A dog park can be an asset or a detriment to a community. I will attempt to provide, the pros and cons, the advantages, disadvantages and things to think about for people who are contemplating going to dog parks with their four legged friends.
A dog park can be an excellent source of dog-dog social interaction as well as dog-people social interaction. It can also prove to be advantageous for people-people social interaction. Meeting and greeting other dog lovers can be quite rewarding. As a matter of fact, doggie play dates are often arranged between doggie owners.
Dog parks are excellent sources of off-leash exercise for active dogs. The parks allow dogs to get adequate physical and mental exercise, thereby lessening destructive and annoying behaviors that may be occurring in homes.
They also provide good opportunities for owners to learn about dogs, other than their particular breed, through observation and new owners are often provided with training knowledge by more experienced owners. Taking a dog to the park also gives new owners a chance to see demonstrations of how others may have turned their less obedient dogs into a well-mannered member of the park canine crew.
Dogs parks which are designed for dogs only, lessen the chance of owners letting their dogs off-leash in on-leash park areas. There are no cars, no rollerbladers, skateboarders, bikes, etc., just dogs. What a wonderful opportunity for dog lovers to meet other dog lovers and talk about Sophie, Pugsley, Rambo, Biscuit and Hercules. Dog parks can also provide location for community dog activities.
Potential of danger from aggressive dogs. Potential of danger of physical injury from dog-related hazards. Potential of lawsuits arising from dog fights. Potential for parasites. These are dangers people may face.
There are also dangers for the dogs such as aggression from other dogs, intact (unspayed or unneutered) dogs may create problems, potential for parasites and disease, potential for lack of impulse control and over-excitement, not appropriate for small and large dogs in the same area and of course, potential for injury.
Some people who go to dog parks do not understand the concept and will abuse the privilege of taking their dogs to park by not picking up after themselves and their dogs, may leave their dogs unattended, and may allow their dogs to indulge in inappropriate behaviors. Some people will not be educated enough about their dogs to know if a dog park is appropriate for their pets – personality, need to be alpha male/female, etc..
Important Things To Remember:
Dog parks should have separate areas for small dogs. Even in play a 100 pound Labrador may injure a 5 pound Yorkshire Terrier. There should be well posted signs with rules and regulations, with an “if… then you must leave” clause included. Do not bring toys or treats with you as this can result in problems. An owner with treats or toys can be a very valuable resource for fights to occur over such objects of desire. Provide your dog with his/her own water as some dogs may treat public water container as urinal.
Ideally each park should have a core group of volunteers who will maintain it and enforce rules and regulations. However, that is usually not the case so it is up to each participant to oversee not only their own dog, but all of the dogs in the play area. Never just drop your dog off and decide to go for a jog. It is not safe. Dogs should be watched all of the time. Things can happen in a split second that would put your dog in jeopardy. You must be there to help avoid whatever crisis may occur.
It is also important to make sure that your dog has had all of his/her immunizations PRIOR to going to a dog park. If you are a pet owner who chooses not to give booster shots, I would suggest that you keep your dog at home to avoid interacting with other dogs. I, personally, do not give boosters, other than rabies, and therefore, my dogs do no socialize outside of their home. That is my choice after spending many hours reading about the pros and cons of boosters, and learning that sometimes boosters result in cancer at the injection sights. Like I said, this is my choice for my pets. Everyone has to make the decision for their own pets. However, if you do not give boosters, avoid dog parks at all costs. The risk for disease is there.
Dog parks can be fun for pets and their owners. Choose your dog park wisely. Make sure it is clean, watch to see that the other dog owners appear to be responsible and let your dog make the decision to partake in the activities that are going on. Your dogs will let you know if it is something they want to do. If not, do not force him/her. Just let him/her watch from the outside and perhaps next time they will want to enter the play area gates. Then again, they may never want to become park of the pack. That’s fine. It should be up to them. After all, you are there to make it a fun time for your dog. Let them enjoy it however they choose. It’s their day and their time. Bow Wow!