To Dog Park or Not To Dog Park?

That is the question.

One question a dog parent always must ask themselves is, “Is a dog park good or bad for my dog?” Dog parks, like anything else in life has good and bad factors to consider. I took my dog to the dog park for the first year and a half of her life. At that point I decided a dog park was no longer good for her, and no longer do so.
It is well known that dogs are pack animals and that socialization is a very important factor in any dogs development. That is why I believe that for the first year or two a dog park has positive impact on a dogs development. I own a pit bull and know how important it is for her to be friendly with other dogs. Through the course of her development I took her to dog beaches, dog parks, dog hikes etc.
When Tia (my pit bull) was 4 months, after she received her puppy shots,  I started taking her to the dog park, here is where the negative impact enters…the people element. People were very concerned with having a pit bull at the park, even at 4 months old. Here is my warning. Know your dog’s breed. That means know the personality type. In example Dalmatians are known for being very high energy. This is one thing to be aware of when going to a dog park. When you know your breed and your dog’s personality type you are therefore be prepared for any reactions of your dog and people’s response to your dog. My dog is a pit bull. I had to develop a thick skin due to her breed. I know that if you have a chow, or Dalmatian or Rottweiler you’re going to be in the same club as me. One thing I found very helpful was to remind people that we were there to “socialize her to be friendly and not a fighter.” I also covered her in pink. Pink collar, pink leash, pink shirts, etc, to show people she was a sweet and friendly approachable animal.
Another thing that eases people’s fears, is to be consistent. If you are going to take your dog to the park, take her/him frequently so that your dog makes friends, as well as you. Do say hello to other people there. Do start conversations. The easiest way is what is your dog’s name? People love to talk about their dogs. If your dog finds a good playmate it makes for a more positive experience. You also learn which dogs you want to avoid. Whether that dog is aggressive or if their owner has no control of them. This is the reason i ultimately stopped taking my dog to the dog park. I found plenty of dog owners that had no control of their dogs and belonged on the “Dog Whisperer” show. My recommendation is to go to another end of the dog park or leave.
If you do not have control of your own dog please take your dog to training and learn how before you go to the dog park. A dog park is an unpredictable place. Anything can happen on a seconds notice and you need to be able to control your dog if needed.
Another recommendation about dog parks is to do training within the dog park. It is an excellent place to teach your dog to obey with TONS of distractions. Other dogs, people, toys flying etc. This also shows to the other doggy mom’s and dad’s that you have control over your dog. It allows them to feel more safe and secure if they might be timid.
I do recommend following the big dog park small dog park rule. Most dog parks have separated areas for big and small dogs. I recommend that if you have a puppy regardless of the breed go in the SMALL dog park. In my learning curve, I took my puppy into the large dog park because of being hassled by fearful people (due to her breed). I learned very quickly that older dogs do not like the high energy in puppies. Tia got bit by another dog and had to have a staple put in her nose because of my “ignorance”. A lesson learned and hopefully passed on to protect your dog. Small dogs are generally considered 30 lbs or less. Large dogs 30 lbs or more. However each dog park will have signs posted concerning pound limits. If someone hassles you about your puppy in the small dog area because of breed, my recommendation is to ignore them. You are protecting your puppy by having your dog in the CORRECT area.
Please note to go to a dog park your dog needs to be spayed or neutered. An unaltered dog releases pheromones that make dogs more prone to negative behaviors or fighting. In addition you will be doing the world a favor. Over 4 million dogs are put to sleep each year due to over-population.
Please note do not have a leash on your dog in the dog park. Remove it in the entrance area for your dogs safety. Dogs can get strangled. A typical behavior of the dogs is when a new dog arrives, there is a “welcoming committee” near the entrance. This situation can put your dog in choking danger.
Dog parks can be positive places to make friends for your dog and yourself. You can learn about different foods, supplements, trainers, and dog related things. A dog park can also be a dangerous place with the potential of a fight always present. Speak to your vet and do your research.
By Andrea Bossenmeyer
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