Are Dog Parks Worth It?
Many people take their dogs to dog parks nowadays. While the parks offer a chance for dogs to run and play and expend some energy in large, contained areas, they can be dangerous places. I’ve been on the rehabilitation end of some pretty bad dog park experiences, where a dog ended up being chased, bullied, attacked, injured, and went from being a happy-go-lucky chap to being nervous, fearful, aggressive, self preserving. It’s a sad turn of events, and it doesn’t have to happen.
Good Manners Gone
Dogs run with reckless abandon at dog parks, and there’s no denying that many of them have a blast. That’s the point of the visit, right? They race around at top speed, they jump on each other, they rough and tumble, and they get a lot of good sniffing done to be sure. But, they also pull with the strength of a Clydesdale to get into the park, they jump on their owners and other people, and they often they ignore their owners when told to get off or to come. While at the dog park, all good behavior and obedience training is either not practiced, not reinforced or is forgotten, and sometimes it’s hard to convince your dog to have good manners again when you want to take a loose-leash walk down the street, or go to and from the pet store or the vet’s office without him pulling, or when you want your dog to come rather than run across the street to visit the neighbor’s Cockapoo.
Safety Tips for Dog Park Attendees
Anyone who frequents dog parks should think safety first. To help ensure a successful outcome for every visit, here are some things to consider:
• Go when there’s less of a crowd; fewer dogs at any given time decreases the chance of bad encounters.
• Make your visits brief; less time means less of a chance of dogs getting into it with each other.
• Before you enter the park, survey the scene to see that all is well. Specifically look for any overly assertive dogs who might be picking on more docile dogs. Don’t enter the park when assertive or pushy dogs are there.
• Observe the other owners. Are they tuned into their dogs or are they oblivious to the dogs’ interactions? Inattentive owners are part of the problem so watch for people who are willing to interrupt or remove dogs who are behaving badly.
• Before entering the dog park, practice your obedience training first. Have your dog sit beside you and pay attention to you, do a quick sit or down stay, then give him permission to go play.
• Call your dog back to you often and reward a solid response to your command to come; make sure your dog doesn’t forget that you’re there and you are still to be obeyed.
• Don’t allow your dog to be pursued or bullied.
Another Dog Socializing Option
Another thing to consider that really is a better and safer alternative to a going to a dog park is to set up a your own play group. Gather some friends and relatives who own well-behaved, non-aggressive, and maybe even like-sized dogs and take turns meeting in the home of the people whose yards are securely fenced. This kind of arrangement will provide your dog with a social outlet and a way to burn off some energy with dogs who get along well together, and it will give you a chance to hang out with family and friends!