I’m going to do it….Yup…and here it goes…….. I’m going to tell the world that I think their favorite place to bring their dog, is the single worst place to bring their dog. Obviously winning fans through telling people what they want to hear is not who I am. Telling you all what you need to hear is what I do, because it’s really all about saving dogs, not saving peoples feelings.
Dogparks, where do I even begin?
MY DOG NEEDS SOCIALIZATION
You’re absolutely correct. Your dog needs healthy productive socialization. Which is why taking your dog to the dogpark is one of the worst things you can do. Socialization is only productive if its good socialization, and if you want to get technical about it, the most powerful socializing takes place when puppies are less than 12 weeks old. If you want your dog to learn how to be a polite and healthy member of the canine community then bringing him/her to a place full of unbalanced and impolite peers so he can learn all the wrong ways to communicate is at best, a bad idea.
Once you close the entry gate to the park behind you and make that first step inside, you have little to no control over what happens next. Your dog is instantly greeted by whatever dogs are in there, in whatever manner they see fit.
Would you take your child to a playground where you have no control over who they play with and what happens to them? Now give all the kids in the playground sharp weapons. Would you be glued to your cell phone while they navigated that type of environment on their own? Would you even be there given the circumstances I described?
These are all relevant questions as this is what happens at a dogpark, only your dog can’t tell you verbally what is going on. Many dogs develop behavioral issues because of experiences at they have had with random unbalanced dogs at a dogpark.
YOUR JOB IS TO PROTECT AND LEAD
Part of why there are so many dogs with behavioral issues out there is because people forget what their job and role is as a dog owner. It is very similar to parenting in many ways. You must control the learning and the experiences of your dog to ensure proper and healthy development.
You can’t do that effectively at a dogpark, YOU JUST CANT!
Anybody who has been to one knows how all it takes is for one jerky owner to show up with their unbalanced dog, and the entire dynamic of the park changes. Then when, not if, there is an issue, not only do you have to deal with the dogs, but then you have to deal with a human who ultimately is the source of the issue.
SO, YOUR DOG NEEDS SOCIALIZATION
This whole concept of socialization is greatly misunderstood among the majority of dog owners. I myself with over 20 years involved with dogs am still learning about what is and is NOT socialization and what role it plays in a dog being happy and healthy.
Most of the behaviors that people are quick to label as being caused by a “lack” of socialization are actually something much different.
Dysfunctional relationships between owner and dog very frequently result in the dog exhibiting aggressive behavior with other dogs. This is something that needs to be addressed with a competent trainer who has a working knowledge of dog psychology and behavior. What do people think though? Unfortunately many think that simply taking the dog to a place where it can romp and play with other dogs will be “good for them”.
This is false.
Your dog does need socialization. All dogs need it. They need proper and functional socialization with other dogs, animals, and humans long before they reach 12 weeks of age.
After 8 weeks you begin to have a situation subject to the law of diminishing returns. Meaning, it takes a whole lot more effort for a whole lot less potential for positive impact the older the dog gets. The reason for this has to do with the development of the dog’s brain during the very sensitive and formative weeks prior to ever seeing a prospective new owner. For dogs the responses of fight or flight, fear, anxiety and stress all become stronger as the dog gets older. This makes it increasingly difficult to ensure that the dog is getting the message you want it to get from interacting with another dog and not taking away an entirely different lesson from the interaction.
WHAT YOU CAN DO INSTEAD
You are the center of your dog’s world. You are the source off all joy, love, and happiness for them. It would be infinitely more beneficial for you to spend the time that they would be running around a dog park with them one on one instead. The bond you have with your dog is one that must be invested in throughout your relationship. What better way to build and develop that bond than going to an empty park or yard and playing some mentally and physically stimulating games!
Remember to obey leash laws if not on your own property and bring a 20 or 50ft line that you can attach to their collar. Bring a ball or their favorite toy and start working on focus games to build and maintain their attention. Teaching them to fetch is a great activity that provides exercise as well builds the concept that you are in control of all things fun and exciting. If you are having issues getting them to bring the ball back, take a look HERE for some tips to fix that.
Remember, you are much better off spending quality time socializing your dog with none other than, YOURSELF! Bonding is way more important to having a happy healthy dog and you can strengthen that bond by engaging in a variety of mentally and physically stimulating activities with your pup or adult dog. Click HERE for some ideas, or come up with your own using your imagination.
A final pill of reality for you. If your dog will not listen 100% of the time, in ANY environment, with ANY distraction around, then the time you are allowing your dog to risk having an unpleasant experience in a dog park should ABSOLUTELY be spent working on your training and communication instead.
Invest in your dog by investing in your relationship and communication. They invest in you, so it’s only fair you reciprocate. Taking them to a dog park is not what they need, it’s what you mistakenly think they need. Now that you have read this, you have been educated on the right thing to do. If you continue to risk your dogs behavioral health, while still not having the best possible relationship possible with your dog, then that’s on you and your karma.
Willful ignorance isn’t pretty no matter how hard you try to rationalize it.
****update 923pm 1/13/16 –all comments posted in the last couple days were lost when I switched over servers….i tried to get them back, but I failed……however the upgrades to the sight will be making the experience better for everybody in the long run*****