To dog park, or not to dog park
That's the question!
Answer? No. Don't dog park.
That was easy.
Oh, you want more? Ok ok..
Here's the thing. Dog parks look great on paper. They're dedicated spaces for dogs to run and play and blow off steam. What's not to love?
Well..real life is a little less ideal. First off, every park is different, and there's probably some great ones out there. But generally speaking, they're risky, to say the least.
Your typical dog park is a free-for-all in every sense. Dogs have little to no training or structure, and owners rarely have legitimate control over their dogs. They're also likely not super aware of what body language to look out for, how to judge if play is getting too rough, or how to address nasty behavior. Also, they probably aren't even really paying attention. I'm not judging, I'm just saying.
Even if everything is looking OK, when it comes to groups of adrenalized dogs in a high-drive state, things can escalate in a hurry. And all it takes is one moment going sour to cause some damage. It's not uncommon at all for a trainer to get a dog that was happy-go-lucky easy peasy.
Until. Until that one dog, that one time, at that one park got nasty and pounced on him/her. Now, the dog's fearful, unsure, reactive, skittish. And who could blame it? That kind of stuff can be traumatizing. Sure, it can be worked through, but why take the risk in the first place?
Big events aside, the fact is bad habits rub off. Taking your pup to the park to "learn how to socialize"? How do you know the random dogs there have any skills worth passing on? Or that they're interested? Chances are, the "lessons" learned will be all the wrong ones.
And let's not even get into medical stuff (really think all those dogs are vaccinated, on flea prevention, AND routinely dewormed??)!
I'm coming down a bit harsh here, and if your park works for you and your dog, don't stop just because of some guy on the internet! But, it may be worth considering the risk/reward ratio, what your training and behavior goals are, and how dog parks might be affecting them.
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Kyle Weaver is a dog trainer and behaviorist with 15 years of experience. He helps owners reboot their dogs behavior in 60 days or less