Dog Parks friend or foe

Purpose of dog parks

Dog Parks are like a cocktail party, where you don’t know
anyone and everyone is drunk. You could have fun, but it
could be a disaster.

It would seem pretty obvious that dog parks are a place for people who don’t have a lot of personal space to take their dog for exercise. The perfect example would be apartment dwellers or people who live in big cities.
The second and possible more common reason (which I disagree with) is that dog parks are a place for a dog to socialize with other dogs.

There is mum, three kids and their exuberant 6-month old Labrador. He is jumping in everyone’s face while mum shouts: he is friendly and just wants to play. The other dogs try to run but there is no escape.

The local dog trainer is there with yet another dog – scared of other dogs, trying to increase distance and avoid the other dogs. But he cannot escape because he is on a leash. The trainer explains that he ‘needs to get used to it’. The dog is showing a lot of stress signs but no one takes note, then he lunges, gets yelled at and jerked on the leash. The owner looking rather confused.

Hipster is on the phone and his French Bulldog trying to hump a Great Dane. Everyone laughs and thinks it very funny. The Bulldog loves the attention and keeps going.
The Jack Russell has disappeared into the bushes, her owner yelling ‘come’ over and over again, but to no avail.

I will make no secret; I am not a big fan of off leash areas. In my experience only about 20 % of dogs are enjoying the experience, 30 % will cope and do their own thing as long as the other dogs leave them alone but 50 % of the dogs in the park are saying loud and clearly: “get me out of here” – this is no fun!

Many dog lovers think for some reason that having their dog running around with others in a fenced off area where they cant get out is a great idea.To me this is fraught with danger.You hear the comments

“but my dog is so friendly he has a great time”Dog Parks
.But what about the other dogs?Are they as friendly? Why do dogs need to play with other dogs? Arent you enough for your dog? Does your dog find other dogs more rewarding than you? If so, something is wrong. How confident are you that your dog will return to you when its called when playing with other dogs? Do you think they learn anything from playing with other dogs? Dog parks are more for the socialisation of the owners rather than the dogs.You dog maybe very playfull and submissive but that doesnt mean the other dog is. So you might say “well the other dog shouldnt be there if he is aggressive to other dogs” Hasnt he every right to be there too? What if only one dog is aggressive towards yours and no others? Do you leave? Put your dog on a lead and wait till the other dog goes? Does that achieve anything ? Does that teach the dogs anything? Certainly has made the dominant dog more dominant towards yours.. There will always be a pecking order within dogs .DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENT. Letting your dogs be in an environment like that is only asking for trouble sooner or later.Might not happen today next week or next month and it might not be your dog but trouble does happen and no doubt everyone has seen it.

 

 

The Dangers of Dog Parks

Every couple of days I get an email from someone asking about problems with their dogs being attacked when they are on walks or running loose at one of the local parks that many cities setup.

People also question me on how to deal with overly aggressive dogs that belong to other pet owners. They also question me about their own dogs not trying to defend themselves when approached by a seemingly aggressive dog. Some people want to know if they should just let the dogs work these problems out themselves.

I want to go on record as saying that the concept of “Dog Parks” was well intended but a bad idea, especially when dogs are allowed to run off-leash. The main problems all stem from people who don’t understand and have not established pack structure with their dogs. This means their dogs are out of control.

The average dog owner does not take the time to understand much less install pack structure. They don’t know how strong the pack instincts are in their family pets. These drives can and often do click into high gear when a dog is taken into a park with strange dogs.

When a new dog comes into a park that other dogs visit every day the new visitor is often seen an an intruder into “the personal territory” of the regular visitor. More often than not they are not seen as new found friend. This often leads to either to territorial aggression, dominance aggression or fear aggression.

Learned Disobedience

When owners are not careful,dog park play quickly teaches a dog that the owner has no control over him. I’m sure we’ve all seen an owner following her dog, calling vainly as the animal stays just out of
range, looks at her from afar, or just totally ignores her. And this is after the dog has learned to bark hysterically in the car all the way to the dog park, followed by pulling the owner through the parking lot, and then bolting away from her as soon as the leash is off.

Problematic Play

Dog play styles can be radically different, and sometimes they are not compatible with each other’s.
This can cause misunderstandings,or even fights, and it can also exacerbate certain play styles.
Dogs that tend to be very physical in play often overwhelm other dogs. No one is inhibiting their play style.

In fact, owners often laugh at concerns with “don’t worry, he’s only playing.” Playing he may be,
but he is also learning, and what he’s learning is not necessarily what we want to be teaching. When bully
type dogs play with similar dogs, the only unwanted outcome is that they don’t learn how to be polite with
other dogs.

If they bully weaker dogs–which often happens–they learn that they can overpower other
dogs, and they tend to repeat the behaviour. The weaker dogs learn that cut-off or appeasement signals
do not work, and they learn to be afraid of other dogs … sometimes all other dogs, sometimes just dogs
that look like the bullies.

Dog Socialisation

By All means socialise your dogs but in a controlled manner. Just like humans dogs aren’t going to like every dog that it sees and if you the owner and protector of you dog cant do anything about that when your dog is off lead he shouldn’t be off lead. The dog needs you not other dogs. You own your dog and it is your responsibility to train and exercise him .And letting him off leash in a dog park with other dogs that you have no idea what their behaviour is like is just fraught with danger.
Teach him to ignore other dogs. Teach him that you are his world not the other dogs.

By now you may be saying but how is my dog going to play with other dogs is I don’t take him to a dog park?
The question is why does he have to? As I’ve said before “my dog doesn’t need to like other dogs just behave around them ”
If i give my dog alternating signals where one day he can play with dogs and the next he must ignore them he is only going to become confused. So what happens when you are walking your dog and your dog sees another dog. Naturally want to play with it.
I believe unless you can control your dog off lead around the outside of a dog park and i MEAN CONTROL there is absolutely no reason that you would want to take your dog into the dog park.

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