Dog parks – yes or no?

black-white dogs playingCasey is a tired puppy. He had his first-ever trip to a dog park today.  While many trainers discourage people from taking their dogs to a dog park, my personal perspective is that the answer to the question of whether or not you should go to a dog park is “it depends.” The up side of dog parks is learning socialization skills with other dogs and free range play to release pent up energy.  The down side is that owners may not pay attention to their dogs who are misbehaving, and there is the chance of picking up a disease or infection of some kind.  Here are some things to think about on both sides of the issue.

Dog Park Down Sides

I recommend keeping your dog out of dog parks when

  • The park is too small to support the number of dogs in it.  Your pup needs room to run and be alone if they so choose and a one acre park is a postage stamp – not a park. It’s hard for a dog to be properly socialized when they don’t have room and can’t easily avoid dogs they don’t want to be social with.
  • Dog owners stand around at one end of the park and pay no attention to what their dog is doing. This means there are probably dogs there who do not play nicely and fights can begin.
  • It’s a big flat space with nothing interesting to explore (i.e., trees, water, items to play on, and the like). Unless you have a retrieving dog, there is absolutely nothing of interest to dogs other than each other, and that can become a problem if a dog just wants to be left alone.
  • dog park mudThere is no grass – just dirt.  Beyond the mess (especially if it’s been raining), what fun is that? And how healthy is it likely to be?
  • There are no rules about vaccinations for park attendance and/or there is standing water that gets slimy.  Both of these instances raise the risk of infection or disease, which is not something you want your pup exposed to.

Dog Park Up Sides

Here are the good things about dog parks when the items listed above aren’t an issue.

  • Well behaved dogs in a dog park are a great way for a pup to learn proper socialization skills.  Nobody can teach a dog proper play manners better than other dogs.
  • It’s great for you because you can meet other dog owners who understand
  • Responsible dog owners keep an eye out for their own dogs and will alert you if your dog is doing something they know you don’t want.
  • dogs playingThey can run, play, and burn off steam
  • Because it’s an enclosed space where they can safely be off leash, it can be a great way to work on commands like “come” where they learn to come to you even if they’re free of the leash. That’s one of the things I’m doing to teach Casey.  He’ll be off and heading out of sight and I’ll call him.  So far, he’s doing really well about listening and comes running back. yay! But if he ignores me, I know he can’t go anywhere and get into trouble.
  • You get to return home with a very tired and very happy pup.  Such as you see here:

tired pup after 1st park trip 100115

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