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*****
You know how I feel about the dog park. OMG this is the most amazing post on the planet!!! I’m sharing it with the world!!!
I stopped going to the dog park and within weeks so improved behavior with Rodrigo, Sydney became less shy around other dogs, and Blue is happy playing with our pack and politely introduces himself (all the dogs do) to other dogs in a controlled setting.
Thank you for posting this!
Kimberly!!! Thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting!!
This particular subject is very important to me as many of the people I have worked with have had dogs with issues directly resulting from dog park “socialization”.
There are so many ways around relying on letting your dog loose among a group of poorly behaved strangers for socialization. I just think its about awareness. People simply don’t know, which is why I talk about it any chance I get.
If I can spare a dog from being bullied then I can sleep a little better! But in order to help the dogs, I have to help their humans first..lol
Thanks again for stopping by! Hope it happens often!!
I say YES to dog parks. If you don’t like them DONT TAKE YOUR DOG THERE
I think it depends on the park. I belonged to and worked at a private dog park where all dogs were temperament tested prior to being accepted as a member. If a dog misbehaved, bullied or started any altercations they were warned and if it continued they were banned until they got training or behavioral help for their dog. We had very few problems, but the owners walked with their dogs (off leash), often with a pack of owners & their dogs so they could supervise
You were not allowed to just let them go and ignore them. The fee was $350 per year so maybe it was just committed owners. Of course, rarely, there were issues, but I have had more issues with idiots we met walking neighborhoods where they walk their dogs off leash with no control over them.
Let me guess, you’re a millennial. You had one experience in one location and now you think you know everything. You’ve made it your mission to educate the whole world about how smart you are. No thank you! Maybe as a writer, you could write about your personal experience rather than paint the entire world with one brushstroke
We run a training club & one of the things we encourage students NOT TO DO is support dog parks. My question to you is: DO YOU LIKE EVERYONE YOU MEET? WELL, GOOD FOR YOU IF THAT IS THE CASE, for the most part we are not always ‘in like’ with everyone we meet. We tell students to go to pet stores, meet up with others in the aisles, meet, greet and ask questions about their dog, etc., etc. Also, how about attending puppy or beginners classes, where you meet other people who have the same best interests in teaching their dogs leadership & being around other dogs & an opportunity to be in a strange venue. Amazing how many people set up ‘play dates’ with their dogs to come & run in ‘my yard, your yard’ or take a hike in the woods or around a large park? Our facility is extremely busy in the winter months with people that come & rent mat time for 1/2 hour, $5.00, they get to run their dogs and play retrieves, put up some jumps, tunnels and have some fun with their furry kids. Over the years I have heard a cazillion horror stories about dogs getting chewed up by the person that said: Oh my dog is friendly? REALLY???? Also, have you ever had a wiff of a dog park in the early spring when Spring Thaw comes? All the urine & tonnes of feces that have not been cleaned up, YOUR DOG WALKS in all of that. Disease riddled in some cases with dogs having parvo, kennel cough, or whatever. As a responsible dog owner, it’s your duty to PROTECT YOUR DOG as you would your child, be aware of where & what you’re exposing your dog too. Be safe, not sorry. There are many other options out there other than dog parks. JMHO!
thanks Carlooch!! I’m definitely going to revisit the dog park issue with a focus on the biohazard these places are!
Thanks for stopping by and sharing how you all address healthy socialization!
I totally agree,
I have Never taken my Amstaf to a dog park. And will never ever do,but I have taken our Chihuahua there cause she has no one at home to play with and it was a very good time for her. All the little dogs were very social and friendly. Abby had a Great time.
My stafs are very social but if pushed or confronted that,is another story. I would never but them in a situation like that
I actually got bullied out of our local dog park! People there have NO control over their dogs, when my 8 month old husky puppy was being ganged up and on by two massive dogs, the owner just sat there and said ‘oh don’t do that’. Since then I don’t take her, there have been other issues as well, it’s so frustrating. I couldn’t agree with this post more!
I also had horrible experiences with being bullied at the park and online. It was quite traumatic and took a long time to recover.
I do agree about dog parks but showing just boxers on the site is wrong they do play rough with there own breed but other breed of dog they know not to i have never seen a vivous boxer before you just gave them a bad name
I think we are all curious as to what dog you would prefer I give a bad name to? lol….seeing as how based on your almost unintelligible logic, merely showing a picture of a dog in this post leaves the breed doomed to be the devils of the dogpark…lol…
I hope you’re not a boxer owner….your comment will do far more harm to the breed than the picture above 😉
Thanks for the giggles!
I agree with skipping the dog park. In Seattle they are taken over 24/7 by “dog handlers, dog walking, dog babysitting professionals”. You see the vans disgorging 6-16 dogs with ONE human. This is times 4 to 20 humans with a dog business. Private citizens are really taking big chances with this as the “handlers” do not have the same authority over the dogs as an owner may command. The dogs are allowed to bully and pack up on smaller dogs, it’s just so scary for many dogs and they respond with fear. If you so much as ask someone to pull off a dog, you are treated as the odd one. It seems patently unfair to allow this but hey, Seattle. I thought it would be a great place to teach my dogs to socialize, what a total mistake and fail. There are owners who are right there with their dogs too, but there are far more loose dogs without any supervision which makes it very unsafe for dogs and people. As our city experiences explosive growth, the problems are compounded by the tens. Everyone wants their dogs to be “taken care of” and few think about what’s really going on while they are working.
Thanks for sharing Teresa. That stinks for Seattle. You bring up another excellent issue though, people requiring the assistance of others to take care of their dogs. Im taking my time with the article that will surely enrage many in the dog community when I explore dog walking and pet sitting.
Thanks again Teresa
What a well times article! I have been taking my dogs to the dog park for quite some time, and have not run into issues. We always walk with the same people and go at the same time of day so we know all of the dogs. However, recently, things have changed. All of a sudden there seem to be a lot of unruly dogs, whose owners take no responsibility for their dogs’ behaviors, and a visit to the dog park has become an effort, rather than a pleasure as I find myself constantly on guard for these dogs and owners. Just this week, I have come to the conclusion that the dog park is no longer a place that I want to take my dogs. Between owners who flip out when their dog’s toy is played with by another dog, use the dog park as a place to run laps, or do not control their aggressive dogs and people who bring their toddlers to see the “nice doggies.” I am calling it a day on the dog park! It’s not working for me, or my dogs any more.
Be sure to get the contact information of those who you and your dogs enjoy socializing with. I’m sure they will be equally eager to find a more positive environment to get out and romp around in.
You all might be able to set something up so you can still get out with your packs and enjoy the time.
Thanks for stopping by and good luck!!
Brava for posting this article. I have been trying for years to convince people to avoid the dangers regarding dog parks. I am on local television & radio programs in Charlotte, N.C. Whenever I mention the negative aspects of dog parks some members of the listening audience really come down hard on me. Don’t care..but these same people will sue some one once their dog has been mauled or seriously injured.
