Why Not a Dog Park?

The Reasons We Warn Against Them

When we think about taking our dog to a dog park we begin to conjure ideas of our pet frolicking with other dogs.  We tend to believe that this will be a great experience for them and that they’ll be a happier dog for having had the experience.  This couldn’t be more untrue.  Furthermore, we warn against taking your dog – and especially a puppy – to a dog park!

Hazards and Risks at a Dog Park Outweigh the Benefits

In March of 2018, in California, a small dog was attacked by two larger dogs at Lodi park and was fatally wounded.  While this is an extreme example, it is not uncommon for injuries to occur to dogs at dog parks.  Injuries can sometimes occur because of the co-mingling of large and small dogs.  In other cases, dog fights erupt between same-sized dogs as they try to assert themselves.  If your pet is not well trained for the type of interaction that occurs in a dog park, altercations will occur.

Like People, Not All Dogs Want to Be Social with Everyone They Meet

For some dogs, taking them to a dog park can make them extremely anxious.  It is like being afraid of the water and being pushed into the pool for them. 

Like people, some dogs prefer the comfort of familiar faces or only in small numbers.  Just as we do not chat with everyone we meet, our dogs do not have to play with every dog they meet.  The pressure to do so can make them uncomfortable or aggressive.  Rather than place our pups in this position, find a more suitable alternative.  For instance, schedule a few minutes with the neighbor’s dog every week. This may be all the socialization your dog needs- or wants.  Older dogs, especially, tend to prefer to go without playful interaction with other dogs.

The goal is to ensure that your dog feels relaxed and can leave at any time they start to feel uncomfortable.  Other options include pet socialization classes where the number of dogs is limited and it is monitored in a controlled environment by pet professionals.

Germs, Illness, and Parasites

If that doesn’t get your attention, we’re not sure what will.  Did you know that viruses can live in the soil of the dog park for an extended period of time?  This is true for any soil. This makes dog parks a veritable breeding ground for all types of viruses and parasites.  Because shot records are not required at the door, your pup could be mingling with unvaccinated or unhealthy animals.  This is especially dangerous to a new pup who has not yet completed his full schedule of vaccinations. This pup is therefore more susceptible to the germs.  Safer spaces for your pets include training classes, doggy day care, or boarding kennels where shot records are required prior to entry.

Anti-Training

The energy in a dog park can often be frantic and chaotic.  It doesn’t take long for a dog to get reinforcement from the experience that this behavior is acceptable. This teaches them that their owner has little or no control over them.  If you’ve visited a dog park, you’ve noticed at least one frustrated owner trying to get their dogs attention. It is usually to no avail.  This behavior can often carry over at home.  Undoing what the dog park has taught your dog can be frustrating for both you and your dog.

Elevated Protective Behaviors

Does your dog guard their toys?  Do they maybe even guard you a little?  Does your pet tend to want to keep the water bowl to themselves?  Is your dog the bully of the playground?  Dogs can be instinctual when it comes to guarding their resources.  If another animal tries to take what they believe is theirs it can result in a combative response.

Lasting Trauma

A young dog may feel long-term affects of an unpleasant experience at a dog park.  If they are attacked, especially unprovoked, your dog may begin exhibiting aggressive behavior of their own.  As a human, you may witness what you believe to be a small event happening to your dog that unexpectedly has lasting affects.  These incidents are likened to childhood trauma in humans.  Similar to someone playfully jumping out from behind a corner and yelling “Boo” to a small child who is too young to understand that won’t always happen again, but feels forever as if it will.

Inattentive Owners

All types of dogs come to a dog park.  The same is true for the owners.  There are some great dog owners who watch after their pets.  They keep an eye on them, break up incidents before they escalate, pick-up their messes, watch for inappropriate play or behavior, and are simply aware of their animals.  On the other hand, some owners spend more time on their phones or talking to other people to be bothered with their pet.  In these cases, their dog is left unchecked and can often create the problems mentioned above that you and your dog are trying to avoid.

To be safe, we recommend that you skip the dog park altogether and find better, safer alternatives for your pet.

For More Information

If you have questions about dog parks or general questions about pet care, you can contact Kara Jenkins, Owner of TLC Pet Sitter. We are also available by email at info@tlcpetsitter.com. View more of our articles on pets here.