Almost every American suburb has a local dog park where people gather on the weekends. They bring their dogs to mingle with others and maybe even play a game of fetch. But have you thought about should you take your dog to the dog park? It might seem like a harmless thing to do, but after reading this, you might think twice.
How Do I Socialize My Dog At The Dog Park?
Should you take your dog to the dog park to make new friends? There is a big myth out there that taking your dog to the dog park will get him adequately socialized. That playing with other dogs is the only way to get them used to strangers and learn manners. But according to professional dog trainer and veterinarians, you might be doing more harm than good.
In many cases, taking your dog to a crowded dog park is the worst way to introduce them to other pets. Instead, it would help if you started with a controlled environment with only one dog. And this other dog should also be well-mannered. Plus, there’s an excellent reason for this. Let’s look at the dark side of dog parks.
Why You Shouldn’t Take Your Dog To The Dog Park?
Should I take my dog to the dog park? There are plenty of reasons never to set foot in a dog park. So, let’s take a look at a few of them together.
People Don’t Pay Attention
When people bring their dogs to the dog park, they likely aren’t watching their dogs. Instead, they might use that time to play on their cell phone, scrolling through social media, or talking to each other. And this is one of the most dangerous things about a dog park.
Dog Parks Aren’t Enriching
Your dog might love meeting a new dog. But dog parks aren’t very enriching for your dogs, which is one of the most important things to consider. They would have a good time with a one-on-one playdate with you and a good friend over a park any day.
People Don’t Know Dog Body Language
Another downfall to the dog owners is that they don’t know how to read their dogs. Many people mistake common signs of stress, aggression, and normal play. And since pet parents don’t know how to assess the situation well, it can lead to fights.
Will My Dog Learn Dog Park Etiquette?
Another reason most trainers despise dog parks is that it teaches a young dog bad manners. If your dog is always greeted in this way, it leads him to do the same. Even if your dog learns a few park manners, not every dog will act this way. But keep reading to find out about basic park manners.
Over Crowded Play Yards
Another downfall to dog parks is that they aren’t that spacious. Most of these small parks are barely large enough for safe social interaction. So when the weather is nice, you can guarantee everyone has the same idea to go to the park. With large dogs and small dogs running around together, it’s enough to make anyone nervous.
Is It Safe To Take My Dog To The Dog Park?
When you take a mix of inattentive dog parents, bad manners, and tight spaces, you can guarantee there will be a fight or two. And along with a bunch of dogs, there is a high risk of illness at dog parks. Since there are no gatekeepers at dog parks, unvaccinated dogs spread diseases like kennel cough, canine influenza, and fleas.
What Should You Not Do At A Dog Park?
Having proper socialization at the park is pretty simple. Take everything we mention above, and do the exact opposite.
- Don’t let your dog run around without supervision.
- Understand dog body language.
- Teach your dog commands like heel, come, sit, and stay first.
- Also, train your dog to enter calmly and never crowd other dogs entering the park.
- Don’t go when it’s crowded.
- And keep your dog up to date on shots and flea medication.
You also a good idea to leave all toys, tennis balls, treats, or personal belongings at home. Dogs can get surprisingly territorial over their things. So a favorite ball or frisbee is asking for a fight and distraction to other dogs.
How do I get my dog to behave at the dog park?
We mentioned that training your dogs with basic commands is a necessity. But even with your dog properly trained, sometimes excitement can get the best of him. So how do you get your dog to behave otherwise? The best way is to practice at home first.
Always have your dog sit before opening doors or going outside for a walk. Another trick is to place treats and toys in a spaced-out line. Walk your dog off-leash next to this distraction to teach them to leave it. Doing exercises like this will lead your dog to enter the play yards and leave other dogs alone calmly. These are also excellent focus training tips for older dogs before going to the park.
It might take a few times to get this right in a new setting. So if possible, go to the parks the first time when there aren’t any other visitors. That way, you can bring treats or a clicker for training. And you can practice as many times as needed without disturbing others.
Should I Keep My Dog On A Leash At The Dog Park?
You might be thinking that usual dog etiquette includes leash play. You might even believe that keeping your dog leashed inside the park might prevent dog fights. But the exact opposite is true in most cases.
Leaving your dog on a leash will make it feel uncomfortable. It will also encourage other dogs to crowd your pup. The only leash area at the park is outside of the fence. Once your dog is inside the play yard, take them off the leash immediately. This will relieve the tension, and your dog can physically remove himself from bad situations.
But there are leash dog parks that have perfectly acceptable walking trails. In a leash park, your dog will meet others but not have the freedom to run and interact without you.
Is It Bad To Go To The Dog Park Everyday?
Once your dog is dog park trained, you might be tempted to go every day. And the chances are that you will see the same people and dogs if you go at the same time every day. If everyone gets along and everyone follows good park rules, there is no problem going every day.
But just remember that every time you go, you are increasing your risk of something terrible happening. If you are looking for a safe place other than dog parks, look into training classes, agility sports, local play dates, or doggy daycare. These activities are the best place for socializing because they are all supervised by professionals in smaller settings. And they can give your dog the exercise they crave and socialization they need.
Why Does My Dog Get Picked On At Dog Park?
There are plenty of reasons why other dogs might zone in on your dog. If your dog is shy, others might pick up on that. It’s also really common for big dogs to pick on smaller dogs. And one of the biggest reasons other dogs will bully your dog is that they can sense that your dog doesn’t want to be there.
If your dog shies away from other dogs and shows obvious signs of distress, other dogs will notice. In these situations, it’s best to remove your dog and try again another time. It’s always best to stop the situation before your new puppy has a bad experience. But don’t give up entirely!
How Do You Introduce A Nervous Dog To A Dog Park?
If you have a nervous puppy, you will want to warm them up slowly. Start socializing at a young age, but not at the dog park. Maybe a playdate with the neighbor’s dog to start with. Taking a walk in new areas frequently also helps adjust your dogs to new situations and smells.
After these have gone well, and you think your dog is ready, you can try a park. But don’t just go to any park. Look for one with separate areas for dogs of different sizes-ones with plenty of space and few visitors. Your dog will warm up better to these types of parks faster, and you can start having fun.
Why Does My Dog Fight At The Dog Park?
In most cases, the reason dogs react in aggression is due to fear. If the other dogs are too hyper or invading your dog’s space, it can be overwhelming. Your dog might show teeth, raise his hackles, and walk stiffly to show how uncomfortable he is.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Aggressive At The Dog Park?
Should you take your dog to the dog park if they have had aggressive behavior? Dogs are like people. Not every dog will get along with others, and some dogs don’t like other dogs. So if your dog is fighting at the park, it’s best to remove them from the situation. You can start slowly to socialize your dog in small familiar groups. And work your way up to parks and other dogs.
Is It Ever Too Late To Socialize A Dog?
You might be wondering what went wrong with aggressive dogs. Did you try socializing too late? Everyone loves to say that you can’t teach a dog new tricks. But this is another myth that needs to be laid to rest. Dogs are a creature of habit, so all you need to do is create new patterns. Using the same tips and tricks you would use with a puppy, you can socialize adult dogs. It might take a little longer to get there, but nothing is impossible.
Are Dog Parks A Bad Idea?
For the average dog owner, dog parks are an accident waiting to happen. So should you take your dog to the dog park? That really depends on how much you are comfortable with. Just because your dog is well-behaved and trained doesn’t mean the others are. There are so many other great ways to exercise and socialize your dog, and they are safer by far. But dog parks themselves aren’t bad. It’s the irresponsible pet owners that make it dangerous.
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