Thanks Roger…..don’t give up! It’s awesome that you have that kind of potential reach. Let them come down on you all they want. For every batch of people who don’t listen there will be somebody out there who will hear your message and make a positive change for their dog!
Glad to see you here!
I’ve had good & bad experience with dog parks. It’s not the dog park that is bad it’s the owner’s. I find a lot of times that dog owner’s that do go, go there to socialize & don’t see what there dog is doing, may it be pooping, humping or aggressiveness….they just talk & have their dogs run around. Had an experience that another dog kept humping my dog & she hated it. She ended jumping up on a rock to get away. When I said something to the owner he just laughed. So I left but I did come back the next day & she had a great time…so because you have one bad experience it doesn’t mean it’ll happen again. You have good dogs in all breeds, so showing one isn’t necessary the case. You could have a small dog that isn’t behaved…its the owner. In that case, go to another dog park! I have a Viszla & she doesn’t care about other dogs. She loves people & her BALL. She ignores other dogs (don’t know if that is a good thing or not) I throw the ball & other dogs follow, it ends up a communal ball. Sometimes if another dog gets the ball they go to their owner who tries to retrieve the ball. I’ve had one instance where the dog didn’t want to give the ball up…oh well. Its an alternative to use the dog park or not!
Thank you for this wonderful article. I have a boxer/boston/pit mix that loved to run run run when he was a puppy. I used to take him to the local ‘park” to get out his energy. He loved it, all he would do is find a dog that would run with him. One day someone was commenting on his markings and asked me what breeds he was, with that he ran into a women who was just standing there not paying attention and almost knocked her over. The dog warden was called and I was asked to leave with my overly aggressive dog. I’ve never been back. I have friends that have dogs and they come to my house for play dates. Trust me, many times we have been run into by one of them. I do not recommend dog parks at all and am very happy to share your article. Thanks again
I’m so glad you enjoyed it Lisa. The negative experiences are out there, people just don’t hear about it often. It’s great that you have some good people and great dogs to get together with for some healthy and fun socialization.
Thanks for your comment and hope to see you around more!
I had a similar experience with one of my dogs. He was a pit/lab mix, passed his CGC and Pet Partners tests. He was social. He was well behaved. He lived with two other dogs and liked other dogs. A sweet looking little dog at the dog park was taunting him (and a huge rottie who was there as well). Well the dogs got into it. Taunting dog’s owner got in the middle and was bitten. Could have been her dog, could have been mine – no way to tell. She blamed me. The injury was not serious but still was a horrible experience. I had the “pit” mix dog…love the breed to much to bring any bad publicity to them. Never have been in a dog park since. Hate them for all the reasons others have stated.
AMEN. WELL SAID
I used to take my dogs to the dog park, but noticed a change in behavior in one of my dogs in particular. She had started to show too much interest in prey behavior, running with an intensity in her eyes as if she was hunting other dogs. That’s all it took, I put the leashes back on and left. If she had decided to go full hunt mode she would have certainly gotten into an altercation and I know it would have been a blood bath as she is a full blood staffie. Although the other dogs seemed fine, it wouldn’t take much to push her and as a responsible dog owner I would never put my dog , another dog or people in such a dangerous scenerio. Now I take both of my dogs to an open field and wooded area in a very rural part and they run their hearts out without a worry in the world. She still attends a particular dog park during the warmer months, but it’s usually at 10am when no one is there and by herself only. If another dog arrives we quickly leave and leave it to be enjoyed by the other dog.
I think its awesome that you know your dogs so well and are able to read their behavior and react accordingly!! It is a credit to your bond and the time you invest in your 4 legged kiddo!! Thanks for stopping by!
That’s why I own talk to the paws dogs interview ….follow rules or let go
KUDOS to you for being so responsible! That sort of aroused, dog-saturated environment can definitely be the wrong sort of stimulation for some dogs/breeds. GREAT JOB recognizing the potential and taking control of the situation for you and your dog! What a great dog mom!
I totally agree with what you said about dog parks. However, there is some exceptions.
I take my 3 basenji’s to a regional park (not just for dogs, but people to walk). NO gate entrance, all open. The bay is on one side with a fence on the far opposite side to protect a marsh area.
Majority of dogs are decent. Its only a very few that the owners were at fault (for whatever the reason might have been), that started a fight between 2 dogs. I have been going for over 10 years, and can count on one hand how many fights I have encountered. Even 1 is one too many, but unfortunate, due to the dog not being spayed or neutered.
We have a monthly meet up, and have anywhere from 8 to 22 dogs at any given time……there has never, ever been any fights between dogs at our meet-up.
Where are you located? People in your area need to know about what you guys have going on as that is the way dog parks are SUPPOSED to be managed! I would love to share on my Facebook page so that maybe new dog owners and other responsible ones can have a safe and balanced place for their dogs to interact.
What you described is actually the way some parks were created and operated 15-20 years ago. They were large open spaces and trail networks where people could enjoy their dogs in the most natural and playful of environments.
thanks for stopping by!!
Sounds like Pt. Isabel in Richmond, CA. Best “dog park” in the Bay Area and probably one of the best in the country.
How do I stop incessant barking at us by our dogs when we move around the house…or talk?? These are three small Maltese mix.. 12 and 9 yes old. I’m at my wits end. They are sweet loving obedient little girls except for the barking at us in the house!!
We got a First Alert No Bark Machine. Worked like a charm. She now uses her inside voice when inside and when we say “No Bark” she complies…
hmmmmmmmm, well it’s always tough to diagnose issues via the internet BUT…..the first thing that pops into my mind is ENERGY…barking such as you describe is in it’s root and outlet of energy, in this case in the form of barking, which usually comes from anxiety or excitement…..my first question for you would be how much exercise do they get and how often and for how long are they being walked every day?
My daughters dog is a very scared dog who is frightened of everything my daughter has tried to socialise her with people but she just gets scared and starts shaking have you please got any ideas how she can help her dog to stop been scared anymore. Xx
What’s also important isn’t merely “socializing” but properly socializing. Often times people in their efforts to remove the fear and insecurity unknowingly ingrain it deeper…..
I can’t give a specific course of action without actually seeing whats going on and meeting the dog however there are some general do’s and don’ts that can help. Part of them are in an article im almost finished writing so be sure to stop back and follow in Facebook to catch it when its released…..thanks for stopping by!
Can’t you give a couple of possible things to help a terrified dog. Mine won’t even go for a walk anymore. She is afraid of everything. I have to keep a bark collar on her when I’m not home, otherwise we’ll be evicted. It breaks my heart to see her shaking. I know you want to sell your book but I couldn’t buy it. No money. Thanks
I’m the cat lady (rescue) but I pulled a dachshund/chi mix from a shelter a few years ago because I had a little space at home and he was acting so aggressive (barking etc) in the kennel, he would have ended up being overlooked and them euthanized.
