The pluses and minuses of dog parks: are they right for my dog and me?

The pluses and minuses of dog parks: are they right for my dog and me?

by Dr. Debra F. Horwitz | Behavior Bits

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Some dogs enjoy dog parks and some do not. While many dogs enjoy playing with other dogs, their ability to do so in a friendly manner depends on many things. Early socialization and playtime with other even-tempered dogs should teach your dog what is appropriate “doggy” play. Dogs that are adopted as young adults or adults usually have an unknown history. Furthermore, some dogs may not want new dog friends and may find being a situation with a large number of other dogs to be anxiety- provoking while some may even show aggressive responses.

An important aspect of dog parks revolves around how aware each dog owner is about what is going on not only with their dog, but the other dogs present. All pet owners should be watching their own dog, not just visiting with people. Some dogs are overly playful and jump and nip at dogs that find this behavior problematic. If nice dog-appropriate rejections do not work in these instances or if an owner intervenes, a fight may result. It is also not recommended to bring toys to a dog park as these can cause fights between dogs. Size is another issue and it is often safest to have a dog park that has a play area for small dogs and one for larger dogs. Hint: chasing in play should be bi-directional. Go both ways and let each dog take a turn being chased or chased by the other dog. If one dog always chases another who is clearly trying to get away; that is not considered “play” and is not fun for the chased dog. It is then probably time for that dog to go home.

Finally some dog parks have a regular cast of characters so you know which dogs come at the same time you do and can decide if that works for you and your dog as well. Do not feel like there is something wrong with your dog if she doesn’t like dog parks. Some people do not like going to places with a lot of unfamiliar people either! Most importantly, when you go to a dog park and it seems that your dog is not having fun, take her home or just go for a “sniff walk”. Not everyone, dog or human, is cut out for large social gatherings

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About the Author

Dr. Debra Horwitz is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists as well as an author, editor and co-editor of several books; including Decoding Your Dog and Decoding Your Cat.


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