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I debated with myself about where to put this, but decided here would help it to get more views and I think there are important points made in the linked blog post.


https://wildewmn.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/are-dog-parks-worth-the-risk/?fbclid=IwAR09vBgQeEunshDe-ZbUnxIk1sr9iahZgE30YWmOnsCQjotZLCT0weWSG1A


No it isn't saying that all dog parks or dogs at parks are disasters in the making, but it is saying that dog parks are places where training and understanding canine body language really matter.


I will put out the disclaimer that I don't use dog parks partly because our males are intact and therefore not allowed. I also work my dogs in performance sports and given that Lily has even had dog show aggression to her at event sites and suffered mentally as a result I am unwilling to risk their mental health in a wild west environment such as our local dog parks tend to be.


I hope you will all read and think about this piece and share it widely. There is much wisdom in it.
 

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I had not heard of Nicole Wilde, but I agree with everything she said in that article.

I've read countless horror stories of poor dogs getting attacked on walks while minding their own business, close to their owner, and it scares me just to think of that possibility. But going to a dog park is purposefully putting your dog into a situation where they could get injured, both physically and emotionally/mentally. Physical injuries often are fixable, but emotional damage is often permanent, especially for owners who do not have the financial means to hire a veterinary behaviourist.

90% of owners who take their dogs to dog parks are clueless about dog body language. And the majority are only there because they don't know any other way to tire out their dog, ie, they're lazy. Then there's the dummy's who take their tiny, unvaccinated puppies there to "socialize", meanwhile scarring them for life. The other 10% of owners who take their dogs to dog parks are the ones like the article writer, who go at night, with friends or when there isn't anyone else there.

I can't even count the number of posts I've seen on another forum where people are begging for help because their puppy/dog has been attacked at a dog park and now has fear/reactivity issues. "Should I keep going to the dog park?", "When can I go back to the dog park, it's been 3 weeks since he was attacked?", "I thought it was the perfect opportunity to socialize my 8 week old Pomeranian on the big-dog side because she's so good with our GSD!", "My 2 year old Pibble has been amazing with other dogs, but unexpectedly attacked a dog at the dog park! I'm going to keep taking her though, I'm sure she'll be fine next time."

People think that dogs NEED friends and that their life is miserable if they're alone. But often times dogs are happy to be the center of their owners attention and don't need another dogs company to feel fulfilled.

The thought of a dog park does attract me, because I love to see standard poodles running at a full gallop, having a blast, stretching their legs and doing what they love. But there is just way too much risk, and there are better options out there. I have family and friends with dogs who I am comfortable with, and there are safe, monitored facilities for dog activities too. I look forward to finding some great places to go with our Spoo.
 

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Excellent article.

We don't do off leash dog parks. Shortly after I got Babykins I took her to one and she was chased as "prey" by a rottweiler. The person who brought the rottweiler was not the owner and had no control over the dog..............I was lucky that the other dogs owners helped me capture my dog - I picked her up and this dog body slammed me to get at her. I'm so lucky we both got out fully intact. I was surrounded by some knowledgeable dog owners who helped make sure my dog was not traumatized nor scared of large dogs. The person who brought the rottweiler never apologized and didn't leave the park. We sometimes walk in this gorgeous, huge park, but I never go near their off leash area. Too dangerous.

I do think that some people do have good options for off leash play. I used to take my dog to the local humane society. They have a small dog social where dogs can run around a large room for an hour with other small dogs. Handlers have to remain and dogs must be well behaved, vaccinated, have an annual health check. There are trained volunteers in the room, without their own dogs - so they are available to help if there is a problem. They have caged areas nervous new dogs can safely watch the action until they are ready to participate. Some people have private off leash parks or they go on off hours when the parks are empty.
 

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For many years Ian Dunbar has been advocating for/predicting the future rise of members only dog park for which there would be a fee and expulsion for violating the rules. That could interest me, but I too am really not convinced dogs need dog friends. We have three dogs and more time than not they are on their own or with me. In fact I was fairly astonished to realize that Lily and Javelin were actually physically touching each other when they were on the bed with me early this morning. They usually try very hard to not be in physical contact while sleeping even though they do like each other and play vigorously every day.