Once we took him out, he was absolutely petrified.
A couple days a week, I would take treats to friends and neighbors, new ones every time and started with only one each day. Then I would take him for a short walk, those people would approach him and he would get a treat.
Anytime someone would come over, treats.
Anytime we would go to the petstore, I would ask strangers to give him treats.
Eventually we weaned off the treats to just pets and then he needed nothing, decided that strangers were just WONDERFUL!
I’m not sure if it was right or if I just got lucky.
*he wasn’t actually aggressive, I would have never done that. He got loud and then avoided. Once the food was seen, he immediately stopped.
It’s okay for some, but my Golden looks, then stares back at me (saying, “no way”). We then sit, watch from the car then leave. We are so bonded and full-time bonded, committed. Others may need, want, and work within that system, but my girl says ” no thanks”, and I listen.
Thank you for listening to your dog!! The fact that you can understand what she is telling you is awesome and I wish more people took the time to Speak dog!!
Thanks for sharing!!!
I do take my pit to a 2 parks, what you say is so right on… You really do need to know who and what your are socializing your pups to… My pup hates confrontation, he is well balanced.. we know the people and the times they go.. usually you’ll see different people stroll through there and that is why you must stay on top of watching your pup.. The park is not a social gathering for chit chat, but it can be a nice time when you know who’s who…. and their dogs… Mine loves it but then there are times when HE tells me it time to go, his body language and he actually will go to the gate… this tells me “ma,I’m ready”.. Also if there is an extreme amount of dogs, its best to walk around the park til it filters out.. Been taking him for 4 yrs now, never had any issues with him, but just last week, a pretty shephard mix, his owner is trying to socialize her, he’ll sit outside til he feels its a good match for his dog, well a women said “oh come on bring her in it will be fine, he did, 1 dog thats all it took and she latched on its back.. myself and another women grapped the hind legs as other were grapping at the dogs trying to free them… The littler dog left, not bleeding but was a tooth mark punctured on its back.. The shephard stayed.. not a scene after… Not all dogs get along, not all dogs are balanced, as for mine lol he was at the other end of the park as he minds his own and hates confrontation… Thanks for the post… Our dogs safety should be first…My opinion anyway,
I wish more people shared your opinion!!!! This is a far too common story for our contemporary dog parks…..what used to be a rare occurrence is a daily drama….thanks for sharing and Im sorry about the delay getting all the comments approved, the spammers have been active lately! I do hope you stick around as new owners could benefit from your experience
what moderation is need for a post??? I don’t get it and why my post isn’t posted… guess I won’t like, post or share here… good luck ….
Sorry for your frustration Deborah but if I had to put filters up on the blog because of spam. I just deleted over 100 comments that were all various advertisements for fake designer purses from China!! Just a step I take to make sure the blog stays clean and clear from junk and focused on your comments and questions. I hope you come by again sometime!
we asked our puppy owners not to go to dog parks for many of the reasons you specified in addition to the potential to pick up GI bugs more easily. What we do recommend for socialization is organized dog walks, when dogs have good recall including off leash time, in safe open spaces like state parks, wildlife management areas, and large fenced in yard.
That’s awesome that your puppies leave with such good advice for their owners! I didn’t even begin to touch on the biological nightmare most urban parks are! I need to have an empty stomach before tackling that subject! Thanks for sharing!
I’ve never taken my sweet boxer to a dog park after seeing it on the evening news! Since then my sweet natured boxer passed away. That was a few years ago. Now we are ready to look for another Boxer. When that happens I will take our boxer, when he’s ready to a dog park and as you prescribe and I’ll bet we will have a great out come! Thank you!!!
Even though there are tons of disasters waiting to happen there, take advantage of the opportunity to meet some new dog friends and set up play dates! Nothing wrong with hanging out on the “safe” side of the fence lol
yes dog parks can be problematic, but they are by far not usually a war zone as described here. I pick my dog parks wisely i monitor closely what is going on in the park etc just as every dog owner should do anywhere. I think you guys got to cool it down a little bit, it is not a dog fighting pit and a well maintained park is very valuable in any given city living situation.
Your approach to monitoring the parks and being 100% aware is exactly what I hope people do. A major problem however is that because when many people walk up to a park is isnt as you describe a “dog fighting pit” (your words not mine), they think everything is ok…..I have gone to parks with clients and asked them to point out the bad behavior they observe….guess what, more than 75% of them miss most of the bad behavior because they don’t even recognize it!! Unfortunately many people aren’t too savvy on dog language…which is a major root of the problem…there are far better ways to approach socializing one’s dog….plus, as i mentioned in the article, there ARE good dogs and good dog owners, just go ahead of time and meet them…..
Thank you for sharing and especially the advise that people should at least be aware of what is going on and they should monitor the environments they put their dogs in!
I agree with you about the importance of knowing the environment, but would offer another analogy. Would you never bring your child to any playground becaus they might meet a bully someday? My guess is the answer is no. I have used dog parks as effective socialization tools for two dogs.
The important things are:
1 – Know the rules of the run. A good dog park will have a very clear set of rules. The best parks will have limits or bans on toys and treats so as to avoid things that the animals might become competitive over or possessive of.
2 – Know if they are “enforced.” Depending on the community the owners may routinely be vocal enough about rules violations to successfully turn trouble makers away, or they may not.
3 – Learn when the cool dogs play. Dog runs tend to have “shifts” depending on when certain people walk their dogs, get home from work, etc. Plan accordingly.
“Just Say no to dog parks” is IMHO a hyperbolic statement. There are plenty of reasons to stay away, but there are also plenty of reasons to go. I rescued a herder once, and living in the city a dog park was by far the best tool to socialize him while,giving him the opportunity to do what he was born for, running and herding. At the time my community had no dog run and a rather small human park. Once we built a dog run there was a clear improvement both in the socialization of neighborhood dogs and the relationship between dogwners and non-owners in the community.
As with most things, the problems lie with humans – not their companions – and can be solved by humans without “just saying no.”
Very biased article as it seems to indicate that all pet owners who go to dog parks are uninformed morons and their dogs are wild out of control buffoons. If your dog is already well trained, socialized and temperamentally sound then going to the dog park is an excellent way to allow your dog to interact with other dogs and people. Most…. yes, MOST of the dogs at dog parks are harmless. They may be crazy and full of energy but if your dog is solid its not like the craziness of others will turn yours in to a crazy dog too. Do your kids turn in to bully’s when they’re around a bully at the kid park? No.
As long as you’re a responsible pet owner and you don’t just sit on the sidelines like a bump on a log when at the dog park its unlikely you’re ever going to experience any problems there.
It sounds like the author of this article needs to re-evaluate his or her habits before trying to scare people away from dog parks.
