Dog Parks, the good, the bad and the ugly
Dog parks are popping up all over the place as the need for open space to run our dogs in is increasingly difficult to find. Leash laws are understandably very stringent and enforced more so than ever as we hear of loose dog attacks. I often visit dog parks now for a good hour or so of shooting dogs in action and having fun. But what I regularly see at those parks are alot of problems that could be avoided and here's how.
Dog parks can be wonderful and they can be horrible, much depends on the size of the park and the population. Some of the parks I've seen North America are amazing, acres and acres of open space, trails and some even have lakes. Now that to me is an amazing dog park. Not only are these types of parks fun for the dogs but their really enjoyable for the guardians as ell.
What we see in the more densely crowded cities like here in California are a much smaller area fenced that sometimes seems like it can barely contain the contents. Have you ever been to a park on a Saturday or Sunday? They are nuts, dogs wall to wall and lots of noise. They simply are not big enough to safely control that many dogs together at one time. A dog park can be a stressful place, even if it is not hugely crowded it can induce a stress reaction. Lots of strange dogs to meet, interactions and keeping your eye out, its alot for our dogs to deal with. Add that to an area that is too small and contained and the stress level rises.
A dog needs to feel that they have an out, especially when thrown into a situation of being in an unfamiliar pack. When dogs feel that they cannot get away they can become anxious and perhaps more aggressive or submissive. Often at parks there are alot of good dogs who have grown up in a dog park and know the rules. But there is the occasional idiot at the park who loves push everyone around, he is the one causing the problems. But it is an easy fix by having the guardian pay close attention and teaching their dog what is allowed and not allowed at the park.
The issue of guardians at the dog park is huge, you have the good and the very bad. There is one guy at the dog park I see regularly, pretty creepy actually. He comes in with what looks like a scruffy little poodle mix and sits on a side park bench. He sits there enjoying the scenery while his dog humps his leg and if another dog tries to interfere he is pretty possessive about "his" leg. This guardian is not only strange but nasty, his dog got into it once with a smaller dog and when the guardian of the other dog tried to stop it the leg guy went off.
Okay that's a really weird situation but the biggest and most important factor in having a great dog park are the guardians. Yes it is a social place but just like at a childs park, you should never take your eyes off of your dog. It is imperative that you know what is going on at all times. Your dog is completely 100% your responsibility, should you see your dog harrassing another dog or your dog being harrassed themselves, you need to know.
I like the beach parks, they seem to have a much more open feel to them and you don't see as much tension. The dogs are occupied with the water and having fun and not so much with "who's in the park." Both beach and regular parks can transmit some illnesses, mostly in the summer but something to be aware of. Ghiardia is a common illness picked up at a dog park and of course fleas are always nice to share. Ghiardia is an intestinal parasite that can be found on the ground or in the water at dog parks so its a good idea to bring your own water and don't share.
The great thing about dog parks is that the socializing can be wonderful. As long as everything goes smoothly and if something should go wrong that you are there to fix it. It is important to always leave the dog park on a good note so if your dog has a negative experience while there make sure they have a few good ones before you leave. It is great for your dog to meet doggy friends and see them on a regular basis, especially if they live alone.
So when you do visit the dog park try to go when it when it isn't the most crowded time, bring your own water, watch your dog and have fun. And the "more is better" saying is not always true. A good 1/2-1 hour at the park is more than enough, any longer and tempers can be short. The important thing is that you are at the park with your dog to have fun and socialize.