To dog park or not to dog park
Dogs can be social butterflies and they can be shy but the dog park might not be the best place for either of these personality types and here is why. Dog parks can be a mess of overwhelming running, leaping, slamming dogs with out to lunch owners hanging in the corners on their phones or gabbing with each other leaving the dogs under supported. Bad things can happen to good dogs fast and sometimes what happens takes months to recover from.
I worked with a lovely dog named, Mandy years ago. Before I met Mandy her owners said she was a happy go lucky red Border collie puppy with pretty soft green eyes. She loved to meet people and other dogs and was confident, playful and relaxed. They were told they should take her to dog parks to keep her social by a trainer they met in town. They were told that Border collies are mouthy dogs and over focused on chasing and they should make sure she did not turn into one of “those Border collies” by keeping her tired out so she did not need a job. So they started bringing her to the local dog park. Mandy would play with some of the dogs and other times she was chased and chased and chased and would tire out and they would bring her home. Because she was tuckered out and crashed when they got home they thought Mandy was enjoying herself and getting what she needed and they were being great dog owners. They started noticing that Mandy started to shy away from dogs while they were out walking in the neighborhood and would whine and pace in the backseat of the car when they were getting close to the dog park. They thought since she was so excited to go to the dog park and no longer happy with her leash walks they phased out the walking for daily trips to the dog park where Mandy was chased and tired out, every single day weather permitted them to go. On the off chance they did not make it to the dog park they would walk her and were shocked at her leash behavior toward other dogs had gotten worse so back to the dog park they went. While at the park they noticed that Mandy was being cornered and would curl her lip at other dogs and snap in the air at them. They talked to their veterinarian about her behavior and they suggested giving me a call. I met Mandy and her owners at the dog park, I saw a whale eyed, anxious and reactive dog who was so stressed just walking up to the gate that I requested we go meet up at a nearby park. What they thought was excitement was
anxiety, what they thought was happy sleepy dog was a stressed fatigued dog, what they were told was wrong and they were just trying to be good owners. Mandy was taught to be reactive by being chased and hounded by dogs at the dog park. It took 7 months to undue 2 months of dog park stress.
Many dogs do not suffer as badly as Mandy did emotionally however they can learn that every single time you see a dog it means free playtime and those dogs can become reactive on leash out of frustration when they see another dog while walking. If you go to a dog park please make sure you and your dog are both happy while there. Always end on a positive and do not hesitate to leave if you do not like the energy of the group that trip, there is always tomorrow or later that day to check it out again.
Have safe and happy dogs!