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Dog Parks - Good or Bad?

Dog parks were started with the best intentions. They are a great place to go for a walk with your dog off-leash. Your dog can run and exercise. You can greet other like-minded people who are there with their dogs. It is fun to socialize with those people. It is enjoyable to watch your dog run and play with other dogs. Your dog can be very happy and tired by the end and content to sleep back at home. This can mean you also have less behavioural problems at home due to excessive energy in your dog.

There are some seemingly downsides to Dog Parks.

Different Views from People

The biggest one being that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to training dogs or what is acceptable behaviour.

We have already discussed that people tend to pick one side and argue with the other. The chances of coming across someone you do not agree with on acceptable behaviour is becoming more and more likely as more people acquire dogs.

Some people would view a dog that is scaring and picking on another dog as just being hyper and wanting to say “hi”.

If everyone were on the same page then you would at least know what to consistently expect when you go to the dog park.


Different Dog Types

Some dogs really want to be boss. They don’t like the idea of sharing their possessions including their human. When you first put dogs together they want to figure out where they are in correlation to another dog.

If it were just a park full of Omegas you would have no issues. It’s when you get High Level Betas or Alphas together you can have problems. They can get to sparring pretty rough and even fighting with other dogs. Anyone that frequents the dog park often enough is likely to witness a dog fight. It can start as what many refer to as “playing” and then seems to get a bit rougher and then full on fight. Observers may wonder what just happened. The most likely answer is that both wanted to be higher ranking than the other so they start to spar (most people call play) and neither is backing down so the sparring escalates. If still neither back down then you can have a full on fight until one wins or they are separated.


Socialization Debate

If you have read the article on Socialziation you will remember that many people believe you have to let a dog sniff or “play” with another dog to socialize properly. The biggest problem we have encountered with that is if a person has a high level Beta or Alpha. They may have even brought these dogs to be socialized at a park very early on. As these dogs mature they can have a stronger desire to be alpha which can in turn cause fights. Once a fight does happen these people will often think that they socialized their dog enough but now may doubt it and think they need to socialize more. In turn they may bring their dog to the park more often or have them greet more dogs to try and “socialize” them. It is often not until the dog has had 2 or 3 altercations before these people think they need professional help and seek the help of a trainer.

On a side note some people may find that bringing their dog to the park or around other dogs actually helped them. This can be because the dog was not around any dogs at all during their early socialization period. It can also be a result of one bad occurrence with another dog. By bringing them around other nice dogs this can help that dog think that not all other dogs are bad or out to hurt them. If the dog is naturally high beta or alpha then it can be quite dangerous to bring them around other dogs if they are not properly managed.

Over the years we have found an increase in the amount of cases where bad aggression problems were caused by going to an off-leash park. These cases are most commonly a result of being attacked by another dog that shouldn’t have been trusted at that time around other dogs.

Ask an Emergency Vet clinic where the majority of their bad injury cases come from and they will say the dog park.


How to Exercise Your Dog

If you go to a dog park during a quiet period or one that is big enough where you can see dogs from a ways off and have exits to avoid particular dogs or a quiet neighbourhood park where you know and trust the other dogs then that is a safer option.

You can also use yours or a friend’s backyard with dogs you trust. You also want to be careful during quiet times or late at night at the off-leash park as a lot of people who do have an aggressive dog still want to exercise their dog and they often frequent the park at that time as well to exercise their dog.


Bonding Issue With Your Dog

The last issue with letting your dog run at a dog park is building a bond with your dog. Some people have a hard time getting that bond with their dog to the point where their dog really wants to listen to them under all distractions.

If you let these dogs run and spar with other dogs they can really enjoy doing it. Consequently your dog can see other dogs as more fun and exciting. Then if you are out and your dog spots another dog they may want to rush over to see that dog. In the case of crossing a busy street that can lead to bad incidences.

So think about what you are trying to achieve for training with your dog. Letting your dog run and spar with other dogs will for many dogs cause issues with training. It can be a lot harder to get your dog to focus on you and see you as being really fun and exciting.


Summary

Many people love to watch their dog run and play with another dog. Watching two dogs that don’t know each other drop into a play bow and then run and play like they are the best friends in the world is one of the most enjoyable things to see.

Knowing the pros and cons of the dog park and understanding what you are trying to achieve will help you make the right decision. Being able to recognize other dogs that may be trouble makers and have the potential for starting fights will also help to keep your dog safe.