Dog parks are increasingly common in many communities,
but so is the discussion whether they are good or bad.
While the decision is up to each dog owner
and their canine, there are some things
you need to know before you go to your local dog park!
Since the first dog park in Berkeley, California opened in 1979, there are more
than 774 dog parks in just the United States alone as of 2018.
But should YOU and YOUR dog use them?
Dog Parks: Pros
Dog parks (sometimes called dog runs) were created and intended to be safe places that welcome both dogs and their humans. They offer a lot of benefits especially for friendly and well-socialized canines (and humans!).
- Some parks offer large fenced areas for extensive exercise off-leash.
- Contained dog parks protect dogs from getting lost.
- They protect other park users from being jumped on by excited dogs.
- Parks offer the opportunity for K9 socialization with all sizes and breeds and for meeting other dog owners!
- Some parks cater to small dogs and large dogs with separate fenced areas.
- Dog parks help protect natural areas and local wildlife.
Dog Parks: Cons
Like most issues, there is also a not-so-good side. So, before you decide to use a local dog park, understand what you and your dog are getting into first!
- Dog parks are not appropriate for young puppies who are still being socialized. All socialization of puppies should always be supervised and positive to avoid potential behavioral issues or fears. They can also be too chaotic for senior dogs with eyesight, hearing, or mobility issues.
- They are not recommended places for canines who are:
- Anxious or fearful
- Unsocialized or under-socialized
- Too defensive
- Nervous or skittish
- Timid or shy
Not all owners are willing to stop or step in and address bad dog behaviors like:
- Resource Guarding
← For these kinds of dogs, most dog parks will be overwhelming and may inadvertently encourage aggressive behaviors like biting or fighting and/or worsen any current fears.
Unfortunately, most owners will not exercise their dog before coming to the dog park, so many dogs may be over-aroused with excess energy, which may lead to unsocial and negative canine behaviors.
Similarly, not all owners will proactively supervise their dog’s behavior. Many owners do not understand dog body language, and may accidentally miss important cues for potential bad behaviors, including:
- Excessive lip licking
- Rigid or stiff body postures or tails
- Dogs pinning other dogs to the ground and mounting behaviors
- Body slamming and other “rude” or “unsocial” dog behaviors
- Excessive or frenzied barking or growling
Even the best dog parks can have hidden health issues, including:
- Ticks, fleas, and heartworm
- Dog flu and kennel cough
- Giardia (which can also be passed to humans)
- Diseases from neglected dog feces or diarrhea
Dr. Heather Loenser, Senior Vet Officer at AAHA cautions:
“Unfortunately, just because an owner thinks their dog plays well with others,
doesn’t mean they always do.”
Dog Parks: A Few Tips
If you decide to take your dog to a dog park, talk to other dog owners or pet care professionals first to find out what to expect.
Before entering the park, take a few minutes to watch what’s going on at the dog park. Then gauge your level of comfort about entering and joining the dogs/humans already in the park.
Finally, make sure your dog shares your enthusiasm for the dog park! If they show nervousness or resistance, never force them to “enjoy” the park. Your dog is relying on you to do the best for their overall well-being.
Better Care for Your Best Friend!
Does your dog need some extra exercise? Or does your pet need some extra one-on-one attention with pet sitting? We will love and treat your pet like a member of our own family in the Davis, Woodland and Dixon areas of California!
DogGeek.com: Find a Local Off-Leash Dog Park
Association of Professional Dog Trainers: Dog Parks: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Psychology Today: Dogs Parks Can be Fun Places to Go, But the Dog has to Agree
Mother Nature Network: 15 Things Humans Do Wrong at Dog Parks
Image Courtesy of DogGeek.com