Dog parks are opening all over the U.S. at an amazing rate. Cities are recognizing growing dog ownership in the U.S. and in response to citizens’ requests, are building more spaces that are open to dogs. While this is a positive trend (for the most part) there are also some negatives to consider. Many even ask, are dog parks safe for your dog?
First the positives: if you live in an urban area, a dog park may the only natural outdoors environment available for your pooch. They can run off leash, stretch their legs and get a little crazy, without the danger of getting hit by a car. Plus, let’s face it, it’s a little easier to let your dog run around than it is to walk them for forty minutes. Let your dog go, wander slowly behind and make sure they are okay. It’s a leisurely way to get your dog (and yourself) some exercise. You can even toss their favorite Dog Toy around and watch them go crazy without the fear of them getting into the street.
So what’s the problem? Some highly respected trainers we work with advise their clients to avoid dog parks at all costs. Why? Unfortunately, while your dog may be friendly, many others are not, and their owners are not able to control them. That doesn’t stop them from letting them loose next to your dog at the park. This can result in a potentially dangerous situation with lots of tussles and potential dog fights.
One professional dog trainer we know advises her clients to steer clear of dog parks in urban areas, calling them “bumper cars for dogs”. The idea is that your dog may encounter more negative experiences than positive ones at the dog park, and without your knowledge, adopt some equally bad behaviors as their own. In fact, as this AP story Dog Parks Have Fur Flying In Some Communities points out, the rise in dog parks is sparking a rise in complaints across the board. This quote from the article points out one of the problems:
Matt Claussen, a park ranger in Boulder, said putting a lot of dogs together in a fenced-in area can create a pack mentality. “It can be very intimidating. I know of one where people won’t go anymore because they say it is so scary,” Claussen said. “It’s a great idea. It works out great for exercise and sociability. But I think it’s turned into a free-for-all.”
So, the question remains: Are dogs parks safe for your pooch? PupLife's take is that it depends (how’s that for wishy washy?). It depends on the park. It depends on the dogs that go there. It depends on the owners that go there. It also largely depends on the time of day that you go to the park.
We avoid urban parks, but do visit several dog parks in the country, where the rules are clearly posted, and most importantly there’s enough space so that if any two dogs do have a tussel there’s tons of room to disperse. We also only go to dog parks (and the beach) during low traffic times, when the parks are either empty or almost empty. That means 10 AM on a Tuesday, not 6:30 PM on Thursday, when every dog owner in town has come home from work, changed and fed their pooch and is now ready to let their dog loose.
If you choose the right dog park and the right time of day, we believe that dog parks can be good for your dog. Of course, not all dog parks are created equal, so do your homework by visiting potential dog parks before bringing your four legged family member along. If it’s a jam packed free-for-all maybe it’s best to keep looking. If it’s clean, sparsely attended and the dogs are attentive to their owners, that’s a good sign.
So, ultimately, the dog park decision is best left up to the individual owner. Choose wisely, make sure that your pet is wearing the proper Dog Collar and Dog I.D. Tag just in case, and, oh yes, before we forget – have some fun!
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