Talk to any dog owner about dog parks and you can get quite a wide variety of opinions. Some go frequently with their dogs and love them. Others went, had a bad experience and never went back. Others won’t go near them for anything. Who is right?
They all are. For some dogs, dog parks a great. For others, they are the worst thing you can do. I discuss the pros and cons of dog parks in more detail in my Juvenile Delinquent Dogs book. In part, it depends on the dog park you go to and who else goes there. Larger parks with more space to move around are better. Too small of a space makes it more likely dogs will have trouble with each other. Same goes for large parks but everyone stands around in one spot, especially near the entrance. It also depends whether people are paying attention to their dogs and whether or not they know what red flags to look for, but unfortunately, many people do not.
And that’s all before we even discuss the dogs themselves! Some dogs do well at dog parks and others should not be there. I used to take Romeo to a dog park near us when he was an adolescent. Wide open, where people did laps with their dogs, no one standing around. He did great mostly, but he did make some poor choices as well. We stopped going when it was no longer the best environment for him.
For Zuzu, I will NOT be taking her to any dog parks. (May 2014) I know Zuzu well enough to know that dog parks are not a good choice for her. She loves to play with other dogs, but she gets overwhelmed by new dogs rushing up to her. And that can happen frequently at dog parks. While she knows she can come to me for safety, I know that dog parks for her could potentially lead her toward becoming aggressive toward other dogs who rush up at her. Not because she’s mean or aggressive, but because she’s cautious. She needs the chance to get to know others a bit first before she plays.
So for Zuzu, she gets plenty of opportunities to make new friends and play with other dogs. However, we do it in a more structured setting and in one-on-one play dates. She does much better with those, and I can help her to develop appropriate social skills without overwhelming her.
While the dog park was a great experience for Romeo for a while, I know that it will not be for Zuzu. So she will not be going to any dog parks any time soon.
Are dogs parks a good choice for your dog or not?