A lot of people love taking their dogs to a dog park because they believe this is the best way to socialize a dog and just allow their dog to let loose, get some energy out and have some fun with other dogs. But there are major issues with showing up to a crowded dog park, and just letting your dog loose. I have not taken my dogs to a dog park in years. As much as we would like to think that every dog present in the park is well behaved, and universally friendly with all dogs and people, that thought is naïve. The majority of people who own dogs are not aware of what their dog’s true temperament is because we tend to be biased with our own dogs. For the most part, almost everyone will say their dog is friendly, great with people, super social etc., and this is likely to be said because we have either only observed our dogs in limited interactions and scenarios, or because often people will make excuses for and defend their dog’s behavior because of the inability that a novice person has to recognize fear, anxiety, people/dog/food/toy aggression in their dog. From there, signs of behavior that needs to be addressed and corrected are ignored and people persist to place their dogs in situations where they can either fail or their dog can be the victim of another dog’s owner failing to be mindful of the fact that their dog should not be at a park and not be off leash with other dogs.
When dogs are thrown into unknown situations, with unknown factors like the stimulation/commotion that is a dog park, with random people/children, tennis balls, treats, and the greatest factor of all, other dogs- there is no precise or predictable outcome. With this being said it is our job as responsible owners to minimize the likelihood that our dogs are placed in an environment or situation where we have so little control of who and what our pets come come into contact with. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen people bring their children into the dog park and allow them to ride bikes, people whom allow their dogs to hump other dogs and people, and dogs that are clearly dog aggressive freely running around nipping at other dogs...the list goes on. The tension and uncertainly within a crowded dog park is like that of a prison yard. I say this not because dogs share a likeness to criminals but the factors that are unknown in the given environment make it as such. At a moment’s notice tempers can flare, fights can break out, and the vast majority of people escalate the situation by yelling and screaming while they hit and kick their dog or someone else’s. Interestingly enough, this does not even discourage most from staying at the dog park, or returning the next day. As a smart person once said in regards to defining insanity, it is “doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”
I guess my point is that the only thing we can do is know our dogs the absolute best we can, train them as best we can and in this process become aware of any issues our dogs may have that could at some point endanger themselves or others and lastly address those. I would steer clear of dog parks. The majority of people are not competent enough to know that even the best behaved and trained dogs can become reactive dogs if placed under the right amount of stress. Incidents at dog parks can create aggression, fear and anxiety within your dog, even if those issues may have not existed before. There is no sense in setting our dogs up for a potentially volatile outcome if we can prevent it. Of course this does not mean that we shouldn’t socialize our dogs with other dogs, or walk them in public ever again. The point I stress is knowing your dog and socializing your dog with others who are competent and educated about their dog as well.