As a trainer I frequently get asked about use of the dog park. My answer, Dog parks are neither all good nor all bad and they are not risk free.
In this series of articles I hope to present a balanced view of dog park use, is your dog a “dog park dog” why use a dog park, red flags at the dog park and reducing your risk at the dog park.
I am fortunate to live in a community with a well-designed, fenced dog park that has a community of users that are concerned and diligent about its use. That being said, I know there are many times that there are dog park visitors that I don’t know and are not watchful of their dog in the park. That’s the problem with dog parks, there are many variables that I as a visitor do not control.
I have a few simple guidelines that help me manage my risk and keeps my dog safe.
Always be prepared to leave if any dog or person makes me feel concerned or worried.
Red flags that may cause me to leave.
· A dog wearing a muzzle
· A dog wearing a “choke” or prong collar
· A person that arrives with more than one dog
· A person neglecting to watch and supervise their dog
· The presence of children
· Puppies less than 16 weeks of age
· Small dogs in the large dog area
· Rough play between dogs
· A group of dogs that begin to gang up on another dog
· My dog looks concerned or is not having fun
· Any aggressive dog or other behavior that makes me uncomfortable
· A dog that I have observed before that has behavior problems with other dogs
Guidelines for use.
· I regularly use the park during low use hours, in our park this is weekday mornings and early afternoon.
· I generally will not use the park after 3:00 PM on weekdays or after 9; 00 AM on weekends.
· By using the park at regular times I get to know the other people and their dogs.
· Improve your observational skills and knowledge of dog behavior.
I am sure you see that my dog park use has very specific conditions.
A word about puppies (less than 20 – 24 weeks old)
I do not recommend the dog park for puppies. Socialization of puppies is best done in a supervised play group or puppy socialization class with a qualified professional.