Not All Dog Parks Are Created Equal

Dog parks vary in size and amenities.  Some are designed to separate dogs by size, others in more urban areas where space is scarce are most often inclusive of all sizes.

Dog parks offer a great space for dogs to smell traces of other dogs through their urine sediments or fecal deposits. We often think dogs need to meet face to face but that is not the way dogs greet one another.  For many dogs living in restricted captivity, the lack of exposure to all things in life has created unbalance and internal conflict leaving them nervous, apprehensive, afraid and anxious.
With these energies, dogs parks are unsafe especially due to the limitations in space.

Dog parks exists for social dogs to have socially rich experiences and interactions with one another, however:

  • Many use dogs parks in hope their unsocial dogs would become social around other dogs.
  • Even for socially apt dogs, lack of space prevents movement, and lack of movement creates tensions resulting in quick, abrupt reactivity and unnecessary defensive behaviors – mainly to create space between individuals.

Dog parks are not safe or unsafe on their own.  People make it so.  

I know a group of friends who live in the same condominium and have noted when their dog park is not in use. Their dogs have all grown up knowing one another.  On the weekends they often staycation or hike together.  On the weekday evenings, they’ll meet up at their condominium dog park to allow their dogs to have a “play date.”

Knowing these dogs, I was curious to observe them together in the dog park.  So one evening I joined them.  While their human parents called this a “play date,” the dogs greeted each other happily and then all went off their own ways with their noses to the ground smelling and “meeting” the other dogs who had previously used the park.

This is a great use of the space, as these dogs know the spaced doesn’t serve them well for full on play.  And, they also know (based on their routines) that their play time comes on weekends when they are enjoying the great outdoors – more space, more smells, more textures, a more suitable setting for interacting with one another with more body.

Dog parks are not suitable for many dogs

The changing groups force stress upon the dogs, and they don’t get the opportunity to really know each other or develop relationships with one another.  Thus entering dog parks is like walking into fire; heated and causing fired up reactions all in the attempt to keep themselves safe from the perceived threat of the unknown or unfamiliar and rapid and ongoing change.

Pet parents are told repeatedly about the importance of socializing their dogs.  Yet, not given the means by which to do so, and directions on how to do so. For example, I have heard dog trainers advise new puppy parents to expose their puppies to as many dogs (and new things) as possible – advice we counter at Doglando.

As a result, new puppy parents join a quest to expose their dogs to as many people, places, animals and things without concern to how their dog is receiving, processing, and learning from these haphazard encounters.