Dog parks are a place where both dogs and their owners can go to socialize. But are they good or bad? Though there popularity has skyrocketed in the past few years, they have both supporters and people who don't feel comfortable bringing their dog there for a variety of reasons.
Dog parks provide an outlet for many dogs to burn off pent up energy that might otherwise result in frustration that leads to destructive behavior at home. People are often advised to give their dog plenty of exercise, and one of the most convenient and popular places people look to for their dog's exercise outlet is at a dog park.
There their dogs can run and play with other dogs. They can have interaction with other dogs that they wouldn't otherwise have on a solo dog walk in the neighborhood. This is an excellent way for a dog to build up his socialization skills as long as the owners of the dogs remain vigilant in monitoring their dog's interactions. There are rules in most dog parks. Dogs are usually separated to some extent by size, with the large dogs having their own area in which to run and play and the small dogs are then free to run in their own area behind fencing without fear of being mauled and attacked. Some parks may only allow spayed and neutered dogs to play which reduces any problems with fighting for reproductive reasons. Another positive aspect of dog parks is that they allow dog owners to meet each other and discuss concerns about their dogs and other things. Quite often people know each other only by their "dog's" name , not their own! Dog parks have many positive benefits to both dogs and owners providing there are rules and everyone abides by them and respects other dog owners and their dogs.
On the negative side of things ,despite efforts to ensure only dogs with good manners come to parks, there can still be fights that break out amongst dogs in dog parks. Under the right (or wrong) conditions, any dog can play rough or get into a fight. Dogs have been known to be injured at dog parks. Some of the rules that were spoken about prior can require owners to show some proof of vaccination before allowing their dogs to enter.
This can be a hassle and dogs can still pass on illnesses to each other. Some dogs such as pitbulls, rotweillers, and other more aggressive breeds are excluded from some parks. This can seem discriminatory to owners of these dogs when their dogs have been known to shown no signs of aggression. Other people feel that it's unfair to deny park privileges to intact dogs, especially when female dogs are not in season.
As with many situations, much of the negative behavior that happens with dogs at dog parks is due to the lack of involvement of their owners. Even though it is a free environment and the dogs are enjoying themselves, owners still need to watch and understand their dog and his body language so that they can head off any altercations that may be brewing. With increased supervision on the part of dog owners, the likelihood of dogs getting hurt, either through rough play or by becoming involved in fights, can definatively be lowered. Some owners do not watch their dogs very carefully or they allow small dogs to pick fights with large dogs, or large dogs to run over small dogs. This then creates tension and bad feelings amongst the owners, which unbeknownst to many, can transfer to the dogs.
It's important to consider all of these different points when you are thinking of taking your own dog to a dog park. Ask yourself some honest questions. Is your dog friendly with other dogs? Is your dog up-to-date on his vaccinations? Does he have any kind of lingering virus that he might pass on to other dogs? Is he very small or very large or likely to be injured during play? Will he come to you when you call if there is any kind of trouble in the dog park? Will you be able to watch your dog carefully if you take him to the dog park?
Whether or not dog parks are good or bad for your dog requires that you give these questions careful consideration before deciding if you want to take your dog to the park. Dog parks can be lots of fun for dogs but it's up to you to look out for your dog and keep him safe wherever you take him.
Darcy Austin is the chief editor of Dog Obedience University, an information-rich site that provides articles and resources on modifying your dog's behavior.
Go there and enroll in the free mini-course and learn more about reinforcing positive dog behavior.
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