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Ever since my last dog was repeatedly mounted by the same dog at a dog park (literally every time we visited, for the duration of our stay, no owner in sight) I've steered clear not just of that dog park, but of all dog parks.

But we were out and about this weekend and saw that the fenced agility part of our local dog park was completely empty, and decided to pop in with Peggy, just to show her the strange obstacles and let her sniff around.

My husband had left to get his sunglasses from the car, and I was standing at the furthest corner of the park while Peggy explored, quite a ways from the gate, when suddenly a bunch of people showed up and opened the gate for their dogs to excitedly pour in.

First a senior lab sauntered over (no biggie) but then a big, boisterous husky loped across the field, straight for Peggy. I didn't even have a chance to register all the other breeds that were streaming in, as Peggy was already sprinting away from me, yelping loudly, with the husky in hot pursuit.

I still feel a bit nauseated as I type this. I've heard that terrified sound only three times before: When my mini mix Gracie was chased by a Rhodesian ridgeback, when my same tiny girl was picked up by a husky who seemed to think she was a toy (or prey), and when I held Gracie out of reach of an unleashed boxer.

I kept my tone cheery and authoritative, calling Peggy back to me and chattering about the silly husky, who I tried to hold back while anxiously planning our escape. There was a wall of dogs between us and the exit, all eager to sniff and crowd the young, petrified poodle. I felt like such a fool. Keeping control of the situation with no sympathy from the other owners was extremely stressful.

Needless to say, we eventually made our way out. But that was certainly not the best way for my puppy to meet most of those breeds for the first time, and I feel terrible for getting her into that mess.

The day before, she was kennelled while waiting for me at the groomer, and got sniffed up and down through the bars by a loose St. Bernard. The groomer said Peggy growled and showed her teeth, so......not a positive experience for her either. I've got a sinking feeling dog reactivity might be in our future, but I'm trying to remain positive.

Moral of the story: Don't take your puppy to even empty dog parks. There are just too many variables beyond your control.

Does your dog enjoy dog parks?
 

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I don’t do dog parks. We went once and my dog was chased by a Rottweiler as prey. The other dog owners helped me pick her up and the Rottweiler body slammed me trying to get to her. The person with the Rottweiler was not the owner it was her son’s dog and she had no control and t care. Luckily the other people were nice and several left the park with their large well behaved dogs on leashes so my dog could have a positive experience so we left the park on a positive note.

I will never take my dog to an off leash dog park again.

The local humane society has small and tiny dog socials weekly as fund raisers where small dogs can run off leash in a room while their owners are there. They have several people without dogs there to supervise. I’ll behaved dogs are not tolerated and all dogs must show evidence of up to date vaccinations. I did take my dog there for several months until it didn’t work for my schedule.
 

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I don’t do dog parks. We went once and my dog was chased by a Rottweiler as prey. The other dog owners helped me pick her up and the Rottweiler body slammed me trying to get to her. The person with the Rottweiler was not the owner it was her son’s dog and she had no control and t care. Luckily the other people were nice and several left the park with their large well behaved dogs on leashes so my dog could have a positive experience so we left the park on a positive note.

I will never take my dog to an off leash dog park again.

The local humane society has small and tiny dog socials weekly as fund raisers where small dogs can run off leash in a room while their owners are there. They have several people without dogs there to supervise. I’ll behaved dogs are not tolerated and all dogs must show evidence of up to date vaccinations. I did take my dog there for several months until it didn’t work for my schedule.
I similarly encountered someone who had her son's dog at the park. They were in the small dog section, but had been asked to leave by multiple owners, as the dog was completely out of control and obviously had a lot of pent-up energy and frustration. I wonder if that's common — parents stepping up when their sons don't properly train or exercise their dogs?

That Humane Society program sounds wonderful. I've asked our trainer if she'd similarly consider opening her property up for a "Dog Park Day" once a week. Not just for small dogs (as mine's a standard), but at least for dogs with educated, engaged owners. She's thinking about it, so fingers crossed!
 

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Aww, so sorry you and Peggy had a bad experience :( We've had our fair share of negative experiences, but overall, my dogs really love going to the dog park. It just depends on who is there. And I am NOT afraid to referee all interactions with my dogs, confront clueless owners, etc.

Here is Maizie when she was 6 mos., her first time playing with larger dogs. It was a perfect mix of dogs--got lucky. Does your dog park have a small dog side? I only take mine on the small dog side now due to the unpredictability of large breed dogs. Even on the small dog side we occasionally get a**holes (e.g., a certain French bulldog), but overall, it is safe for spoos.