Dana-Best post yet, in fact I think you should have written the original post instead of the author. When I read this from the author… 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, all I could think of is what an arrogant &^%$#@wipe!
Well Matt, im thrilled you have never had a negative experience at a dog park! (an inference Im making based on you finding no merit to my claims in the article)
And telling people objective truth based on extensive first hand experience without regard to their fragile ego’s and even weaker sense of reality doesn’t make me an arrogant asswipe……it makes me an Unaccommodating Dickhead …… lets get the nomenclature correct! lol
Stick around! the only way to become less sensitive to being offended is to get offended regularly
I wouldn’t say “all” are, but there are enough uninformed morons and their wild out of control dogs using dog parks that a NEW dog owner or one learning the ropes has more to lose than to gain from going there.
It wonderful that YOU have things under control with your dog and your dog is balanced, but as somebody who has been training other peoples dogs for over 20 years, and as somebody who has physically been to more dog parks than I can count, and as somebody who has had to rehabilitate emotionally and phyaically damaged dogs as a result of the average dog park, it is exponentially more responsible to advise people to approach them with care.
If you read the entire article you would have seen that i advised people to in fact go to dog parks without their dog to meet and mingle with other responsible dog owners. How can i hold the position that ALL are morons, yet go on to advise people to go there to meet other good dog owners? It’s ok, i forgive your lack of consistent thought and processing of the article 😉 All that matters is that your dog is happy which it sounds like is the case.
If you’re allergic to honesty, this is NOT the place to frequent lol
thanks for swinging by and the invitation is always open!
“Crazy and full of energy but…” often translates to rude, frantic, aroused social behavior. That is repeated and rehearsed every visit. Social behavior and play behavior IS learned from peer groups, so dogs will absolutely mirror behaviors they see or participate in while at the dog park. Choose your peer groups carefully. There is no reason a dog should be expected to be “crazy and full of energy” around other dogs; good dog-dog interaction by skilled dogs should be thoughtful, calm, and patient. Rushing into aroused play is the opposite of polite greetings and waiting for invitations before engaging in play and social contact with strangers.
In the beginning the thought of bringing my dog to a dog park sounded like a great idea. What better way to socialize. Then I started hearing about different incidences that happen at them. Between aggressive and untrained dogs and owners, I changed my mind. Not only that but who knows if those dogs are vetted
I didn’t even touch on the health concerns, I’m really thinking I should do a separate article on that alone!!
Thanks for sharing!
There is nothing wrong with dog parks, per se. If you’re the kind of parent to let your young children loose at a play ground and let anything happen, you shouldn’t be a parent. The same goes for pet owners that let their dogs loose at the dog park. You need to stay close by and supervise. You need to lead your dog away from negative situations, just as you would your children. You need to take your pets and children home if it’s not a good situation for them. Playgrounds and dog parks can be fun places for them to get the excercize and socialization that they need as long as it’s being properly supervised.
I wish more people approached the dog park like you do Kerr… Thanks for being one of the responsible ones out there and thanks for sharing.
I have a 20 month old golden retriever mix. I have been taking her to the local dog park since she was four months old. She loves it and so do I. It is a fairly large park so we can pick a friend and walk with them. Someone with a dog who my dog plays well with. Gets us away from the people that just stand around. There have been occasions where we have left abruptly due to behaviour I found unacceptable towards my dog. So I agree with the above post…as long as there is supervision, dog parks aren’t so bad.
Im glad there are people out there not only looking out for their dogs but using the parks the way they were intended. Thanks Shelley!
Totally agree with you we have had to at times leave due to bullies but other then that if my pup is playing with someone whom I feel is a negative influence I will redirect him. Just like my children he is of course my fur baby
Thanks for being an active participant at the dog park Candace! And thanks for stopping by and sharing
It’s refreshing to see a balanced article on the issues that can, and do occur at dog parks. We have several dog parks in the small city I live in but I don’t take my dogs there precisely for the reasons that you have listed. It would be so much easier to pop in to one of these dog parks but I feel that my dogs would be at risk for getting injured or picking up a disease, so we do not go to any of them. Luckily, I live in a place that has many forested areas and trails outside of my city and I take my 2 Italian Greyhounds and an aged Border Collie there to exercise and have fun. Many thanks for writing and posting such a balanced take on dog parks!
Thank you for looking out for your dogs! You have some runners too so enjoy those woods and come back soon!
I find it interesting that you only put comments up that are “approved”. So, this one won’t ever get posted, but I’d love to know your level of expertise regarding k9 behavior. It’s clearly not much. This is easily the stupidest ,least informed, uneducated and illogical bit I’ve ever read. This is coming from an actual expert in k9 behavior. You’re an embarrassment and I feel bad for the the dogs that are gonna suffer because their sheep- people listen to such foolishness.
well, you were wrong about your post not getting posted….while I refuse to subject my readers to advertisements for asian Michal Kors knockoffs, I will absolutely subject them to your post…this way they are prepared for “actual experts” such as yourself in the real world…
Thanks for stopping by and commenting Mr. or Mrs. Business!! Where are you located so people who have dogs that are suffering from NOT going to dogparks can seek out your assistance? lol
I think people are missing the point. Dog parks in principal are marvelous. Problem is, or rather are….
1)The majority of owners misread dog behavior (oh how funny my lab is humping that doberman oh that vicious doberman snapped at my sweet lab)
2)the majority of owners can NOT control their dogs off lead, not even a simple recall
3)too many treat dog parks as a place for dogs. They go so the dog can ‘play’ with other dogs. In fact, dog parks are for humans to play with their dogs.
4)Hookworm. Can live in soil for years. Comes from infected poo. Yes, people will bring dogs with bloody hookworm diarrhea.
6) Poo. Unclaimed poo.
7)shared water = disease factory.
8)ever seen anyone sanitize a dog park?
OK… Makes this easy… Forget the list. The majority of people I have seen at parks have no clue. At all.
But if you would rather spend your time plopped on your arse drinking a latte whilst your dog acts a fool and potentially gets injured or ill, instead of using that time to build a bond and train the dog in whatever you think he’d be good at… Flyball, dock diving, Mondio, utility or rally, scent work, agility, lure coursing…. Who am I to judge? It’s your dog.
POO. Lots of poo. And all the crawlies and germs that come with poo, living in the soil. Did I mention…. Poo?
Healthy parks are several acres, and encourage movement. Walking trails. Open space. No benches. No incentive to form a clusterfuck of people and dogs. They lack communal water and have frequent and stocked potty stations, and volunteers to police violators. They enforce “verbal control” and disallow leashes and toys (encourages possessive aggression) within the park.
now THAT was a post on dogparks!!! Thanks Terry!!!!
