I am not a fan of Dog Parks. Gasp. Their I said it!
Why you ask? What is so wrong with my dog being able to run free and play with other dogs in a large open yet fenced off area? With backyards shrinking to the size of a postage stamp no wonder people think it is a great idea and I am crazy not to support it.
How many times have you heard someone say to you ‘Oh my dog is friendly’ and the next thing it is taking a piece out of your dog! Most people hate to admit that their dog may not be quite as social or as well mannered as they think they are. Or they may even have different “ideas” of what is normal social behaviour for a dog.
Other issues to consider are the health of the dogs attending the park. Are they healthy, vaccinated, wormed or carrying kennel cough? You would like to think that most pet owners are responsible, especially if taking them to a dog park.
I have often watched the interaction between dog and their human in off leash parks and what makes me nervous is that, more often than not, the human is oblivious to their dog’s actions. With many dog parents either sitting on a bench, glued to their mobiles or chatting with other dog parents without so much as a glance in their dog’s direction, they miss the crucial usually very subtle body language that occurs between all dogs when they interact. However, sadly the first “sign” that most humans notice that something has gone wrong is when a dog fight breaks out.
Many dogs when entering a dog park are chomping at the bit and allowed to lunge at the end of the lead. People think this is a “lovely display of excitement”. However, this behaviour is not considered ideal, your dog’s control levels have become out of control well before even interacting with another dog.
A well trained social dog should be in a calm state of mind and focused on you when entering a dog park. Having the capability of being able to display calm behaviour around another dog is a very important life skill. A dog state of mind creates the dog park vibe; calm creates calm, out of control creates just that.
There is a saying among trainers: “if you go to the dog park long enough, something bad will eventually happen.” While I agree there are many well socialised friendly dogs in hundreds of dog parks across the country, it can take just one bad experience for your dog to end up with a lifetime of fear reactive behaviour – thus creating your own unpredictable dog!
I certainly do not claim to be an expert in dog training and behaviour, so this is one reason why I do not go to dog parks. I too need to be able to read my own and other dogs body language well; is she/he having fun, playing right, rough playing or being a bully, is this about to go pear shaped and so on? The other reason I choose to avoid dog parks is because of what my dog may “learn” from other dogs. Recall issues are certainly a common problem. This is where your dog learns, usually very early on, when the “party” is over and it is time to go home so he will not come when called. Can you blame him? All his friends are still playing!
There are many other safe ways to socialise your dog then off leash dog parks; such as doggie play dates with friends/neighbours/work colleagues, doggie day care facilities are an excellent choice particularly if they employ experienced dog behaviourist or join a dog recreation club that offers agility, fly ball, obedience or even dock diving.
That covers the social aspect,now for keeping your dog fit and healthy; why not get off the computer and take your dog for a well earned walk!
Author Bio: Nikki is pack leader at Pressplay Pets, a blog for the modern age pet parent interested in health & care, news, reviews & personal accounts of unconditional love & at times heartfelt pain of pet parenting. She is also proud mum to cute and cheeky Papillons ‘Amber’ and ‘Indy’ and one crazy Rainbow Lorikeet named ‘Ralph’! Follow my Facebook and Twitter.
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