6 mo. puppy video:

Here's another video I like because it shows really good dog play--notice the give and take. Both dogs are adolescent puppies, so a good age match. Yeah, it's a pit. I wouldn't let my dogs play with an adult pit, but this one was a very nice pup. Also, his trainer was supervising closely (the woman in the long black coat). Also notice at :50 the husky was properly called by his owner because three is a crowd at dog parks.


Bottom line: I totally respect everyone who doesn't do dog parks. They can definitely be very dangerous. But occasional dog park experiences enhance my dogs' lives (esp. Maizie, as she has such a need for human social interaction by all the people).
 

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No dog parks for us either. First my intact males are not welcome and second if Lily finds a ball she will try to gurad it from other dogs and then will present it to every person she can find who is willing to throw it. It encouraged her ball obsession in ways I don't like at all and since the people get tired of her it ends up being really sad to watch as she tries to convince the people to keep playing with her. She also has been chased in ways that were scary and as a puppy Peeves got repeatedly rolled by an aggressive mix breed dog. BF eventually kicked the dog to get it off him at which point the owner finally came over to pick a fight with BF. Never been back.


The concept of a dog park as the nice fun place for dogs to run and play is a pretty dream but the reality of them is more often nightmarish and mostly because of jerky people who will intervene on a playground where children but look at the same behavior in dogs and dogs just being dogs. There are plenty of dogs with poor social skills that get tons of practice on those bad social skills at dog parks where resource guarding, bullying, gang aggression and the like are all just fine.


I am sorry to say your pup probably has already had enough bad experiences in a short amount of time that the road to big time reactivity has started to be paved, so work on counter conditioning that response ASAP. I would start by sitting in your front yard with your pup on leash so she can see dogs going by. Teach her Look at That so she comes to understand that when the presence of another dog makes her uncomfortable she can look to you to make sure there are no problems. This assumes of course that people walk their dogs on leash in your neighborhood and they can control their dogs' on leash responses well.
 

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I plan to use a dog park. My apartment has its own dog park in the complex I’ve met some of the residents dogs and most of the ones I met are very chill and well mannered. Honestly there’s only 1 dog here that I plan to keep my pup from and it’s not even a large breed dog it’s this rambunctious loud yorkie. That dog is a nightmare the owner has resulted to only walking him late at night because he barks and lunges at everyone and every dog it sees and for him to be so small his owner struggles pulling him back which I don’t understand maybe she’s worried she’ll hurt him but he almost got loose once trying to go after one of the resident’s lab. We also have a large park across the street that I plan to use when it’s not busy or crowded.
 

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Aww, so sorry you and Peggy had a bad experience 😞 We've had our fair share of negative experiences, but overall, my dogs really love going to the dog park. It just depends on who is there. And I am NOT afraid to referee all interactions with my dogs, confront clueless owners, etc.

Here is Maizie when she was 6 mos., her first time playing with larger dogs. It was a perfect mix of dogs--got lucky. Does your dog park have a small dog side? I only take mine on the small dog side now due to the unpredictability of large breed dogs. Even on the small dog side we occasionally get a**holes (e.g., a certain French bulldog), but overall, it is safe for spoos.

6 mo. puppy video:

Here's another video I like because it shows really good dog play--notice the give and take. Both dogs are adolescent puppies, so a good age match. Yeah, it's a pit. I wouldn't let my dogs play with an adult pit, but this one was a very nice pup. Also, his trainer was supervising closely (the woman in the long black coat). Also notice at :50 the husky was properly called by his owner because three is a crowd at dog parks.


Bottom line: I totally respect everyone who doesn't do dog parks. They can definitely be very dangerous. But occasional dog park experiences enhance my dogs' lives (esp. Maizie, as she has such a need for human social interaction by all the people).
I loved seeing Maizie's confidence grow in that first video! And I definitely think engaged owners are the key to a positive dog park experience. Unfortunately, that's a hard variable to control.

I was thinking the small dog side might ultimately be a better fit for Peggy, especially if she maxes out at 45 lbs like her parents. But what's the etiquette around that? Do other owners mind?

P.S. Peggy was enthralled with your videos!!
 

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I loved seeing Maizie's confidence grow in that first video! And I definitely think engaged owners are the key to a positive dog park experience. Unfortunately, that's a hard variable to control.

Yes! That's so cool you observed her growth :D She came to check in with me a few times, but then she was like, I got this!

And yes, the owner variable is near impossible to control. If you have a bad person or dog, it's best to leave and try again another day.


I was thinking the small dog side might ultimately be a better fit for Peggy, especially if she maxes out at 45 lbs like her parents. But what's the etiquette around that? Do other owners mind?