My novice obedience classes are drop in and can have a small or large number of teams and people and dogs that are quite green or fairly experienced in varying combinations I always feel like one of the most important things I am doing is watching what is going on. Is there a dog staring at another dog rudely? Is there a big dog who is eyeing a little dog like it is prey when we are doing recalls? Is there a green handler who is not riveted to attending to what their dog is doing? It is a lot to manage and has taught me lots about canine communication. Dog park visitors need to have even more vigilance for these issues and many more than I have to attend to in my training classes and sadly many of them are as SpooChi so thoughtfully characterized above.

Skylar I just realized you posted while I was writing. I recall that awful story about the rottie from other discussions we have had here. We had a similar experience when Lily and Peeves were youngish adolescent dogs. Poor Peeves was repeatedly harassed by a very rude dog who BF finally kicked to give Peeves a chance to get away from. That dogs owner only intervened after that and then only to yell at BF for giving our boy a chance to get away from his nasty bully.


I had not heard of Nicole Wilde but picked up that essay on my FB feed where the link to it had been posted by a member of my obedience club.
 

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I love the trained volunteers at the small dog social - they were watching the dog behavior, looking for potential signs of trouble. Most of the dogs were regulars and got along well. For the two years I attended there never was a problem. They are very cautious when new dogs joined the group. Sadly most dog parks don't have this advantage, people there just to over see and secure safety.
 

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Where I go with my dog is not officially a dog park. It is about 150 acres of undeveloped land where dogs can run off leash, so it is heavily used by people who want to walk with their dogs off leash. In my experience, when people stand around and watch their dogs run around and play with each other is when trouble develops. Most of us walk with our dogs. If we meet other people with dogs we may or may not walk with them, sometimes groups of people and dogs form and walk together, but as long as people are moving the dogs usually are quite happy to run together. If people stop and stand around then the dogs can get into trouble. Dogs who are initially leery of each other when they meet usually settle right down when everybody starts moving forward.

If people are there with on leash dogs I don't let my dog approach. I watch for trouble signs in off leash dog body language and if things start to develop I nip it in the bud. I have been going there for over 20 years with 7 different dogs of different breeds from Giant Schnauzers to a Cairn Terrier to my current Spoo, both sexes, before and after neuter,and have never had an injury or serious trouble. My dogs learn how to communicate with other dogs. They can tell if the dogs want to play or be left alone, and they respect that. They can tell if the dog is aggressive and will avoid those dogs. They also meet all kinds of people and children and learn how to greet strangers.

For me and my dogs this is invaluable socialization. I'm kind of amazed when I go to shows and training classes at the number of dogs that can't have another dog get near them without getting upset, fearful or aggressive. I think it would be much easier for these dogs, who are expected to perform and to spend so much time surrounded by other dogs to be able to relax.

I think that there are big problems with many dog parks, mostly that they are way too small and that people just stand around and expect their dogs to run things. People need to be with their dog at the park, not just watching. They need to participate in whatever activity. They need to be able to call their dogs away from whatever is going on and they need to be aware of potential problems before they develop.

JMHO
 

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There are two unofficial dog parks near me, both unfenced. We love them. The bigger one is 16 acres with a pond that we can walk around. The smaller one always has the same group of people in the late afternoon. People definitely just stand around and chat, and I have made some good friends by going there and getting to know my neighbors. Sam loves chasing his ball, and it is fun to see how he likes to choose who throws the ball for him. He especially likes children and will run over to a child and drop his ball in front of them. Cammie is my little social butterfly. She LOVES it when she sees one of her friends arrives, but it a bit suspicious when a stranger arrives. She also likes going around the perimeter of the smaller park (two sides are fenced), sniffing to see who has been there and keeping the squirrels up in their trees. Fun for dogs and fun for people. There have been a few problems over the years, but they are very rare and mostly manageable (I leave if I see a pitbull). Sam is intact, and he does just fine at the park. Our local newspaper did an article on the bigger park and ended by saying that it was the happiest place on earth. And so it is!
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
reraven those are really interesting observations. I agree many dog parks are way too small and they can become like cauldrons of horrible energy and people standing around probably sort of encourages standing around and staring (always a bad idea in a group of dogs). They are a very unnatural setting for what should be natural (being able to be in nature and giving dogs a chance to be dogs). I am pretty sure people like fjm and Eric where there are many places to go off leash with dogs probably think this dog park thing is pretty strange at any number of levels.

