You are never given the dog you want, but the dog you need.

Thoughts on Dog Parks

So here’s my question of the day- Dog Parks, yay or nay?

(warning: there will be some slight rambling)

I ask because they seem to be cropping up everywhere and I’m not entirely sure what to think of them. On one hand, I want to think that they’re a good idea, but on the other…I see faults that I’m cautious of. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of getting your dog’s more socialized with the big wide world. I fully support that.

What I don’t necessarily support is the idea of sending my pet, who is up to date on his shots, into an area where not all the others may be. While there isn’t much for me to worry about, I do worry about other people’s pets getting ill. Call me crazy, but there’s just something a little worrying about people not keeping their pets up to date and then sending them out to play with others…Bordetella, Parvo, Corona virus…they’re still very real. And what about the issue with pack hierarchies? You’re sending your dog into an area where there is no established rank and fights between dominant dogs are very likely to occur unless they’ve been well trained. Even if they are well trained, even the best dog, once released from it’s leash can succumb to either the dominant desire or the desire to hover near you to stay out of the rankings. Not all owners are aware that this goes on, but it does. The majority of dogs are content to stay near their people and away from the more dominant dogs, but people seem to get frustrated by their pets lack of involvement without realizing the reason for it.

Now, I’m not implying that dog parks are breeding grounds of disease. Really, I’m not. As a former 4-H’er (I say that as if I’m not still involved to some degree…how silly of me…), part of my knowledge exams were over the various diseases, infections, parasites, etc, that your pet can get over their lifetime. So, as a result of this, I can’t help but consider those possibilities.

I have no doubt that I’m just needlessly pondering such things, but that’s just how my brain works. I imagine that 99.9% of the dog owners who do use these parks are responsible with their pets and have them up to date on everything and that their companions are already well socialized and able to play well with others. It’s simply the fact that as a kid, I grew up in the boonies and we never really had an issue with our dogs being aggressive towards anything but raccoons and hardly ever towards each other (unless someone stole a bone, that is). Even now, the concept of taking a dog to a dog park seems like, well…too much effort. Our dogs at home have plenty of room to run (they’ve got umpteen acres should they so choose), so that’s not why they would need to go there. All of them have been well socialized thanks to 4-H and AKC. All of them play well together. They all had plenty of things to do, keeping us kids in line when we were younger, following dad around, riding with him in the bulldozer, going on runs with us, you name it. Our dogs have never had the need for a dog park, so for this reason, I’ve never been able to grasp the concept of them.

The first reason is this-We have two very dominant dogs in their own right. Until this last year, our Aussie and terrier squabbled between themselves constantly as they tried to establish their own pack ranking. Bella could tell Disney was getting up in the years and wanted to take over, while Disney wanted no part in that train of thought. In his mind, he was still the top dog. Only in this last year has he finally settled into his Beta position and seems to accept it most days. To place either of them in a position where dominance would be an issue is not something I would be willing to do. On leash, both are very well behaved unless someone else threatens them first. Most the time, both will just ignore the challenge, opting to look up at mom or I with this look that says “Make them go away. I’m being a good dog and don’t want to deal with this.” Only once either is physically provoked will they react. Off leash is much the same, save for the fact that both will growl before looking towards their person for the call back command.

I’ll be honest though.  The main reason I could never take our pups to a park would be this- Put them into a car and let them know they’re going somewhere fun? Oh goodness. Let the panting, huffing, and slobbering on the windows begin.

It’s bad enough taking either of them to the pet store, let alone a 4-H meeting or even the grocery store for milk. Disney, when I showed him, would race across the backseat, panting his little head off out of enthusiasm. And Bella? She’s just obnoxious about it. That furry head will be crammed next to your window and face in five seconds flat. Roll down the window even a little? Expect her to snot on it profusely as she tries to ram her nose out of it, snot bubbles and all. She’s just ridiculous. Amusing, but ridiculous.

Couple this…enthusiasm…with the fact that neither really likes to share their toys (they prefer to squirrel them away so you can’t play with them anymore) and neither really ‘plays’ per se, and a dog park just doesn’t have much appeal to me. At that point, it doesn’t seem like either of them would get much out of it. Disney would just look annoyed at the younger ones wanting to play with him when all he wants to do is follow his girl around and Bella would get huffy at the ones who, heaven forbid, would want to play with HER toy. She’s very particular about who plays with her gutted fox toy or her hedgehog.

Now, before you think our pups don’t like to play with other dogs, they do. Despite their non-sharing natures, they do like other dogs. Just not enough to share toys. Those are theirs and you’d end up with a very pouty pup if you tried to convince them otherwise. Spoiled? Probably. But having a dislike of playing? Never. They just want you to do it on their terms 🙂

Bella has her two siblings around our area that she still goes nuts towards when she sees them. Libby and Striker are still her best buds, even more so now because Disney finds her a little too energetic for his old man self. He would much rather play with the dreaded spider fingers or gnaw on his chewie bone than get bowled over by a bouncing Aussie. I digress from my original topic though.

How many of you out there actually use dog parks? Do your dogs and the others actually get along well together? What draws you to use them (apartment life, lack of yard, etc)? What do you see as the pros and cons?

Post your thoughts or answers in the comments and let me know!

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One response

  1. Alison

    As someone who frequents a dog park, I love it. You know Satchel doesn’t get many opportunities to socialize with other dogs and she has a limited place to run in the back yard.

    Diseases do travel in dog parks. Whenever we go to the vet Satchel has to receive extra shots because of it. In that way I know she is protected so I am not too concerned.

    As for dominance hierarchies, I don’t think they occur spontaneously in the dog park. The dogs change too quickly for any pack to be established. However, I have seen people bring multiple dogs that already have a pack mentality because they live together. That can be dangerous if they decide to pick on one dog.

    Satchel gets along well with the other dogs. When we first started going, she was too shy to approach anyone so we didn’t stay long. Now she has no problem approaching dogs and or letting dogs approach her and we have never had a bad experience. Most importantly, I have never seen a dog injured at a park. If I felt the atmosphere was too aggressive, we wouldn’t go.

    One of the pros of the dog park (for Satchel anyways) is that it gives her a chance to socialize with PEOPLE. Sometimes adults or children will go up and pet her and I know this is out of her comfort zone. Especially when they pet her without her knowing (I.E approaching from behind).

    The con of going to the dog park is that not everybody can control their dog. A few times I have seen people unable to call their dog back to them. Also some dogs are not neutered and will hump anything. It doesn’t bother me so much because Satchel just avoids them, but it shocked me that owners didn’t care. I think they need to keep their dog from humping, avoid the park if its a problem, or neuter the dog.

    February 5, 2012 at 3:52 pm

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