Dogs parks seem like such an idyllic place for dogs: lots of room to roam and plenty of doggie friends to meet; not to mention its pretty cool for us humans to meet other dog owners. While the allure of dog parks is strong, they are actually a very bad idea in my opinion. And yes, I am aware that many of you reading this have taken your dog to a dog park for years and have never had an issue. That is great! However, bad instances at dog parks are all too common. I always have to look at RISK v REWARD when doing something with a dog and when it comes to dog parks...
It is simple: Dog parks pose more risks then rewards for dogs.
RISKS of dog parks
1. Dog fights and the ramifications it has on those dogs involved in the fight
2. Diseases: there is no telling if other owners keep up with their dog's vaccinations
3. Dangerous dogs: unfortunately, MANY people with dogs that have "dog issues" bring their reactive/aggressive dog(s) to dog parks in hopes to rehabilitate their dog and get their dog accustomed to being around other dogs. Not only is this a TERRIBLE attempt to rehabilitate or socialize a dog with "issues," but it is completely unfair to subject other dogs to an unstable dog.
4. Stressful for some dogs: Dog parks have A LOT going on and are simply too stressful for many dogs.
5. Ignorance by the humans: dog park goers are dog lovers (which is great), but that doesn't mean they understand dogs and/or dog behavior well and it doesn't mean they make good decisions. I have witnessed dog owners on their cell phones in a dog park... not paying a bit of attention to their dog or the other dogs. I have seen dog owners bring food or toys (ie: tennis balls) into a dog park and these "prized possessions" can easily cause issues even with dogs that are labeled as "extremely friendly." I have seen dogs "bullied" by other dogs and the humans have no idea what is going on and/or have the attitude of "let the dogs figure it out (which can eventually lead to a fight)."
6. Learned bad behavior: Dogs learn from other dogs and sometimes what they learn are the not-so-good things (jumping, barking, digging, playing rough, etc).
7. Improper Socialization: Dog books, pet stores and society in general tells us: "Socialize your dog! Socialize your dog!" Many owners rely on dog parks for dog socialization and I think this is a HUGE mistake. While I am a huge advocate of socialization (and exercise for that matter) for dogs, it needs to be done properly and in my opinion, with structure and calm energy. There are basically no rules at dog parks: they are a wild party and that is EXACTLY what your dog is going to learn: every time it sees a dog it is PARTY TIME! And then owners wonder why their dog barks, lunges or pulls on leash whenever it sees a dog... often times because that is exactly what we have taught them to do when they see a dog: party.
Yes dog parks can be a great outlet for your dog, but they pose so many risks. There are plenty of other ways to exercise, have fun and socialize your dog. If you take your dog to the dog park because he/she is too difficult to walk on leash then hire a good trainer (check out Allegiant K9s videos- the worst pulling dogs are heeling beautifully on leash in very little time). If you love the idea of your dog having the freedom to roam and run- no problem, have your dog professionally trained for solid, safe and reliable off leash obedience.
If you love the idea of your dog running around free with other dogs... no problem... look into a quality dog daycare. Dog daycare can be a GREAT option for your dog as most Doggie Day Cares screen dogs for the right temperament, check vaccination records and have trained staff supervising the dogs 100% of the time. Feel free to contact me as I can give you a few choices for EXCELLENT dog daycare facilities!
Lets exercise our dogs. Lets be engaged with our dogs. Lets socialize our dogs. Lets just do it right!