FYI…..my new response for the relatively subjective and unfounded objections to this article will be as follows:
“please see comment by Terry for further clarification”
the rest of the objectors simply are objecting to the TITLE rather than the full article which explains how to utilize the dogpark and that ALL parkgoers are not schmucks…lol…
Thanks for stopping by Terry, I thoroughly enjoy the way you articulate your positions because people can LEARN from the way you explain it….which is 100% the purpose of my blog….i could care less about other trainers and know it all dog owners, im hoping to reach those newbies who have yet to make the mistakes others as well as ourselves have made!
That was a perfect reply to the blog! I am in total agreement about dog parks. The private parks are slightly better managed in requiring vax for all members but the sanitation is still their biggest issue.
I am and have been a regular dog park user since my dog was 6 months old. Though many of your points are right on, it is unfair to assume that all dog parks have the same issues. The users of our dog park are very proactive. If an owner does not have control of his/her dog, we council and advise them. If they have a problem with that, we call animal control. Some of the worse fights I have ever seen have been between angry owners–not the dogs. The only way to address the people issue is to do what many S. CAL. parks are doing–issuing key cards to dog owners who sign a liability agreement. Yah, I don’t like it. But if it makes all dog owners responsible, my dog will be more safe–and so will I.
That’s awesome that your dog park is on top of the situation and helps provide the benefits and manage the negatives! Thanks Linda
I have four dog parks within 20 minutes of my home. I have take on my Goldendoodle & little poodle mix to all of the local dogs many, many, many times, and I have NEVER had a problem with any dog or owner. I have never seen a dog wandering around without an owner within 10 feet of their dog. The problems at the dog parks are due to owner’s negligence and stupidity.
I’m glad you haven’t been to the parks I’ve witnessed! Your dogs are very lucky! Thanks for stopping by
I agree. I come from England and visit for a few months in the winter. Normally all dog in England are off lead. Around Los Angeles though there only seems to be the option of dog parks. I only went once (with a friend) and a big male dog came over and jumped on one of my old bitches and started humping her. She has a bad back and no owner in sight! No more dog parks but also no opportunity for off-lead exercise! Just isn’t right for the dogs here!
I have spoken with people from across the pond a lot and love to hear how different dog culture is from country to country. Yes, it is sad that our dogs here in the United States are experiencing more and more restrictions especially when its all to blame on us humans!
Thanks for sharing!
The dog parks in my area are closed due to an outbreak of leptospiriosis. What a horrible disease this is for dogs. Thank goodness my dog trainer taught me what KD Matthews said in this post. I never take my dogs to dog parks and they are alive and healthy today because I don’t. The huge risks of injury and illness aren’t worth it. Thank you for posting the truth of an important reality.
Give your dog trainer a high 5 for me Cynthia and thanks for stopping by and sharing!
In retrospect, I guess what turned me off to dog parks, after spending several years in the grassroots movement that helped get many of them established, is the blatant disregard of the posted rules.
I have been to parks in MN, WI, TX, LA, MD, VA, FL, GA…. Every single parks has had posted rules. Foremost, “dog must be under verbal control at all times”. I don’t know about the rest of you but to me that means the dog recalls on command, to a position where the owner can attain physical control, and stays there until a release command takes place.
To me, repetitively screaming ” come stop no come” at the top of your lungs does not constitute verbal control.
Know how many dog parkers I have encountered in all that time that could recall their dog from the chaos of a dog park with one command? Maybe 6. That includes me. Of you cannot heel your dog, off leash, through a busy park…. If you cannot recall your dog from a fight or from play, with a single spoken command….
You are violating the rules.
How many of you, I wonder, does this apply to?
I’m betting nobody will admit it, and I’m betting its most if not all, of dog park supporters.
I used to use dog parks for training under heavy distraction… But the sheer amazement of the other park goers at my Dobe holding a down in the middle of 17 tumbling dogs, or recalling through a crowd without pause, made me realize just how dicey things really were. If anything went wrong, it would go very wrong.
To me, it isn’t worth the risk.
Rules? What are rules Terry? lol 😉
I totally agree. My rescue dog was friendly with other dogs until she got traumatized at a dog park. Wish I would have known better.
Im sorry to hear that happened Kate. The good news is there is always hope for recovery, both physical and emotional damage can be shed with the right approach as dogs are always ready to move on!
If there is any direction I can point you in let me know and thanks for sharing.
Thanks KD! Valuable insights!
I’ve been to the dog park hundreds of times. My dogs enjoy it and, when they’re ready, I bring in many foster dogs to learn social manners. Many of them will be going to a home that already has another dog, and there’s no way they can develop good social skills without meeting many different dogs. However, your last section is pretty good advice. Go first by yourself and observe. As for making friends with the people, however, be selective: pick the people who you see are watching and controlling their dogs. If people there are not watching and controlling things, don’t bring your dog.
As for your advice on looking for balanced and stable dogs who do not bully others, REALLY? Those people who already know how to recognize that don’t need your advice. The rest, they need somebody to tell/show them what those words mean. We get many new people coming who are guided by the regulars. Their dogs will often adjust in a few trips, but the people may need many more. When new dogs come in, the regulars often clear the gate area and watch to make sure they all behave. Not an only-your-dog situation, as they will correct any dog. Sure, there’s the occasional idiot, but they’re less of an issue if you have many good people there who won’t tolerate their crap. And with good people, most of the dogs are very social and polite.
Yes, there are some times at this dog park where few regulars will come. We get families coming in with little kids running and neither kids nor dogs under much control. There, you get the situation you’re speaking about, and some dog parks have that issue more often than others.
For very scared dogs (and people), as you suggested we usually steer them to the smaller area, and a regular may bring a few calm and social dogs over to meet them. As for the single WORST place to bring your dog, I can think of some dog trainers who would be much worse.
Having been in the dog world for quite some time now you would appreciate the smirk on my face when I read your last sentence as I 100% agree and their faces popped into my mind when I read it!!!
While I do get experienced dog people browsing through the blog, you are absolutely correct in that much of what this article says is really not for them at all. And while I also agree with you that many will need guidance understanding what they are seeing, if I can simply get people to stop and pause with regards to the “dog park” I have succeeeded in what I set out to accomplish.
A major part of my blog is me…lol…im sarcastic and unaccommodating to the ego’s and insecurities of others and only have one purpose, to hep dogs. Part of that is a heavy dose of sarcasm in my article titles….If I can get a new dog owner to at least question the proper way to deal with a dog park, or even simpler, to acknowledge that it isnt as cut and dry as walking in and cutting their dog loose, then some progress has been made!
Thank you not just for stopping by, but sharing your experience and advice for the other readers as its spot on and many would be well suited to learn from your comments.
Very well said, KD. And I fully agree that stop/look/think is the first lesson, and any blog that supports that is doing some good.
Thank you! This article is absolutely on point. This is my new favorite blog, btw! How do I find/follow you on Facebook?