I can only speak to my experience about my dog park, but for us, everyone except one person in the last 3 years has been fine with my dogs on the small side (which goes up to 40 lbs., but my dogs are 48 and 56). As long as large dogs are gentle and regulars (so everyone knows their record), they are allowed. Many people are very excited to have their small dogs socialize with NICE large dogs like mine. I usually get nothing but positive responses. I think trying the small dog side when there is no one there, or maybe just one other dog would be a good start if you want to try again.

P.S. Peggy was enthralled with your videos!!
Aww, that is so cute! :love:
 

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Awww .... I am sorry she has bad experience. With puppies, our dog park,people are really good about asking before letting their dogin.,or asking if they don't recognize the dog.

Annie was mostly socialized at a membership only small town dog park. It was great. There were seldom more than 5 dogs,often noone The people were pretty dog savvy and would leave or be asked to leave if their dog showed any aggression,and you quickly recognized vehicles to know who was there (we avoided one good natured but rough playing dog). A few of the owners were very stern if your dog was an issue saying it wasn't welcome.

I decided to take her to the dog park here. Its awful. We went 4times. She had issues with aggressive dogs 2 X, (she only met 2 aggressive dogs in maybe 3 months of going daily at the other park) which passed my test of enough good experiences to counted the bad. The owners were like "that's just how he meets new dogs" or "he's just telling off your young dog". Umm no. Going for the throat, chasing with tail down anxhackles up is aggressiion, especially if done to a dog standing10 ft away playbowing.The dogs mostly didn't seem to really enjoy it either,one of the aggressive dogswas on an e collar and had obvious hip dysplasia. I dragged a 5month old collar free mastiff puppy off a 10 week old German shepherd puppy who was yelpng in fear whose owner was trying to leave. Twice. The mastiffs owner was sitting on a bench with a stroller ignoring the dog. Our final time, my very brave dog, who has great social skills,actually asked me to leave(catchingher was the issue at the other park). We will not go back.

Dog parks are great if you have the right culture. But way too many seem to be "leave if your dog is being picked on" instead of " leave if your dog is a problem".
 

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I don't do dog parks, when Renn was young he had neighborhood dogs running loose at him and it scared him badly. I don't think he really has a need to play with other dogs. I'd rather he just ignore them. Not lunge, bark just ignore.
 

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I don't do dog parks, when Renn was young he had neighborhood dogs running loose at him and it scared him badly. I don't think he really has a need to play with other dogs. I'd rather he just ignore them. Not lunge, bark just ignore.
I feel similarly, but also appreciate how much she can learn from spending time around calm, happy, well-balanced dogs. Wish I could find more of them!! Starting to realize they're awfully rare.
 

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Awww .... I am sorry she has bad experience. With puppies, our dog park,people are really good about asking before letting their dogin.,or asking if they don't recognize the dog.

Annie was mostly socialized at a membership only small town dog park. It was great. There were seldom more than 5 dogs,often noone The people were pretty dog savvy and would leave or be asked to leave if their dog showed any aggression,and you quickly recognized vehicles to know who was there (we avoided one good natured but rough playing dog). A few of the owners were very stern if your dog was an issue saying it wasn't welcome.

I decided to take her to the dog park here. Its awful. We went 4times. She had issues with aggressive dogs 2 X, (she only met 2 aggressive dogs in maybe 3 months of going daily at the other park) which passed my test of enough good experiences to counted the bad. The owners were like "that's just how he meets new dogs" or "he's just telling off your young dog". Umm no. Going for the throat, chasing with tail down anxhackles up is aggressiion, especially if done to a dog standing10 ft away playbowing.The dogs mostly didn't seem to really enjoy it either,one of the aggressive dogswas on an e collar and had obvious hip dysplasia. I dragged a 5month old collar free mastiff puppy off a 10 week old German shepherd puppy who was yelpng in fear whose owner was trying to leave. Twice. The mastiffs owner was sitting on a bench with a stroller ignoring the dog. Our final time, my very brave dog, who has great social skills,actually asked me to leave(catchingher was the issue at the other park). We will not go back.

Dog parks are great if you have the right culture. But way too many seem to be "leave if your dog is being picked on" instead of " leave if your dog is a problem".
This is all so relatable and so so frustrating. I'm sorry you no longer have access to what sounds like a really fun, safe environment.

I bet some people with problem dogs love having a break from them at dog parks. They just let them be someone else's problem for a while, and then go home happy with an exhausted dog.

