Thursday, August 8, 2019

To Dog Park or Not to Dog Park: That is the question.

Dog parks can be a polarizing topic both for dog owners and among dog professionals. With the Denver-metro area being such a dog-friendly city, dog parks are part of the day-to-day for many people. Let’s get down to it – are dog parks great? Are they bad news? Are they good for every dog?

It’s important to recognize that dogs are active, social creatures who love to run. Playtime with other dogs can be a wonderful outlet for them. This means, for the right dogs, dog parks can be a fantastic way to:
  • keep their social skills fine-tuned
  • their bodies well-exercised
  • their minds enriched 
This is especially true in a busy metropolis where many dogs live in apartments without the luxury of a large, securely fenced-in yard. For some dogs though, they’re an absolute nightmare!
  So how do you know if your dog is dog-park appropriate?

  1. Your dog should be physically healthy and up-to-date on all vaccinations, including Bordetella (kennel cough).
  2. Your dog should have good play or social skills – watch closely for play invitations, role reversals, and natural pauses. Also, monitor if your dog reacts well to being told “no" by their playmate. Dogs will correct each other for rude or annoying behavior, and it is important your dog can take the hint without escalating into a scuffle.
  3. As dogs get older, many of them become less tolerant of rude behavior and become choosier about their buddies. You may even notice an overall decline in the desire to play as your dog matures.

  There are also some dogs who may be able to become dog-park dogs with a bit of work! These dogs include dogs who may not seem to know how to play, seem awkward, or sometimes escalate play into scuffles (so long as no one is getting hurt!). If your dog falls into this category, consider working with a force/fear-free trainer who specializes in dog-dog dynamics.

There are some dogs who just shouldn’t go to dog parks. They include dogs who are very fearful or nervous around other dogs – overwhelming them with lots of dogs all at once can make their fear more intense or may cause them to escalate into a fight or flight response. Instead, work with a professional fear/force-free trainer to get them more comfortable and work through their fears. These pups may never be dog-park aficionados, but they might grow to have a small circle of friends and be able to engage in play, either with a small group or one-on-one.

Dogs who have a history of injuring other dogs during fights or scuffles, even if those scuffles are rare, should not attend parks.  These dogs are likely to bite with the same force again - which is not a fair risk to another family’s dog. Dogs who are aggressive, assertive, or always escalating into scuffles should not attend dog parks.

When you are at the park, pay attention to what is going on and don’t be afraid to leave if you see an inappropriate dog at the park. Listen to your dog! Not all dogs enjoy the company of other dogs, and it’s unfair to force them into uncomfortable situations just for the sake of “socialization.”

Your pooch probably prefers the company of you over other canines if they are:

  • frequently tense
  • retreating from other dogs
  • always telling them off when they get close 
And that’s OK! Not all of us are social butterflies. 

Lastly, take ownership of your own dog – if they are frequently the problem child, maybe it’s time to mark “dog parks” off the list of recreational activities. With the help of a professional, however, you may be able to get your dog’s social skills back on track.
Here is more info on all of Denver's amazing dog parks!

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