I have a dog park story that I started to type, but it was going to be a lot more to type on my phone than I initially thought. I’d love to share it once I get a chance to sit down at the computer. It absolutely turned my Max and I off from dog parks.
To the people who disagree with the article, that’s great that you have all had such wonderful experiences at dog parks everytime you’ve taken your fur babies, but that’s not how it is for everyone. The last couple times I took Max,(miss you sooo much, buddy!) it was awful. Not because of my dog, or myself, or even the other dogs! It was the other owners that ruined dog parks for Max and I. Some people can’t or won’t control/be responsible for their dogs behavior, and unfortunately that doesn’t stop them from taking them out to the park. They’d rather sit on the bench and stare at their phones while their dogs run around and act like jerks, than actually play/bond with their dogs, or even keep an eye on them more than the occasional glance over their cell phone. — Dog parks aren’t all bad, you guys are right about that. You’re lucky enough to live near parks that are used correctly, where people respect them, and teach their dogs to respect them, as well. I would gladly check out another park, if Max was still with us, but there is only 1 close to where I live. Most of the people who take their pups to the park near where I live do not care enough to use the park the way they’re *supposed* to be utilized, and I know there are people like that everywhere, not just here. They aren’t awful pet owners, they just don’t know proper “dog park etiquette.” I’m glad that the parks near everyone who disagreed are better off than the park here!
Clearly, my opinion on this subject is biased because of my negative experiences, but the behavior that I witnessed is far too common. It’s not worth the chance of a possible confrontation, whether it be dog/dog, dog/human or even human/human.
Anyway, it’s late here. Hopefully that all made sense! Great article, and awesome blog!! I’ll definitely be back again.
PS: I love the way you handle the responses that weren’t very nice, with class and wit. It always baffles me how rude people can be when they don’t share an opinion(esp on the internet). As if we’re all supposed to agree on every single thing. How boring would that be!? Lol
Thanks for stopping by and for the feedback Kayla (i just had a friend request from a Kayle on FB so im hoping that was you!)
Im glad you also recognized that its the humans who are messing up the dog parks, especially now with cell phone addictions!
Thanks again for stopping by, the feedback, and sharing your experiences! Come back soon and bring some friends!
Fantastic post! I shared on my facebook page as I am constantly trying to explain why I don’t like dog parks to my clients!
Thanks for the share Katherine and thank you even more for helping your client’s dogs navigate the precarious world us humans have created for them!
Dog parks would be great if everyone was engaged and focused on their own pet’s behaviour but that’s almost *never* the case – so many humans don’t teach their dogs good socialization, so I think of other ways to keep my very social girl busy. Currently, we have a neighborhood play group with a dozen or so dogs (each supervised by their respective human/s) that meets her needs, thankfully!
That neighborhood play group sounds like an AWESOME idea Kelley!! When communities get together in situations like this the dogs benefit immensely.
Thanks for sharing, maybe it might spark an idea in somebody and help more dogs and owners out there!
I completely agree. It is great if you can use them when just you and your friends are there. No dog parks for me or my dogs.
Sometimes depending on your community and area, you and a group of friends might be able to find a creative location for some play time. Thank you for thinking of your dogs first and also for stopping by!
Thank you so much for this post! I have two dogs and I never take them to the dog park. One is so scared of everything she forgets she’s 60 pounds and the other is young and hyper and seems to forget to be gentle when playing. I never wanted my older one at a dog park for fear I’d traumatize her and I never took the younger one because, even though she’s never shown an aggressive bone to friendly people and dogs, she could trigger another dog to be aggressive and then she’d be defensive. I’d love for them to get play time with other puppies but not at the cost of them or another getting harmed. Or contracting diseases. I’m thankful for this post because now I have ideas for my fur babies, well the younger one at least, to get some socialization and play time safely.
Im glad you enjoyed it Bekah! Thanks for stopping by and especially for sharing!
For those who live in some (many?) cities in the US, I think the “no dog park” concept comes off as a little problematic. Outside of dog parks, many people don’t have open areas with segments of enclosed space for their dog to go to and, excluding weekend trips that involve driving, getting to a state park, forested area, or something comparable may be a non-starter. I do like the idea of finding others whose schedules match up at a dog park and socializing elsewhere, but again, for a lot of people living in the city (younger professionals with erratic schedules, in particular), getting two or more people who otherwise don’t really know each other to find common time seems a little bit of a stretch, unless you’re fortunate to have other people with whom you’re already friends to do this with.
Maybe this will come off as excuse making, or maybe I’m just not being creative enough, or maybe both. However, I’m guessing that there is a sizable chunk of people who otherwise wouldn’t disagree what’s being said about the downsides of dog parks, but don’t have options that are seen as feasible given the recommendations provided. Should these people simply not have dogs at all, be made to relocate to the suburbs, or else have dogs that are forced to live as urban hermits in isolation and solitude? : ) If not, and if the answer is that you can take your dog to a dog park under some circumstances (i.e., monitor your dog closely, obtain some training in understanding canine behavior and behavioral signs, train your dog to be obedient and well behaved), then perhaps not having a title that portrays the situation as being so simplistically black-and-white (“no dog parks under any circumstances”) would be a consideration?
Thank you for sharing your thoughts Carl, excellent stuff! My title is more of my sarcastic personality than my actual thoughts. The idea of our dogs running untethered puts a smile on all of our faces and a dog park is designed to do just that.
There are however many MANY conerns that a new or inexperienced dog owner needs to take into consideration hence my advisement of using extreme caution.
That urban working demographic you referenced is a HUGE part of our dog culture and they do have some thought provoking issues that need to be addressed as you mentioned. Personally I would much rather see them out spending one on one time walking their dog as a primary usage of their time as opposed to braving the moronic dog owners and disease associated in many of our countries urban dog parks.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with us all Carl. Don’t be a stranger!
The first time I took my Shihtzu to the dog park, a ginormous dog came to sniff her butt- which is normal dog behavior – but actually lifted her back legs off the ground!!! The owner of this really rude dog was having coffee with a buddy and could not have cared less! My dog was traumatized and spent the next 10 minutes that we were there with both tail and head down. We left.
Gave it one more try, but there was so much dog dodo that I finally said no more! My dog had spent the entire time with tail down and sticking REAL close to the exit.
I do agree with the concept of off leash parks, but there needs to be someone there monitoring the dogs behavior….obviously some owners think it is a ” free for all” , kinda like the sleaziest bar!!
I love the comparison to a sleazy bar!! Thanks for sharing Pat!
I completely agree with this! I have a 9 month pug x kings Charles cavalier and he is a large small dog if that makes sense. I have tried multiple times to socialise him at dog parks but find that either the dogs we meet have not been socialised properly with puppies or something about my boy they don’t like as a lot of them growl and go in prey mode around him. He is not aggressive actually quite submissive and will roll onto his back and freeze will they sniff him. But it has made him timid and reactive around larger dogs now. Which saddens me as he is so energetic and happy.
