Dog parks can seem like a brilliant idea until you get there and your dog doesn’t know how to behave. A single situation can go wrong and lead into an attack or fight, which can cause life-long reactivity or fear aggression in your dog. The bummer reality is that dog parks are not the playground most people think they are. Here are the most common problems dog owners encounter at the dog park.
1. Poor Sanitation
Let’s start with something simple like sanitation. Often pet owners neglect to pick up after their dog. It’s definitely an eyesore to walk into a park that has poo everywhere and worse, it’s really bad for your dog. There are a lot of diseases and parasites living in dog waste that other dogs can contract when they touch, roll in, or eat it. Unpleasant on all counts. So let’s avoid the spread of disease and follow this simple rule of etiquette. You also earn bonus points for bringing extra poop bags for other owners.
2. Overly excited dog
Warming up your dog before going to the dog park can spell the difference between an exuberant and well behaved dog. If your dog has been inside or alone for hours it probably has a lot of pent-up energy, bring your dog to a stimulating environment such as the park can make it too excited about running after other dogs resulting in chases and even fights.
3. Bringing dogs with rude greeting skills.
Just like obnoxious and awkward introductions that people experience, introductions are also important to dogs. It makes a difference on how dogs get along. Humans need to help dogs make polite introductions to each other. It is essential to having positive experiences at a dog park. Here are some rude introductions to look out for:
- Allowing your dog to go charging up to a dog that has just entered the park. The new dog is possibly on edge, examining its environment and level of safety, so your dog running full speed to that new dog could be asking for an instant fight.
- Allowing your dog to mount another dog in a dominance display.
- Allowing your dog to continue sniffing another dog that is clearly uncomfortable with being sniffed is, again, rude.
4. Leaving prong collars and harnesses on dogs while playing.
Though it may seem logical to leave a prong collar, choke chain, gentle leader or harness on a dog — after all, that’s where you attach the leash, right? — it’s a bad idea. The neck and shoulders are where most dogs aim their nips and nibbles during play. Having metal contraptions where another dog is roughly shoving its mouth is inviting broken teeth, broken jaws, broken paws and legs, and potentially a huge dog fight if another panicked dog can’t detach itself from your dog’s neck. Never leave on special training devices while in dog parks.
5. Keeping dogs on leashes inside an off-leash area.
A dog on leash is essentially a tripping hazard, especially if the leashed dog begins to play. A firm tug on a wrapped up lead could mean, if not a broken leg, a panicked dog whose first experience of a dog park is one of fear and anxiety. In addition, dogs on leash can feel more insecure because they know they can’t escape if they need to, so they can actually trigger fights that might not otherwise have happened. Second, people who use retractable leashes are dangerous. If extended, other dogs running loose can run straight into that thin cord and get injured.
6. Bringing a female in heat or pregnant female.
I don’t think I need to go into detail on this one. It happens — even though it never, ever should.
7. Bringing puppies less than 12 weeks old or dogs with incomplete vaccinations.
Puppies under 12 weeks that haven’t been fully immunized are very susceptible to diseases. Bringing your puppy to the dog park would mean exposing it to parasites and diseases. Unlike older puppies or adult dogs who have been immunized and can handle treatment your unimmunized puppy can pick up anything from parvo to distemper, Giardia or worms that their tiny bodies have a hard time handling.
8. Small dogs in same play area as large dogs.
Having small dogs and big dogs together in one park can cause a whole lot of trouble. Sadly not all dog parks have designated play areas. Small dogs can often be viewed as prey by large dogs. It is not unreasonable for a Rottweiler to look at a Yorkshire terrier like it’s a squirrel. The squeaking barks and speedy movements of a panicked small dog can also be enough to switch on the prey drive in a large dog and disaster happens. If you bring a small dog to a park where large dogs are playing, it’s on you if something happens to that tiny pooch. Is it worth the risk? Probably not.
9. Allowing dogs to bully other dogs.
Watching out for play gestures helps your dog have a socially appropriate encounter with other dogs. You might think it’s cute when your dog is bouncing all over another dog, but it’s not. A play bow from a little distance away is cute. A tag-and-run request for play is cute. But constantly nipping at another dog’s neck and pouncing him to try to get a game of wrestle going is obnoxious. Especially when the dog on the receiving end isn’t comfortable with it. If your dog is getting too rough or rude with a dog that is not liking it, it’s time to call your dog over and have her leave that dog alone. If you don’t, you’re asking for a fight between the dogs, or getting yelled at by the owner of the poor dog being bullied.
10. Chatting with other humans rather than supervising the dogs.
As pet owners it is our responsibility to watch over our dogs. Think of it like taking children to a playground, putting them on the jungle gym with other kids, and then turning your back on them to chat with other parents. That’s frowned upon, right? Same with dogs. Too many people feel they can let loose their dog in a fenced park and then just have a nice chat with other dog owners. Avoid chatting with other owners or being on your phone at the dog park. Keep a watchful eye over your dog.
Top 10 Dog Park Problems Pet Owners Encounter