I cringe when a dog in my care has poor doggy social skills. It's embarrassing at best, and sometimes downright dangerous. Peggy's at an age where she likes to bark! bark! bark! in older dogs' faces, begging them to play. We're working on that because uggghhhh. No no no.
 

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Same. My standard poodles have been attacked by other dogs in dog parks many times and by a toddler with a stick (argh!). It's so frustrating because my dogs are happy and outgoing, not an aggressive bone in their bodies. But I met lots of idiot owners in dog parks and some dangerously naive, eg a nice young woman who brought a pit bull she had bought from an LA-based rescue the DAY BEFORE!! she had no real idea if the dog was aggressive or not!

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Blue girl....yes, exactly! Naive is a good word.

My first bad experience at that park was someone who had gotten a rescue imported from the southern US 3 weeks before, and he was blathering on about how it was a designer breed not recognized in all states(claimed a lab /dalmation cross,although it looked more like some sort of hunting pointer cross to me, and how they claimed two floppy eared dogs would cross to make a straight eared is beyond me):argh:. I caught my dog and was leading her out after being chased. He clipped his on leash, and I thought yay, he is leaving too. Nope. Dragged his dog, still growling/lunging/hackles up (leash reactive) back to the centre of the human group, still blathering.

I like rescue dogs. But rescue dogs, or any other new to you dog have no place in a dog park until you have tested them with a bunch of dogs in other settings.


Peggie the Parti- yes! I don't know why it's so hard to find balanced dogs to play with. I would love to find a playdate for Annie but so far no decent dogs have been located. Now there would be a "dating app" I would consider. One that sets up compatible dogs on playdates. I am taking her to doggy daycare but not a fan because I can't watch the interaction and pull her out if she is an issue/someone else's dog is an issue.
 

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Ugh poor Peggy. This is VERY similar to what happened to Norman...

I took Norman 2 times (two separate parks) and learned my lesson!!!!! 1st time he was hiding under a bench crying after some guys dog kept chasing him into a fence. I would tell the owner to please control his dog and he said "sorry shes a rescue".. NOT an excuse?!?! We left.

2nd time I REALLY learned my lesson and I feel disgusted thinking about it... I met a friend at the dog park to meet his dog. They were the only 2 dogs there Norman was fine, having fun! But then 2 guys show up with three UNTRAINED dogs. The pit-bull got after Norman (biting and all) and Norm was SCREAMING. Norman literally SCREAMED multiple times as the other dogs then joined in on hurting him. I had to PHYSICALLY PULL HIM from under the dog pile and pick him up and RUN! (thank god he was only 30-40lbs) I literally had to run away from there horrid dogs. I held back my tears as I gathered our things and ran......horrid memory......

I will never ever ever ever ever again take Norman to a dog park. No one could pay me enough money to take him there even for a second!

Poor Peggy is probably still shell shocked it sounds. Took Norman a few weeks (if not a month) to be able to walk up to other dogs without running away, crying, shaking, or peeing himself. Give Peggy time to warm up to dogs again, especially big dogs. I find that it is best to start from scratch in socializing them after something traumatic happens. Using treats, watching dogs from afar, and a lot of positive reinforcement. I am still feeling guilty over this because it is my fault for taking him. I could cry just picturing it and hearing him scream...

I am so glad Peggy is ok though. I learned quick that people do not care to watch their dogs. They will bring horrible mannered, aggressive, nasty dogs and release them. Sorry for the long rant....
 

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I don’t do dog parks. Too many uncontrolled variables.

That said, no shade to anyone if it works for you. I had a friend who had two large dogs who pretty much lived for the dog park; it was part of her daily routine, and the two dogs (large Lab and GSD) had great times.

Spice is amazing with other dogs, but I prefer to have him interact with dogs/owners I know. So far, he’s the sort of dog that can play with any dog, of any age, in any style of play, and I want to keep it that way! Seriously, he’s like that kid who gets along with the jocks, the cheerleaders, the drama nerds, the band kids...

Such a change from Sugarfoot, who was badly attacked as a youngster (not at a dog park, just on a walk by a loose dog) and now has to be carefully managed around other dogs. BTW, Spice can even play with HIM, and that’s saying a lot!
 

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Ugh poor Peggy. This is VERY similar to what happened to Norman...

I took Norman 2 times (two separate parks) and learned my lesson!!!!! 1st time he was hiding under a bench crying after some guys dog kept chasing him into a fence. I would tell the owner to please control his dog and he said "sorry shes a rescue".. NOT an excuse?!?! We left.