So we don’t go anymore. I realised nearly everyone I know has a dog, so he has a group of dogs that he socialises with that he is used to and we go to off leash beaches. I find that dogs that have off leash training tend to be more polite in greeting new dogs as they have those social skills to assess the dog first before just running straight up to them and a good owner that knows their has dogs has them on a lead at the beach and I can direct him away from them before anything happens.
I just think it’s a shame that it has changed my pups behaviour around dogs and just hope in time he will not be scared around dogs that just want to play with him when they run up.
I totally agree. One of my friend’s little dog was killed right in front of her by an off leash dog at a dog park. The owner of the killer dog, refused to pay this poor girls vet bill, not to mention the PTSD she now has. This particular dog park has had other incidents like this and people still take their dogs there!! It’s ulitmately the idiotic owner whom thinks their dog can be trusted to be off leash in the first place to blame. Now, I’m living in another State, different dog park, and a friend told me her bull dog was attacked by another dog who’s owner was no where to be seen!! I’m way too protective of my little ones to ever even think about taking them to one, but how traumatizing. What do you think about doggie day care? I have three Hairless Chinese Cresteds and i don’t want them around other dogs, but whenever I look into kenneling them if I am about to go on vacation, the places always have the dogs together at some point for playtime?
Thanks for sharing Jennifer. To answer your question, my thoughts on doggie daycare are that they, like many other options, CAN be great. They also can be nightmares! lol I do however think doggie daycares have more potential to be a positive place. Why? LESS HUMANS!! LOL Seriously, if managed properly with the right staff and the proper screening process to prevent aggressive dogs from being there, daycares are a potentially safe and convenient way for your dog to interact.
My advice would be to go first to a potential daycare without your dog. Interview them and observe how they run their business. If it looks good, then go for it!
You just gave me some great ideas for a vlog, perhaps going to some daycares and explaining what to look for!
I’m so glad I found this article, because I totally agree! I have two dogs, one retriever mix, the other a pit mix. The first year or so we had them both we took them to the local dog park, for “socializing.” For the most part, experiences were good, and it made me happy to see my dogs enjoying themselves with other dogs. There were occasional little tiffs with dogs but generally the owners were quick to call their dogs before a problem arose. Although I will admit my dogs did not have the best recall, I always had my eyes on my dogs and the behaviors of dogs around them. If I ever felt uncomfortable about a situation, I leashed my dogs up and we walked away. One day, my dogs were playing with two other regular dogs at the park, when one dog took off with a toy, and the other 3 followed behind him. My dog then took the toy from the other dog, and needless to say the other dog didn’t like that and they got into somewhat of a tiff. Luckily myself and the other dog owner were quick to handle the situation to make sure things didn’t escalate. To me that is an example of two responsible dog owners who acted on a situation…however it just goes to show you that you never know what will happen, it can be unpredictable and unpredictable=dangerous to me.
Still, I took my dogs after that because I figured it was just a fluke, and I shouldn’t let one little tiff scare me away from socializing my dogs at the park. Until one day, their last day. I took them one day and no one was at the park, so they ran around happily sniffing every blade of grass in sight. Until a young guy appeared at the gate, with a cane corso mix dog, snarling and growling through the fence. He TOLD ME his dog was unsure of other dogs, and we agreed on him going to the other side of the gated area, where the small dogs would normally play (no one was there mind you). He went over there for a few minutes, meanwhile my dogs enjoying their freedom. As my back is turned toward the gate, next thing I know I hear a gate opening and him saying “I think he’ll be ok….” and next thing I know this dog comes CHARGING through the gate and goes right for my dog (the retriever mix). All I can see in this blur of dogs are teeth, and I’m panicking. My first instinct is to grab my dog of course, and so I do, not thinking or caring if I get bit, because my dog is my baby. Meanwhile the other owner is just…standing there! I manage to get my dog away and he finally puts his dog on his leash. I get a unconcerned “He ok?” from the man, meanwhile I can see bite marks and blood (not a gruesome amount, but nonetheless) on my dog’s face/snout. I immediately leash my dogs and walk as fast as I can out of that park with my heart racing a million miles a second. Got in my car and cried the whole way home, looking at my dog’s depressed face. Never again I tell myself…NEVER again. And I haven’t been back since. I feel guilty sometimes because it was a regular routine for them, and I think they must think every time we get into the car they’re hoping to return to the dog park. But my dogs are my kids, I will never put their safety at risk like that again! Sorry for the long rant, just wanted to share my story 🙂
Don’t you dare apologize for sharing Kim!! The more people open up the more we all can help those who need the guidance! I thank you for stopping by and telling us your experiences…I hope to see you around the other posts old and new!
I’ve been taking my dogs to dog parks since I moved into “town” and had no other place for them to be off leash. I have found many positive benefits and have worked with foster dogs there as well. The trick is to actually be present with your dog (mentally and physically) and pay attention to the body language of the other dogs in close proximity. I have 2 small (5 lb.) dogs at the moment but have fostered pits, American eskimo, etc. and have found that almost all have benefited from the dog park. My personal preference is a forested place with some sort of path (for me, the dogs don’t care) but they are difficult to find in my area. We have left abruptly due to poor behavior from other dogs (or their ignorant owners) but overall it’s been a positive experience. While I think your title is way off base, I get where you’re coming from. My 2 cents worth would be to simply ask that instead of making such an inflammatory statement, it might be better to simply educate the uneducated on this topic and let people know what kind of behavior is expected, the signs to watch for, how to read dog’s body language, where to seek out classes, etc. and that they are every bit as responsible for their pet’s safety and emotional well being as they would be if they took their 2 legged children to a park. Avoid the bullies, pay attention, step in if there’s a problem, and to learn to anticipate and avoid those problems in advance. There is no such thing as a perfect place to be or take anyone but with a little education and a lot of diligence, these parks can be a positive experience for dogs. If the one near you isn’t (as ours wasn’t for a time), find another one. Just my thoughts. Thanks for making people think.
Thanks for sharing Linda….the title is just that, the title….which like many of my other articles is meant to grab attention and get people to do exactly what you saw my intention REALLY is….to think 🙂
Thanks again for the comment and hopefully we will see you around again!
