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Dog Parks: Love Em or Hate Em?

Over the years I have had a mixed opinion on dog parks, I feel like I have a love / hate relationship with them.

First let's start with the "love"....

I have many clients who frequent dog parks with great success.  Many times they have a group of friends who meet up, allowing for some social time for the people and fun for the dogs.  They are very mindful of who is in the area with their dogs and are very much in control of their dogs.

Funny enough, in our area, most of us have property, which lends many locals to not go to the dog park, but they may head down to one of the many dog beaches in San Diego for some extra fun.  Again, this is normally done with friends and can be a great social outing.

But the reality is, we have many clients that are not local be it they drive to work with us, or they are online.  So many use dog parks as an outlet for their dogs.

For this I love the dog park concept.

BUT for all the love, there is the "hate" side of things...

As a behavioral trainer, it pains me to see those people who use the dog park as a training ground for their poorly behaved dog (insert pretty much any bad behavior here...resource guarding, dog aggression, fence fighting and the list goes on).  

So many people think that they can take their dog to the dog park and train them...the problem is they normally have no direction from a professional and are attempting to "fix" the problem on their own.  Clearly not what I recommend.

What they don't realize the risk that they are taking is HUGE, so many other dogs - well-behaved dogs - can be negatively affected by doing this.

Time and time again, I get the call from a prospective client, nearly in tears, telling me about their new puppy that was aggressively jumped or chased while at the dog park.  

People go there thinking they are doing right by their dogs, taking them out to be socialized, only to be blindsided by an ill-behaved dog and potentially non-attentive owner.  

Now, I have heard there are some dog parks that are different.  They are private and charge a membership fee, screen members, and have employees monitoring the areas.  THIS SOUNDS AMAZING and should be taken advantage of if you have something like this in your area.  Near us, it would be categorized more like a doggy daycare.

There are also parks and beaches that the space is so large that you can avoid certain dogs, the ones that you see are behaving poorly.

Then you also have "off hours", when no one else is there, also a good plan if you have no other options.

These scenarios are not what I am talking about, the reality is most dog parks are not privately owned, they are small highly populated spaces, that end up being a free-for-all. 

With owners that range from responsible with knowledge on how to read body language and savvy about behavior to those that literally have no clue.

Given these facts is it worth subjecting your dog to the unknown?

For this reason, I avoid dog parks like the plague..... I see way too many cases where I have a distraught owner trying to repair the damage done.

Now you may be reading this, and think I am being overly cautious, maybe you have never had a problem and go to the dog park all the time.  In most cases, it is all fine...... until it is not.

My advice to you, put the word out, network in your training classes, find a good group of dog people where you and your dog can go and have fun.

As a behavioral trainer, I would much rather have less business due to responsible owners and less traumatized dogs.

Essential Oil for Dogs Tip:

Great oils to diffuse or use topically when under stress (dog parks create stress...good and bad) would be Vetiver or Balance.

Before heading out the door, I like to diffuser for at least 20 minutes, 30-45 minutes is even better.  This allows the oils to do their job PRIOR to getting to the area of high energy.

This is great for dogs that anticipate going to a fun place, and lose their minds in the process....if you have a dog like this, you know what I mean!



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Things you should consider before taking your dogs to a dog park.


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