I just read a post on social media of a dog that was injured from being attacked at the dog park. The dog belongs to a college student, so the vet bills are a challenge and the guardian of the dog that did the damage has yet to come forward to take responsibility. It’s very unfortunate and sad, but it is the risk that anyone takes when going to a dog park.
I for one, stay away from fenced, off leash dog parks, but that doesn’t mean I have never gone to one. I have, but only when there are very few dogs, I prefer none, so I can throw the ball and allow my dog to run a little. It’s also good to take a puppy so that they can build antibodies to disease to eliminate over vaccinating, but that is a different topic.
As I stated at the beginning the risk of injury is a possibility, as is death when you take your dog to the dog park. Take a moment to think about when you go to a dog park. If there are other dogs there, they all come up to meet the newcomer to the park. They usually circle the newcomer and sniff. Meanwhile the humans do their own greeting with one another, not paying attention to the dogs. Eventually the dogs will take off running and the humans are absorbed in their world. No one is paying any attention to the dogs or what they are doing. The dog that got hurt, the person didn’t see it happen.
Most of the dogs that go to the dog park haven’t had a walk before going to the dog park. This is where you say, but that’s why I take my dog to the dog park! Yeah! The dog has been inside all day waiting for their human to come home. They are excited when you show up. You grab the leash and load up in the car to go to the dog park to get some of that energy out. Great! Some dogs do great, but then there are others that have all this energy and may be a little more aggressive than others. These are like the bully on the playground. Then there is a group that like each other and don’t want anyone else joining, but they are the ones that run up to the newcomer. They may gang up on the new dog and then they may get a little rough playing. The running may start, then the chasing and then the rolling. Seems harmless enough, right? It only takes one dog that has had enough for a fight to begin. It requires people to pay close attention of what is going on with dogs play. That means people need to know the signs of a stressed dog. How many people at the dog park are that knowledgeable? Remember most of the people are either talking among themselves or looking at their phones.
Then I hear people say that they take their dog to get socialized. Socialization is very important, but doing it at the dog park is not where you want to socialize your puppy or new dog. Remember, most people are not paying attention to the dogs playing. Then there is the group that surrounds the young newcomer or even a couple of overzealous dogs could damage your pup for a very long time and may cause them to be fearful of other dogs. This fear can then manifest as aggressive behavior with other dogs on leash. It’s very important to socialize puppies, but it needs to be done in a controlled environment with a professional trainer. Allowing a group of dogs to play together that are similar in age and size in a controlled environment will help your puppy learn how to play nice with others.
There are alternatives to dog parks that are small, enclosed area. In general, the small enclosed dog parks are more for the humans than they are for dogs. If you want your dog to get exercise, walks with lots of sniffing if very rewarding for the dog and relaxing for the stressed out human. Mental stimulation is so very important for a dog’s well being. Mental stimulation can tire a dog more that playing at the dog park. If you have a dog that has excellent recall, then going to an off leash trail is great for both exercise and mental stimulation. Doing training sessions is also a great way to build your bond with your dog and give them mental stimulation and confidence. Give it a try and use caution if you decide to go to a dog park. Pay attention to what is happening. It is your job to protect your dog as best you can.