Should You Take Your Dog to Dog Parks?
Dog parks can get people really wound up. There are the lovers and the haters and the people who aren’t sure if they’re ok or not.
If your dog is not up-to-date on vaccinations, avoid the park.
If your intact female is in heat, wait until she’s done before taking her. Even if all the males are neutered, it can still create stress and even fights.
How is Your Dog with Other Dogs?
Before you can figure out if you should take your dog to the park, consider how your dog is with other dogs. Some dogs scream, growl, lunge, and snarl at other dogs when they’re on leash. That can mean they’re dog aggressive but sometimes it just means they’re leash frustrated because they want to say hi.
It can be hard to know which one it is and if you’re in doubt, seek professional help. No one wants a dog aggressive dog set loose into a dog park to potentially hurt other dogs.
If Your Dog May Be Aggressive, Don’t Take Him to Dog Parks
The reason that some people dislike dog parks are that they fear dogs may get injured by fighting with other dogs.
There’s an old saying that has been attributed to various people but no one seems to know who said it.
”A ship in the harbor is safe. But that’s not what ships are built for.”
Dogs are a social species. And they need opportunities to interact in species normal ways with other dogs. Sniffing butts, humping, running, chasing, play biting, wrestling, are all normal ways that dogs interact with each other.
When dogs fight, there’s screaming, thrashing, teeth flashing, growling, crying and it can be terrifying.
Most of the time, after the fight ends, neither dog has a scratch on them, or injuries are so minor they don’t even require veterinary care.
Most dog fights, whether at dog parks, or in the home, are non-injurious no matter how scary they sound.
But like most every other animal, dogs may argue with each other. And just because they argue, doesn’t mean that knives are coming out to kill each other.
Arguing is normal dog behavior, just like it’s normal in people too.
When the argument is between predators with sharp teeth, it can feel really dangerous.
Yet curiously, very few dog fights end in serious injuries.
Squabbles are a normal part of dog interactions.
Are There Dogs that Shouldn’t Go to Dog Parks?
Dog aggressive dogs. If your dog has done enough damage to another dog to require stitches or drains, don’t take your dog to the park without working through the problems with a certified professional dog trainer.
Fearful dogs. Some dogs are fearful at dog parks. They may shrink back, try to hide, cower, and look uncomfortable. The signs may be subtle obvious. If your dog seems nervous at the park, take him home. Exposure, by spending more time at the park won’t automatically help your dog. And the point of visiting dog parks is for you and your dog to have fun.
Dogs who bully. Some dogs are bullies at dog parks. They pester other dogs who are trying hard to give them clear signals to go away. And even when the other dog tries to snark them off by lunging or growling, they don’t quit. These are behaviors that can be worked on and would be best addressed with a qualified dog training professional. If you want to try it yourself, give your dog a warning, “that’s enough”. And if your dog persists, game over. Clip on the leash and take him home. Your dog should soon stop bullying.
Dogs who are bullied. If your dog is the victim of a dog bully, take your pup home and come back another time. Some people try to talk to the bully owner but to my mind, it’s easier to just leave.
Your dog sometimes fights with other dogs. If your dog sometimes gets along with other dogs but sometimes fights with dogs at the park, this is another area where a qualified professional can help. Graduates of the Academy for Dog Trainers, who have the CTC credential, have had training in helping with this particular problem. Dog trainers with other backgrounds may also be able to help.
Problems to Watch Out For at Dog Parks
If your dog park allows large and small dogs to intermingle, I’d recommend finding a new park. Dogs are safest with similarly sized dogs. And small dogs can trigger predatory behavior in some larger dogs.
If you are in the Sacramento area, the Hagan Dog Park in Rancho Cordova is one of my absolute favorites. They segregate by size. There are a ton of gigantic shade trees. The park is spacious with lots of room for dogs who prefer to keep to themselves as well as room for dogs to interact. And it’s a few seconds walk to the river if your dog wants to cool off after a good romp.
I love going to dog parks with clients to help work through safety concerns and helping dogs enjoy time with their own species. If you want help to know if your dog is okay at a dog park, let’s talk!