Diamonds in the Ruff

Why NOT the Dog Park?

The dog park contains way too many unknowns to be certain your dog will have a safe, confidence-building experience there.

NO PUPPIES AT THE PARK.
Do NOT take your puppy to the dog park.  Period.

It is far more likely that they will become overwhelmed or have a bad experience than gain the proper socialization you are hoping for.  Getting crashed into by other dogs can affect their comfort around other dogs for life.  Playground bullies target the meek and the young.

An all-too-common story from on of our students:
"I was hoping to get some advice with either puppy classes or personal training help.  My husband and I have a 15 week Springer Spaniel puppy. He has been a great puppy, tons of energy like most puppies and very friendly.  I wanted to help get him socialized so I took him to the doggy park yesterday,  which I now regret.  A giant dog ran over to Max and scared him so badly he started yelping uncontrollably.  Since that happened, he has been barking/yelping at any person or dog he sees even if they are a distance away."

Sadly, it can take just one overwhelming experience to shatter your impressionable puppy's trust and safety.

 

Dog Parks are for Well-Socialized Mature Dogs

But unfortunately many people take dogs with problems there, hoping they will get over their problems by playing with other dogs.  Your impressionable youngster does not need to meet maladjusted dogs.

 

If you have a dog that is worried or reactive toward other dogs, do NOT take them to the dog park.  This is like being afraid of the water and being dumped into the ocean to sink or swim.  Instead, find safe, appropriate dogs to help your dog make friends and learn about life.

 

Set up a play date.  If you have a friend who has a calm, healthy, vaccinated, well-adjusted, socially-experienced dog who will be a good mentor for your puppy, invite them to come over for the afternoon or go play at their house.  Want extra socialization?  Schedule sleep-overs at a trusted friend's.  The goal is to seek out situations where calm dogs hang out together and go sniffing together.  It isn't about "playing" or wearing each other out.  Crashing around, wrestling and mock fighting, or chase, tackle and pin games can teach poor social skills, not good ones.

 

My vet said he needs "more socialization" - what does that mean?
Usually it means that your dog lacks social experience and is therefore uncomfortable with new people, animals, places, and/or things.  The goal of socialization is to help the dog relax, build confidence and replace suspicion and defensiveness with trust.  The dog park contains way too many unknowns to be certain your dog will have a safe, confidence building experience. especially for dogs who lack good experiences.

What is he practicing?

How to be a bully?  How to defend himself?  High arousal rowdy behavior?

If your party animal loses his mind when he sees other dogs, STOP going to the dog park or day care.

For many dogs, the repeated free exposure to other dogs makes them worse.  They drag you to the entry and rush in and rush up to other dogs.  They are practicing high arousal play with no boundaries. 

 

They can't wait to get away from you and to the other dogs. 

 

It may seem like if they had "more practice" playing with other dogs, they'd get better.  If they got more exercise, they'd be tired and happy.  The reality is, there is a correlation between dogs who regularly attend group free play with unfamiliar dogs and leash frustration and poor dog-to-dog manners. 

 

If your dog isn't improving, or is getting worse from his group play experiences, STOP.

At the dog park, there are no assurances that these are safe, appropriate, vaccinated dogs.  You won't know if their owners have off-leash control until it's too late.

HEALTH CONCERNS
Illness and Parasites

If you have a young puppy that has not completed his vaccination series, do NOT take him to any public place where unvaccinated dogs may have been - especially the dog park.  Viruses can live in the soil for a very long time.  A dog park is a breeding ground for any number of viruses and parasites that can be spread via the soil, water and air.  Upper respiratory viruses are much more likely to be passed around the playground than in training classes, day cares and boarding kennels where vaccinations and health checks are required before enrolling.

 

Parasites can be picked up through contact with feces and by drinking water from puddles in common areas where fecal matter has been.  Bacterial infections and giardia are common issues as they can live in a wet or damp environment for a very long time.

 

Other intestinal parasites, such as roundworms, hookworms and whipworms, live in the soil and can be easily passed on to your dog if it ingests these eggs by licking his feet, eating dirt, etc. If you are a regular at the dog park, have your dog's stool checked routinely by a veterinarian for intestinal parasites.

 

"It's all fun and games

 - until someone ends up in a cone."

Injuries

Another problem owners should watch for in a dog park is co-mingling of big and little dogs. Serious injuries - even death - can result from the injuries inflicted to a small dog by a larger dog.

 

Dog fights also can arise between dogs of any size, so owners must always be watchful of their pet to make sure that safe play is taking place and redirect before things get tense to keep fights from breaking out between dogs.

 

If your pet is not properly socialized for this type of interactive play, altercations are likely to occur.

Many dogs don't like to play with dogs they don't know.  Much like many people are more comfortable hanging out with close friends than going to big parties where they don't know anyone.

Article from Whole Dog Journal:
Dog Parks Are Dangerous!

Thank you, Robin Bennett for this great meme!

For more information on reading dog body language, attend the "What is My Dog Saying?" canine communication lecture held monthly at Diamonds in the Ruff.  And to learn more about Dog Park Safety, check out the  "What is My Dog Saying at the Dog Park?" presentation HERE.

(c) Diamonds in the Ruff - All rights reserved.
Photos by Margaret Duclos