peppersb Lily is ball obsessed and the last time I went to our dog park with her (for the benefit of an out of town visitor and her dog) someone had left a tennis ball. Of course Lily found it and did as Sam does. She brought it to me to throw and I did a few times. Once she figured out I was done because really I wanted to keep an eye on things generally she went from person to person with the ball and each person threw it a few times and then stopped so she had to find someone else. I was actually pretty sad watching it because she doesn't get it when a person just loses interest in her. When I throw a ball for her we have an ending cue of me putting the ball away and bringing her back in the house. One man's happiness is another's disappointment sometimes I guess.


The best dog parks we've seen were in Lincoln, Nebraska. The small one near the RC track that we visited way back when Lily was still a twinkle in her mom's belly was about 5 acres. We were told there was a larger one on the other side of town. The one we saw was naturally vegetated and had well worn trails. In contrast the one near us is less than 2 acres and so heavily used that it is dirt with a few trees. No soft vegetation survives.
 

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peppersb Lily is ball obsessed and the last time I went to our dog park with her (for the benefit of an out of town visitor and her dog) someone had left a tennis ball. Of course Lily found it and did as Sam does. She brought it to me to throw and I did a few times. Once she figured out I was done because really I wanted to keep an eye on things generally she went from person to person with the ball and each person threw it a few times and then stopped so she had to find someone else. I was actually pretty sad watching it because she doesn't get it when a person just loses interest in her. When I throw a ball for her we have an ending cue of me putting the ball away and bringing her back in the house. One man's happiness is another's disappointment sometimes I guess.
Funny, I think that the dog park brings out each dog's personality and interests. Sam loves his ball, but if another dog steals his ball, he is very mellow. He just keeps and eye on his ball and waits until the other dog drops it. Or if someone doesn't want to throw it, that's fine. But many years ago, a friend had a very high energy poodle who was completely ball-obsessed. I would sometimes take care of this dog and take him to the park with my dogs. But I could never let this guy have a ball at the park. If he found one, he became so possessive of it that he would snarl at other dogs who even got close to him. It was no fun to be at the dog park with this poodle, because I had to monitor him so closely. I feel very fortunate to have poodles that have such nice, easy temperaments. I think it is the way they are hard-wired rather than any training that I have done.
 

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reran, you make some good points. And on a good day it sounds perfect. I don't do dog parks and I no longer socialize with other dogs. Unfortunately there are too many clueless owners around me. I one day was walking and someones retriever was loose and came running toward us. The person yelled or its ok he is friendly and wants to say hello. I yelled back this dog is not friendly and does not. Her dog had no recall but she fortunately ran and caught up to it. So you just never know My latest saga is a young kid maybe 11 or 12 walking their GSD, or I should say its walking her. This dog raises it ruff when it sees someone and will bark. Renn does not like it and really he is fine now with most dogs he encounters that are walking with their human. We don't have the dogs sniff or get in each others face, we just continue walking side by side with each dog either in a ouse heel walk or a "sniff" walk. I think the excitement this young GSD gives off is more then Renn can handle. Frankly if the child lost control of it and it came toward us it scares the xx..,x out of me. I simply want to enjoy my walk with my dog.
 

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wow so many great observations and sound bites: "Cauldrons of bad energy" and also the point of the owners just standing around versus doing something - which eggs the dogs on to do anything crazy to catch their attention. For me just a really bad environment where things are bound to happen. Very few dogs have the personality to do well in such an environment. Smaller dogs are just perfect victims for bullies there.
It is leaving the mental health of your dog up to the general public's ability to train their dogs. That is a big no-no for me. And I agree dogs don't need friends (except for a chosen few maybe).
 

