Dog Parks are for People!

During the first few months I had Loker, I took him to dog parks in hopes that it would diminish his frustration on leash. I knew he was frustrated on leash because he wanted to go see other dogs. He often got compliments at the dog park about how polite he was with other dogs. He never got into physical games and played chase with dogs that were interested. Even during the few scuffles we encountered, he would circle around the dogs instead of getting involved. I was never worried that he would get in trouble with other dogs at the park, but I stopped going anyways. 

Positive reinforcement training involves a relationship between owner and dog. His problem wasn’t that he didn’t know how to interact with other dogs, it was that he didn’t value my attention and presence enough to listen to me in the presence of other dogs. The excitement that other dogs gave him were worth more than almost anything I could give him. Granted, we had only been together a couple of months, I wanted to teach him that I could be even better and more valuable than other dogs. So we quit going to dog parks and began to focus on our relationship.

This brings me to the point of today’s post – Dog parks are for People. People bring their dogs to the park so that they can watch their dogs have fun and play with other dogs – watching that gives a human a great sense of satisfaction. That somehow you are fulfilling your dog’s “need” to interact with other dogs. I know this because it always made ME happy to watch him run around with other dogs. BUT the real questions are: was my DOG happy to be there? were the OTHER dogs happy to be there? did they really need to be there? should they be there?

In my opinion, the true purpose of a dog park is to give people with dogs an opportunity to meet up and show off their dogs. They aren’t really there for their dogs. If they were thinking about the mental health and safety of their dog, they wouldn’t even be there in the first place. There are lots of horror stories out there where dogs have attacked each other at dog parks – it is definitely not in the dog’s best interest to go interact with completely strange, unknown dogs. Who know’s what their history is? There could be behavioral issues and you can be sure there are diseases to be spread all around. Illnesses like kennel cough don’t show up for a few days so people could unknowingly bring a sick dog to the park. I know some people claim, “My dog needs  some socialization.” That phrase scares me, because: 1) If your dog is an adult, it is past it’s socialization period and you need to do formal training with a professional to make any behavior improvements. 2) If you are there to “socialize” your dog you have little to no knowledge on dog behavior and your dog is a potential threat to all other dogs there. 3) How would it help your dog to learn manners by “socializing” with strange, unknown dogs. If your dog gets attacked, it will be permanently scarred for life.

All these reasons being me to think dog parks aren’t really for the dogs. It is not in their interest to be there. Dog parks cause much stress on any dog, even the most friendly and well-behaved. If you take your dog to the dog park regularly, please reconsider. :)