2nd time I REALLY learned my lesson and I feel disgusted thinking about it... I met a friend at the dog park to meet his dog. They were the only 2 dogs there Norman was fine, having fun! But then 2 guys show up with three UNTRAINED dogs. The pit-bull got after Norman (biting and all) and Norm was SCREAMING. Norman literally SCREAMED multiple times as the other dogs then joined in on hurting him. I had to PHYSICALLY PULL HIM from under the dog pile and pick him up and RUN! (thank god he was only 30-40lbs) I literally had to run away from there horrid dogs. I held back my tears as I gathered our things and ran......horrid memory......

I will never ever ever ever ever again take Norman to a dog park. No one could pay me enough money to take him there even for a second!

Poor Peggy is probably still shell shocked it sounds. Took Norman a few weeks (if not a month) to be able to walk up to other dogs without running away, crying, shaking, or peeing himself. Give Peggy time to warm up to dogs again, especially big dogs. I find that it is best to start from scratch in socializing them after something traumatic happens. Using treats, watching dogs from afar, and a lot of positive reinforcement. I am still feeling guilty over this because it is my fault for taking him. I could cry just picturing it and hearing him scream...

I am so glad Peggy is ok though. I learned quick that people do not care to watch their dogs. They will bring horrible mannered, aggressive, nasty dogs and release them. Sorry for the long rant....
Good for you for swooping in and saving Norman!! Our trainer has pounded it into our heads that we shouldn't be afraid to scoop up our pups to remove them from a bad situation. I hear her voice in my head a lot. It's so helpful.
 

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I don’t do dog parks. Too many uncontrolled variables.

That said, no shade to anyone if it works for you. I had a friend who had two large dogs who pretty much lived for the dog park; it was part of her daily routine, and the two dogs (large Lab and GSD) had great times.

Spice is amazing with other dogs, but I prefer to have him interact with dogs/owners I know. So far, he’s the sort of dog that can play with any dog, of any age, in any style of play, and I want to keep it that way! Seriously, he’s like that kid who gets along with the jocks, the cheerleaders, the drama nerds, the band kids...

Such a change from Sugarfoot, who was badly attacked as a youngster (not at a dog park, just on a walk by a loose dog) and now has to be carefully managed around other dogs. BTW, Spice can even play with HIM, and that’s saying a lot!
Poor Sugarfoot 😞 I'm happy he has Spice as a buddy.

I returned to the same dogpark today, because it's located within a much larger park where we like to wander and pick apples (or play with them, in Peggy's case). I let her sniff hello with a few dogs, without actually going into the offleash area, and (THANK GOD!!) she was totally unafraid and very wiggly and happy and curious. Phew.

One dog I noticed, though, was drooling intensely and growling, and I just don't understand how any of those owners felt comfortable with their dogs in there. It seems like it could go bad very quickly.
 

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A good place to find people with dog friendly pups would be on your neighborhood 'Nextdoor' website. I noticed a few people on ours have put shoutouts up and some have even started a playgroup of compatible dogs that meet weekly. They host the playdates at the homes of the ones who have large fenced yards on a rotating schedule. Others just do meetups for pack walks. Seems like a good idea and a good way to get to know your neighbors!
 

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It just depends on who is there. And I am NOT afraid to referee all interactions with my dogs, confront clueless owners, etc.

Bottom line: I totally respect everyone who doesn't do dog parks. They can definitely be very dangerous. But occasional dog park experiences enhance my dogs' lives .
Wow yes, it is so important to be able to be a strong advocate for our dogs safety! (as well as the safety of other dogs!)

My vet even encouraged me to call the police on a repeat offender, and it worked.

Here anyone using the dog park has to purchase a city license to use the dog park. That does help, but there are some clueless owners for sure. I stop them before it can continue.

Also I have both taught and reinforced the use of calming body language from my Spoo. It really helps.

When I was training my Spoo as a Service Dog I was told to introduce him to 40 different people of all races, heights, ages, with and without hats, etc before the age of 16 weeks.

And, I think dogwise even more important to introduce him to 40 different dogs of as many breeds, sizes, ages, as possible before he was 16 weeks old.

That was a super intense few weeks for sure! But it has paid off and I will do it again for any future dog. It is rare that we encounter a dog that my Spoo cannot use his mysterious body language on. He has also become very astute, and if he senses agression he simply ignores and goes another way.

But I do have to admit, in the first year we had an attack at a dog park, and simply stayed away for about 6 months while I learned how to deal with aggressive dogs (and their owners!).

I so wish owners of all dogs would not take any aggressive dog to a dog park, and find ways to get them trained not to be aggressive for sure.

Sending warm fuzzies to all of our gentle poodles.
 
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