Dog parks are a hot thing right now in our culture. They provide an easy way to exercise your dog while living in urban areas where it’s usually difficult to find a safe off-leash place for your dog (who needs more space for exercise than yourself) to run and play, they create a good neutral environment for socializing your dog (let’s be real: you socialize too), or it’s just a convenient place for you to get Fido’s wiggles out while you sit on a bench and watch. Whatever reason-dog parks are very popular.
It’s great to be in a place with like minded dog freak who will join in conversation with you about topics from what your dogs poop looked like this morning, to which is the best local daycare facility.
All of these things are well and good, but there are a few things you need to consider before you visit just any dog park. How will my dog behave with other people, dogs, and distractions?, Can I trust my dog to respond to my directions while she is off-leash?, And IS IT A SAFE PARK?
If you visit the dog park, and you find that you are the one following Fido around, GO. HOME! You and your dog should be respectful of people and their pets’ space. You should not be looking over your shoulder every few seconds wondering where your dog is and who/what they are humping/chewing/licking/eating/biting. Go home and practice your basic commands and work with your dog at paying attention to you inside your home. If your dog doesn’t pay attention or obey at home, he will be a disaster anywhere past your front door. Work your way to the dog park, and make it your goal and ultimate reward.
Bringing a dog to the park who is too over-stimulated to obey basic commands can be at best extremely annoying (to yourself, and others), and at worst extremely dangerous. If you run into another dog who Fido doesn’t mix with well, and you can’t trust his recall, he or the other dog could become seriously injured. Trust me. It’s worth it to have that kind of thing nailed down, and be the owner of the dog that walked away from a potential “disagreement”.
When I take my dogs to the park, I decide which way we will walk, and I trust that if I turn and walk away from a person or dog, they will be right behind me. I trust that if they are out of view and I whistle, they will recall instantly. I know that if they are in a clump of dogs that is getting intense, when I clap my hands and say “this way,” they will come. They know my voice, they know what their commands mean, and they know how much praise they will receive when they obey.
When you choose a park to visit, don’t be stupid. duh… Choose a park, and time of day, where you know there will be other responsible owners.
I was at a park last week in the afternoon where a family came in with a bunch of weener dogs. The lady dressed in pajama pants and a robe, and smoking a cigarette, yelled at her dog, “Moose! Get back here! Turn around right now and get over here! COME!!!!” I cannot blame the dog for continuing to run the other way. What dog (or human for that matter) would want to come bounding back to that hot mess? Not. Me.
Another person was there the same day with his (adorable) 6 month old pit puppy. Cute as she was.. She would not stop biting at my dog’s muzzle. Hello! Any time I see a dog with a muzzle, I’m asking the owner “what for?” If the dog is reactive, then I help my dogs behave in a calm way, or we walk on. If the dog is just nippy, then I let them play, but call them off if it bets too intense. In my dogs case, she gets irritated easily when overstimulated. I was very obviously struggling to help my dog protect herself from the puppy, and all the help I got from her owner was “Sasha, come…. Sorry she’s still learning to listen.” Can I reiterate what I wanted to say? GO HOME!
On another note, a couple days ago, I visited a different park around 8 or 9 in the morning. I was so pleased to find another foster mom, and several other dog owners with dogs who were paying attention! I almost couldn’t believe it. I went again the next day, and found the same people were there, and everyone was pretty familiar with each other, knew whose dog was who, and even remembered me and my dogs from the day before.
Another thing that separates the good parks from the bad is size. Size matters! Cram 15 dogs in a 1 acre sized dirt corral, and there’s bound to be some inappropriate behavior going on. Dogs need enough room to get away from each other if they are overwhelmed. The parks I’ve found my dogs like best are LARGE with sometimes 3 sectioned areas, trails, trees, and open spaces. This allows me to give my dogs an escape, or lead them off in a different direction if I see a bad situation headed my way.
Here are some rules you should follow when you’re at the park:
1) if you think you might need a muzzle, then use a muzzle. Better safe than paying someone else’s vet bill.
2) if you think you might need a leash, go to Petco and spend $25 on a 30′ leash! It’s WORTH it, and allows your dog to run while giving you enough proximity to halt them of necessary.
3) if your dog is causing trouble-intervene, you dummy! don’t laugh and make jokes, or stand in one spot calling your dog over and over while he is “finishing up” on the little poodle. Clap your hands and walk away calling their name. I’ll bet you 5 buckaroos he’ll follow.
4) just take the 5 minutes out of your time at the dog park to read the rules posted on the gate. It’s not hard, and it will save you a headache later.
5) if your dog is being picked on, defend them don’t glare at the other dog’s owner, or “teach them to defend themselves” by ignoring what’s going on right in front of you. Your dog needs to be able to trust you, so intervene.
6) if the tiny 1 acre dog park you decided to visit (against my better judgement) becomes overcrowded- GO. HOME. save your dog some trauma.
To conclude. Dog parks can be very fun, or very dangerous. If you and your dog are not ready, save it for another day. Or go when there are no people anywhere in sight. When you are ready, be aware of what your dog is communicating to you so you can handle each situation wisely.
Okay. I think I’m out of things to say about dog parks for now.
Come meet little Isis tomorrow at Petco on 6th Avenue in Tacoma! She will be there from 11am-3pm. Have a good night 🙂
for information about adopting Isis, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us on Facebook and petfinder