Are dog parks a good or bad thing?
Recently I was walking in the local dog park happily drinking my Flat white, Xtra hot, watching all the dogs running around playing together having a great time. And then it struck me, were they actually enjoying themselves and more importantly was every dog enjoying themselves.
We blindly take our dogs to the dog park for exercise as we are told that ‘ALL DOG NEED TO RUN’. We then unclip their leads and throw them into the free running nirvana of the dog world. What an idyllic, wonderful picture I’ve painted.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENS
Actually what really happens is that the owner gets dragged into the dog park, originally the dog used to wait at the gate, but due to bad training that doesn’t happen any more. The owner then releases the dog and haphazardly throws them a ball, whilst he or she takes that important phone call or catches up with their mates on Facebook or Instagram.
Meanwhile their dog is tearing around the park, charging and bowling over other dogs, large and small, barking, stealing other dogs toys and free-loading treats from any human it can find. But that’s fine because their owner has just got 20 likes on their recent post. We all know that all of these behaviours I’ve mentioned can escalate into aggressive interaction with other dogs if not supervised. Of course the dog’s not really a bully, there is generally not ill-intent on the dogs behalf, they don’t know and difference, due to lack of socialisation.
You see Dog Parks haven’t been created to allow bully’s to make easy pickings of less confident dogs. Dog Parks were created so that all ‘SOCIABLE’ dogs could interact and have fun. They were created so that people could build communities and even make new friends. Most legal bylaws, state that you must have control of your dog when taking them to a Dog Park. To me that means a SOLID RECALL at the very least.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES
So what about the little tiny dog that has just been frightened half to death by the marauding bully? Well depending on the nature of the interaction, this dog may well develop fear based anxiety, leading to behavioural issues, regardless of how well socialised he was as a puppy. You see every interaction a dog has, has a consequence. It’s either a ‘LOVE IT’ consequence or ‘ A HATE IT’ consequence. If it’s a ‘HATE IT’ and it’s of high enough intensity, it can cause a fear base anxiety to develop.
I was recently talking to a client that has a medium size dog, who always used to go to the dog park, but due to a previous bad experiences, her dog is now unable to interact with other dogs safely! This was a perfectly balanced and sociable dog that was set upon by a BULLY, because their owner wasn’t paying attention. My clients is now suffering the humiliation and frustration of owning a crazy aggressive dog. And sadly her dog is now restricted to on lead walks in the dead of night or isolated beach walks early in the morning. Thankfully our training can help.
What I’m trying to say here is that yes ‘EVERY DOG HAS A RIGHT TO RUN’, but if you haven’t put the hard work into your dog’s training first of all, and you haven’t got that solid recall and your dog hasn’t got a grasp on controlling his aggressive tendencies. Then DON’T let them run free in a dog park, until you do the training.
Spare a thought for the consequences of your dogs actions. Yes you can pay the vet bills for a bite, but I’ve never heard anyone say they would contribute to the Fees for a Canine Bahaviourist to train the vicitims dog out of their fear based anxiety complex. Which is likely to take a considerable amount of time and money.
A final thought
We have 6 dogs, 2 of which are rescue dogs. Both rescues dogs have fear based anxiety around other dogs. These range from minor aggression through to full on aggression depending on how intense the interaction with another dogs is. Do we let these dogs go running free in a dog park with other dogs? NO WAY, they just wouldn’t cope, at the moment. The outcome would not be beneficial for either party. Saying that we have trained them to be great running free with our own dogs and a few friends dogs, and they are getting better on lead now, but this has taken time and is an ongoing project.