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We don't have much of a yard so we go to our local dog park a couple times a week. We go during off peak hours and might see 1 or 2 dogs on a good day, and it's almost always the same people/dogs that are very aware and involved and will take their dog and leave if the dog isn't using good manners. Merry loves to run and most the dogs are happy to entertain her desire to only play games of chase with no wrestling. When the weather gets better and the park gets busier we will go hiking instead. Once more then a few dogs are there the group can take on a hunting pack type mentality and I'm not willing to take the risk my pup could be the focus of that.

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MerrysSarah that is how it should be in terms of people being involved in what the dogs are doing!
 

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Mufar I agree with you....my dog is not dog friendly either and I say the same same thing when they yell “he’s friendly, it’s OK!” I’m inwardly angry and worried because I know Raven gives off signals that will get her in trouble and I just want to be left alone and walk. I walk more for me to relax than her, and I don’t want to deal with people or dogs!

I have used a members only dog park in the past but we haven’t been members in over a year. Taking care of my mom didn’t leave enough time last summer to be worth the fees. I can see us going beck there some time, but Raven doesn’t play with other dogs, I just walk the trails and she runs circles around me for exercise. I may also throw a ball, of which there are usually many laying around, but she doen’t challenge dogs that might grab hers. I can usually distract her to another.
 

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Yes my walks are more for me too. I have to keep moving in order to keep moving, lol. Renn is ok with other dogs not aggressive but he is fearful of them and then he just gets overly excited which makes me get nervous that I may fall. So its uncomfortable. The neighbors GSD worries me as it raises its ruff and bras even If I am in my yard myself and it is being walked. It has lunged at my daughters car causing her to swerve so it worries me. I guess I am beginning to worry too much and its causes me not to walk my distances that I'd like too.
 

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My dogs actually are friendly but when morons who say oh it's okay my dog is friendly I always tell them mine aren't just to try to keep them off me. If I have the chance I will say to these people they should never assume other dogs are friendly even if theirs are because it is a good way to get their dog hurt or worse if it runs up with friendly intent to an aggressive dog. Many years ago I was walking Lily and Peeves (one leash in neighborhood) and all of a sudden right behind us and across the street was one of our local jerks, an old lady who clearly has balance problems but totters along with multiple dogs on bungee leashes. She wanted all of the dogs to play in the street and I was trying to tell her know when Peeves lunged to get across the street and almost ended up being hit by a car the bumper of which just barely maybe grazed his head. I ended up tell her he wasn't friendly to get her to leave us alone and I could hear her behind us carrying on about how she thought I shouldn't be walking my unfriendly dog and how I was being irresponsible. Uh, duh!
 

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We literally do not have any dog parks in my small city. It’s booming as well with young people/families and it seems everyone has a dog... and no backyard since houses are super expensive here. That’s my situation as well. I have a townhouse, but can be on trails right out the back door where I can walk for at least an hour and a half without crossing a road.
So we are stuck in this weird situation where there are technically leash laws everywhere but nowhere to let your dog run (unless you are able to afford a house) and there is a real off leash culture. There is so much nature to run around in here. Lots of rescue dogs too, and a few good “behavioural” trainers in town but I have to drive to the big city for formal obedience classes.
Most people are walking and hiking and it does seem to be better when moving, and I am not sure I want to only use dog parks because of the reasons people have cited in this discussion, but it would be such a relief if other people walked their dogs on leash on the trails sometimes or we all had better control/recall. I really don’t always especially since this is the culture that Sage was raised in (he also loves to dart off to eat dead salmon, but don’t get me started on that!) but I really want Saffy to be much better trained. If I have them both on leash I guarantee I am a tangled mess at least 10 times on a walk and they are both straining and barking because other dogs (mostly friendly) are running up to us and they want to play. Or they want to play together and then I am the goof who has them off leash for excercise when someone actually does come out of the woods with theirs on leash...
My mom’s town is great with 2 big enclosed areas and a whole small forest of official off leash trails!! I don’t see why our city council can’t do both, but man are people divided! I really don’t know the answer other than better trained dogs and dog owners. Saffron was actually attacked in my mom’s town on the official trails by a husky who treated her like prey - and the owner just said her dog gets “over-excited.” Lucky for me Saffy is a confident little pup...
 
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