the time is not a “dog playful” dog) and people were outraged! How could I expect to train my dog at a place that is meant for fun?
My opinion is how could other people NOT use every situation as a situation to train? After all, I want my dog to come to me when called whether in the dog park or not and to listen to simple commands in case there is ever a problem with another dog.
In a lot of respects, it is comes down to simple safety for me and my dog!
That training also helped to prep my dog for obedience trials and we were later invited to a national competition.
Imagine, if my dog could ignore all the rude things going on at a dog park and instead chose to listen to me; ignoring distractions in and around the obedience ring were absolutely no problem to her at all!
Obedience and impulse control are absolute MUSTS for your dog to have at any dog park!
Without it your dog is at risk and his regular wild behaviors are much more likely to get worse because instead of showing impulse control he is doing whatever he wants whenever he wants to and, in my opinion, this is no way to raise a child or a dog.
#2. People Are Too Distracted
Nowadays if you go to a dog park, you notice the chairs, picnic tables and any other space riddled with people vacantly staring at their phones.
People grab their dog, drive to the nearest dog park and turn that dog loose, rarely ever glancing up to analyze the behaviors of the dogs around them and certainly not assessing their own dog’s behavior. I probably learned more about dog behavior just sitting back and watching dogs at dog parks, years ago.
I suppose children’s parks are riddled with the same kinds of distracted parents; and I, for one, am surprised that there aren’t fewer child abductions because of this fact.
However, children very rarely stab, shank or kill one another at the park (thank goodness)!
But dogs, quite often, fight and/or kill one another at dog parks.
And, I think that we can go back to this segment’s heading “People are too distracted” they don’t even notice the subtleties until things have escalated, gone too far, and the dogs are in the throes of a dog fight.
Now let’s go back to #3 and we realize that very, very few of these dogs have the ability to control themselves, much less their temper, and most of the owners have absolutely no obedience control.
I remember, quite vividly, being at a friend’s house when a dog jumped on and attacked my 80# male Malinois.
My first reaction, of course, was to yell at the top of my lungs (not at my dog being attacked) but to distract the other dog and at the situation as a whole.
My dog’s reaction was priceless, he sprinted over to me, carrying the other dog on his head and back. Instead of fighting back, his immediate reaction was to listen to me and my commands; that comes naturally to a dog that has immaculate obedience skills.
Thankfully the other dog didn’t hurt him. I think he had one scratch and he was a little shaken up.
And, even more thankfully, he didn’t fight back. He is BIG and he has a gigantic head with immense bite pressure. If he had fought back, I am afraid he would have killed the other dog, and even though fighting back is sometimes warranted, we all would have felt terrible if a dog had died that day.
#1. People Take Aggressive Dogs to “Socialize” Them
This is the number one reason I won’t be frequenting a dog park ever again!
I am horrified at the sheer number of people who admit they have dog aggressive dogs, dogs who have literally gotten into fights and caused bloodshed to another dog and still continue to take those dogs back to dog parks.
I have heard stories from people who have incurred thousands of dollars of veterinary bills for injuries to other dogs, but who still think their dog’s deserve to go to the dog park.
They will tout that their dog just “doesn’t like some dogs” but can play or just “plays rough” with other dogs.
The Problem with Dog Aggression
The problem with aggression is that there are very few dogs that are aggressive 90% of the time or higher.
Most dogs have aggression issues sometimes and yet not others (whether it be toward people or other dogs). A small minority of dogs are just blatantly aggressive most of the time.
And, in some respects these dogs are easier to deal with in these situations because people can’t ignore it or rationalize and make excuses for it.
It Doesn’t Matter
It doesn’t seem to matter how many years of experience I have had professionally training dogs; when I recommend that these people, who’s dogs have had fights and aggression issues, STOP taking their dog to the dog park they ultimately most often refuse.
They think that because the majority of the time the dog has not sent another dog to a veterinary hospital to be stitched up (yes, many times these dogs get into smaller scuffles) that their dog is safe and just needs to be “socialized” until he gets over his aggression.
The problem with this thinking is that aggressive instances like dog fights increase the likelihood of another aggressive event; even if the dog was attacked and not the attacker the previous time.
Simply put, taking a dog aggressive dog to a dog park is like playing Russian roulette with 2 dog’s lives.
And two dominant and dog aggressive dogs are likely to fight until one kills the other.
In a lot of respects, it doesn’t matter how good my dog obedience is on my own dog if there is a dangerous dog loose and lurking in the dog park.
I had a friend’s dog that was killed at a dog park after mere seconds of entering, because of a dog like this, and it is just not worth my dogs’ lives.
I will find a different/safer way to socialize them!
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.