Over the years I have gotten this question many times. I know many clients use dog parks and I try and provide them guidance on what to look for ‘BEFORE’ they bring their dog. How I would like a Dog park to be is far from how they currently operate. How I would like them to operate is like our Indoor Off Leash Socials controlled and safe for all to attend.
For those who do go to dog parks I always suggest going to the park on your own at different times and watching the interactions, viewing how many dogs per owner or dog walker, whether the owners or walkers are paying attention and if there are any dogs being picked on or fights breaking out and how they are handled.
Dog parks can be a wonderful opportunity to allow your dog to socialize and run in a contained area, however they are not controlled ensuring safety, the dogs can be ill, and many owners do not watch their dogs and their interactions.
When people ask me about dog parks I always think of a client and friend Nadia and Eva (a sweet mini Aussie).
Nadia and Eva trained at our facility when Eva was a pup. When Eva was a little older Nadia started to take her to dog parks for some off leash fun. Unfortunately it soon became an unsafe place for Eva to be. She was being overwhelmed with dogs jumping on her as she assumed a ‘submissive position’. Eva’s owner was told by the other owners that it was just how she was and to let the dogs ‘work it out’. Unfortunately allowing her to work it out meant another dog eventually bit her. Eva then became afraid of every dog everywhere, in the parks and on walks. Nadia as well was very stressed and not confident knowing how to deal with Eva’s fearful nature.
In a dogs world they want a leader to take care of them, allowing them to ‘work it out’ on their own does not provide this security. Coddling a dog because they are fearful also does not provide security it simply tells the dog that the fear is ok but does not provide the leadership they need. For some dogs like Eva they become submissive (flight) trying to get away from whatever it is they fear. For other dogs that are labeled aggressive because they lash out they are simply trying to protect themselves by fight. Dogs that present either of these behaviours will benefit from controlled introduction, socialization and leadership by advocating for them.
Following Eva’s bite Nadia contacted us and asked for help. We began reintroducing Eva in our Indoor Off Leash area to dogs that would respect her space and if not we would step in to help her out. She also attended daycare to allow her time on her own but in a safe environment. We not only worked with Eva, we also worked with Nadia to help to build her confidence on what to do should Eva be bullied. Nadia and Eva then joined our Social Obedience class where she was introduced to both humans and dogs in different environments, on walks, doing agility, classes indoor and outdoor. Eva is now a very balanced active dog that loves to be with dogs and of course spend time with her owner Nadia who now is a true leader.
Eva and Nadia have learned through training and socialization in the right environment that the Dog Park owners are not correct. She has gained confidence and now happily plays and is not afraid of dogs. Nadia also has gained confidence in these situations as she has seen the transformation of Eva from a scared dog to a confident one simply by advocating for her.
So what do I think about Dog Parks? I am not a fan of them because of the uncontrolled nature of them, advice given to owners by other owners and some of the dogs who should not be at the park but should be attending training for various reasons.
So my advice for those who wish to attend is to be careful check out the park and if you are not comfortable with the environment don’t take your dog into it, regardless of how many times you have attended. If your dog does have a bad experience do not go back, contact us to help to create a program through training and socialization to bring confidence back to both you and your dog.
At The Dog Stop we are dedicated to ensuring that you and your dog have a long and healthy relationship. Dog training for every age and stage for your dog. Visit our Training page for details: The Dog Stop Training