This is a very thoughtful article with many interesting comments. I’m pleased to see acknowledgment of the importance of being aware of – and managing – the way dogs interact with each other. I never take my dogs to dog parks because I don’t trust other dog owners to manage their dogs. I don’t need to go to a dog park to see how clueless people can be – I see rude dog behavior from other dog owners just walking my dogs on leash in my own neighborhood. I walk my dogs in a nearby park that is NOT a dog park and dogs ar not allowed off leash. Many people choose to ignore this and let their dogs run loose there anyway. I’m amazed at how owners stand by when their dogs run up to my dog who IS on leash and get in his face – very rude behavior – and when my obedience trained on-leash dog stays focused on me and doesn’t respond to the dogs who are in his face or jumping at him – the owners don’t even bother to call their dogs or apologize. It’s obvious they have no idea how rude their dogs are behaving – and they have zero regard for the fact that THEIR dogs are interfering with my attempt to take my dog for a simple on-leash walk. If owners are this thoughtless in a park where dogs are not supposed to be off leash – I shudder to think of what might happen in an off leash park with those same thoughtless owners. I own big dogs and take the responsibility of training them to be well behaved very seriously. I know if there was an incident with another dog – no matter how badly behaved the other dog might be – the big dog would likely be blamed. I’m not going to take the chance of a bad experience for my dogs. Your suggestion of meeting people with dogs that are appropriately behaved is excellent.
Thanks Ruth! and yes, the big dogs do take a lot of the blame for scuffles as well as whichever dog “appears” to be stronger or have muscles…lol…it sounds ridiculous, but much of what many misinformed dog owners think, say, and do is ridiculous. Hopefully with opportunities to share our stories and experiences we can reach some and ultimately help some dogs!
Thanks again for stopping by
I have taken my dogs(Irish Setters) to dog parks for well over 25 years and never had an issue. The issue I DO have , esp. if the parks are smaller, is the owners who spend most of their time bunched together close to the entrance either on their phones and talking to other owners and not walking with their dogs or watching them. My dogs enjoy meeting other people and dogs but I also supervise them. Large parks, like over 20 acres, are great with spaces to explore on their own and many also now have enclosures for small dogs.
cell phones cell phones CELL PHONES!!!
Where are those 20 acre dog parks Pam?!?! We will all meet you there! lol (everybody better leave their phones in their cars though!!
One of the other commenters, Terry, has experience with those big dog parks from waaaay back when. I know they’re out there somewhere.
thanks for sharing and stopping by!
Great concept but not safe in practice. Initially I loved taking my young miniature poodle to the dog park where he would run and run and run like crazy – it was a joy to watch him play and chase with the other dogs. Then one day he was bullied and thrust to the ground by another dog which stood above him growling – I couldn’t believe my eyes and was mortified. Instinctively I grabbed the abuser and yelled for the owner. Since then I have seen other nasty incidences – there was a dog killed within a dog park where I live. Unfortunately, I would now NEVER EVER take my dog to a dog park – he is far too precious for me to take that risk.
I agree Julia, great concept, and as Ive learned from some comments there are in fact some parks out there doing it right…we just need more of them!
thanks for stopping by and sharing!
You lost me when you compared taking dogs to park with children at a playground! Dogs are dogs – wonderful companions but they are not children – they are Dogs and they have a right to be dogs! We don’t need helicopter dog owners! We love the dog park – and I am watchful and protective but I let my dog have fun and enjoy the freedom of running, getting muddy, playing and wrestling… it’s wonderful!
It was an analogy to express the reality that you don’t just open the gate and let them run with no guidance and supervision….there is a big difference between being a “helicopter dog owner” and being responsible and attentive…..
Thank you for stopping by and being a watchful and responsible dog park-goer!
My last visit to our local dog park was when my sweet-as-sugar senior Yellow Lab mix was attacked unprovoked by a much larger pit mix the owner had brought there “to socialize” her.
She was a rescue with a totally unknown history and had supposedly been a “model dog” for 2 years so, the owner figured, it was time to let her loose on the community. We were exiting as he was entering with her and as my dog passed her by, pretty much ignoring them, his dog bolted the 10 feet to us and grabbed my dog by the throat and started thrashing him around like a rag doll. The owner finally was able to wrestle his dog off mine who, according to the ER vet, missed having major blood vessels punctured by centimeters. He thankfully recovered fully physically, but was scared of other dogs after that whenever we took a walk instead of being the social, outgoing sweetheart that he had been before being attacked.
The capper was the charming owner of the other dog claimed that my dog initiated the attack when the police came calling to fill out an incident report. This despite several witnesses to the contrary. But, I learned the hard way, the police are unable to do anything regardless of who’s at fault. Plus, he refused to pay anything toward the enormous ER vet bill because his dog “wasn’t at fault.” No more dog parks for us, EVER.
I hate that that happened to you all. The risk of the dogpark far outweighs the possible reward. Thank you for sharing your story, it’s the best way for us to help others and maybe prevent the same thing from happening to them.
The easiest way for us was to socialize with family dogs. A number of members in the family have dogs (Totaling 9 different dogs excluding our 2). First time they went to the dog park they had the time of their lives (at around 6 months old) and they immediately lay down on their backs and exposed their stomachs to any dogs that showed aggression toward them. Those aggressive dogs would sniff and then walk off and our puppies would pop up, tails wagging and continue with their exploration of the park.
I agree totally with you, , I have found that there are no bad dogs only bad dog parents at the dog park.
Exactly! Another one I always say is that there are no destructive dogs, just under-stimulated dogs!
Wow, harsh article. I see the value in the points you are trying to make, but YOU DON’T NEED TO TYPE EVERYTHING IN CAPITALS. If we took the time to read this then we probably aren’t stupid.
Hmmmmmmm, 668 words, 10 of which are in capitals. I’m not a mathematician, and as you stated, you’re probably not stupid, so I’ll let you do the math to get the specifics on that, but if roughly less than 2% constitutes EVERYTHING BEING IN CAPS then perhaps my harsh article is the least of your concerns…lol…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your empirical thoughts! 🙂 lol
How much of what do we really know here??
Well, there do seem to be a very large number of dog parks in this country, and we know there are many-many dog owners. We can also readily observe that people may be far more likely to post comments when they’ve had issues. All of which will often paint a very fuzzy picture. For all the dog parks, and all the people who have tried them, one has to wonder what percentage have really had serious issues? Dog parks do seem popular enough that there must be some good there, but how much?
A question that none of the Dog Park blogs seems to consider.
Excellent objective question Gerry. I think it’s important to consider when looking at an article what its real purpose/agenda is.
While the title of this article (along with a significant amount of my articles) is rather sarcastic and designed to grab attention, the content of the article has a much different agenda.
There are enough issues and bad things happening at enough dog parks out there for the following to be said: Caution and awareness should be exercised when using them.
Much of this blog is intended to provoke thought and help dogs. New or inexperienced dog owners shouldn’t blindly go to dogparks thinking all is fine. How to evaluate a dog park, how to use one, how to view them, are all things that should be considered.
I always evaluate everything i do by the following….Does the cost of failure outweigh the profit of success? One can socialize and exercise their dog in a wide variety of ways that don’t involve the risk of phsyical and emotional trauma, monetary cost associated with vet bills, potential biological concerns with the extreme waste in many parks. Will all that stuff happen at “every” dog park….obviously not….but again, its all worth consideration.
Thanks for the discussion Gerry, as this is what will help those reading!