Advantages of Dog Parks
The benefits are clear and potent. Dog parks offer a safe space where individuals can train and watch their dogs play. Our society is becoming less and less accepting of our canine friends, and elsewhere they are also not welcome.
Dog parks will at their finest, promote socialization with a range of breeds and breed types. For young dogs who have so much energy and no place to put it, they can be a great help. Some also act as a social hub, a place where people meet to talk, share news, and commiserate with each other. It replaces family conversation for many and is their only contact with fellow human beings for others. This is probably why some can not bring themselves to do it when I recommend that a client not visit dog parks. The camaraderie they miss so much.
Disadvantages of Dog Parks
Depending on the dog and its owner, the drawbacks are not so easy but can be much more effective. "The architecture of parks exacerbates some of these. The real concerns, both brief and long-term, are mental.
Quite sometimes, owners unintentionally contribute to these concerns because they do not know what their dogs are really doing and experiencing, or do not perceive correctly. Some of the issues only create problems when dogs encounter and connect with other dogs. Others may cause the worsening of future actions. And still, others have a strong influence on dog/owner experiences.
Dogs are social creatures, but they appear to prefer familiar faces, much like humans. Just like we don't greet and talk with anyone we meet on the street regularly, dogs don't have to meet all the other dogs. It also takes time for one dog to feel comfortable with another, and they need time to determine how to react. As we know, in a dog park scenario, time is not always available. Even nice dogs who feel insecure can therefore give people the impression that they are "aggressive," especially when they first meet a dog.
The latter dog can snarl or air bite to make the Labrador flee if, for example, an excessively exuberant Labrador Retriever approaches a herding mix. After that, they will meet nicely, as far as the herding dog is concerned. People are likely to mark the herding dog "aggressive," however and punish her (or ostracize the owner at least!). This is an all-around poor learning experience. The Labrador has not learned to suppress his style of greeting that he would have if he had not been disrupted by humans overreacting, and the herding dog has learned that a) usual alarms do not work, and b) her owner would not back her up.
Dog Park Play easily teaches a dog that the owner has no power over him when owners are not vigilant. We've all seen an owner chasing her dog, calling in vain as the animal remains out of sight, staring at her from afar, or just completely ignoring her. And this is after the dog has learned to bark all the way to the dog park hysterically in the car, then drag the owner through the parking lot, and then sprint away from her as soon as the leash is off.
Dogs understand that when owners stand by and encourage other dogs to play too roughly, and to body slam and roll them over, their owners can not keep them safe from harm. It is important to note when addressing this point that the sense of safety of the dog matters far more than the perception of the person. This can be challenging for owners who can ignore the apparent fear of their dog since unjustified, as they "know" that the other dog(s) are not dangerous. Not only does a dog that is pursued or bullied by another dog learn to avoid other dogs, but he also discovers that his handler is utterly ineffective.
Problematic Play Styles
Styles of dog play can be drastically different, and they are often not compatible with each other. This can cause misunderstandings or even battles, and some playing styles can even be amplified. Other dogs also overpower dogs who appear to be very aggressive in play. No one prevents their style of play. He might be playing, but he's also learning, and what he's learning is not exactly what we want to teach. The only unwanted consequence when bully-type dogs interact with similar dogs is that they don't learn how to be friendly with other dogs. They understand that they can overwhelm other dogs if they intimidate smaller dogs, which sometimes happens, and they appear to replicate the action. The weaker dogs understand that the signs of cut-off or appeasement do not work, and they learn to be wary of other dogs... sometimes all other dogs, sometimes only bullies-like dogs.
In a park, where resources are sometimes few and far between, resource guarding may become very problematic. Some dogs are protecting their own toys, some are trying to take other dogs' things. Some keep the goods, others only want the dog who "owns" the toy to taunt. Squabbles over resources can quickly escalate into nasty wars, with people seated at a picnic table or on a bench.
Interestingly enough, leash irritation is often an offshoot of dog park experiences; a canine temper tantrum. There are a few justifications for this. When a dog is so excited about the possibility of playing, leash irritation sometimes starts when he pulls his trainer all the way to the park, lunging and barking, often for blocks. His irritated owner pulls back and shouts at the puppy, thus raising the excitement. By the time the dog gets to the park, for something really physical, like a war, he's all fired up.
Leash irritation often happens because dogs who visit parks wrongly assume that any other dog they see should be met. Once again, they appear to tug on the lead when thwarted, and the owner is yanked out. The dog tends to be violent as the anger builds, thereby causing other owners to pull their dogs back in fear. Finally, irritation with the leash can lead to real violence. Sometimes since their dogs are so good off-leash, and holy terrors on a leash, owners of these dogs would be very confused.
Many dogs are very close to their owners and would stick around in their vicinity. These dogs are also concerned with or scared of other dogs, and when they're approached, they will growl or expose their teeth. The owners "facilitate" this activity unconsciously by standing next to their dog, who then depends on them to assist if a war ensures. If this conduct is replicated frequently enough they may revert to that conduct if they feel threatened by a variety of dogs.
Another type of encouraging aggression happens when the dog park is visited by two or more dogs in a family. Both will gang up on a third dog, probably scaring him or her or worse.
Although many dogs enjoy playing with others throughout their life, once they have achieved social maturity, a large number do not. These dogs will lose interest in other dogs slowly and will tell them to quit. Some dogs are very hesitant to go into dog parks, which can be out of reach, as we have noted. To show their displeasure, others may snarl or snap.
Sometimes, dogs playing in parks can not slow down, and some can get into a state of sustained enthusiasm that gets them into trouble. A dog that has been involved in an incident in which the level of excitement is very high can start other incidents inappropriately and uncharacteristically, often with unwanted results.
Finally, a traumatic event that can not be completely understood or erased can have an effect on a young dog. An attacked puppy or teenager may well exhibit violent actions that begin after that incident. A young dog may also be traumatized by what the owners feel are trivial incidents. I compare that kind of trauma to that experienced by a traumatized child probably by getting trapped in an elevator. All elevators are bad after the first encounter, even though she intellectually acknowledges that all elevators are not bad. Pity the poor puppy, who has no reason to realize that what happened once doesn't always happen again.
The Power of Knowledge
In dog parks, of course, owners play an important part, and sometimes don't acknowledge the responsibility they should have. Many do not pay attention to their dog, and many do not know what proper conduct constitutes, or what a dog can signal to another dog. Some protect their dogs when bad or improper conduct is displayed by the animal. Some overreact to a typical interaction in which the interest of another is discouraged by one dog. Some owners sometimes use parks as babysitters, sometimes leaving their dogs unattended while they are shopping. And most owners have much less power than they assume over their pets!
It's a difficult job to teach owners. Many strongly believe that their dogs are socialized in the right way, and don't like suggestions that they restrict dog park time or track their dog and others. Teaching them what fair play looks like is the first move, and it is a crucial second step to motivate them to actually disrupt bad experiences. Sometimes, individuals do not want to upset other owners of dogs, so they encourage bad conduct to continue.
By explaining what suitable experiences look like maybe by narrating what the dogs are doing while two dogs play, trainers will help them understand.
This amazing dog park is located near the following must-visit dog-friendly parks near Livermore, California:
Del Mar Dog Park
Dougherty Hills Dog Park
Cubby's Dog Park
Windemere Dog Park
Vista Meadows Park
Bruno Canziani Neighborhood Park
Max Baer Park
After visiting these lovely dog parks make sure to stop by and say “Hello” to us at our downtown Danville location, DPG Pavers Danville Location on 4115 Blackhawk Plaza Circle!