Dog parks have become a popular thing in our dog loving culture, at least where we live. I personally visit dog parks regularly with all of my dogs and also clients’ dogs, but I’m the first to forewarn friends and clients about the downsides of it. Well-socialized dogs playing in a safe, fence-in area is a great sight, and for many dog owner the daily visits to the park have become a source of information about dogs in general. Good! Playtime for the dogs is highly beneficial to both the animals as well as their owners. Who doesn’t like to come home with dog who happily settles in and takes a long, content nap after so much fun.
The problem lies – once again – very often with the people, not the dogs. Let’s start with owners who are in utter denial about their dogs’ behavior issues. I can hardly contain myself when I hear someone explain “he’s just playing” while observing an out-of-control, even aggressive dog tormenting a more submissive puppy who is desperately trying to be left alone. Bullying should never be allowed. Granted, very often dogs take care of things themselves. If the bully gets put in his place by a no-nonsense older dog and he gets the message – great. I only step in if the doggie argument is not being solved as nature intended. I do step in, however, immediately if a particular dog’s behavior truly concerns me. Many times this dog’s owner is being receptive when I explain why certain things can’t and should not be tolerated. In that case I hope this was a learning experience for this person and his dog. Of course, there is also the occasional dog owner who insists his dog is harmless, and have the attitude “what do you know, anyhow?”. Let’s just say that person better not be around WHEN his dog does some damage after he was warned and wouldn’t listen.
Another big problem for me are people who use their visit to the dog park as social hour. Equipped with coffee and newspaper they either sit down never to look up again and check on their dog, or they engage in small talk and again ignore their dog. Never mind the fact that we are supposed to be responsible and clean up after our dogs. It’s also the perfect way to teach your dog that everything else in the world is more fun than his owner and can have major consequences later on in training. For example, when all my dogs are with me at the park, they WANT to play with me and seek out my company even though they are highly social around other dogs. I have made an effort to always be the most intriguing creature out there which helps me a great deal when I need to get their attention right away.
So please, use your brain when visiting dog parks and remind others to do the same. A few bad seeds can spoil it for all of us!