How to Know if The Dog Parks Right for Your Dog
The first thing to consider when wondering if the dog park is a good choice is will this be good for my dog. Not all dogs are dog park dogs, just like not all people are park people or social people. When you're trying to figure this out, there are some major questions to answer. One, does my dog enjoy playing with other dogs? Two, will this be a safe experience for my dog? Three, will the benefits out-weight the cons? Keep in mind when answering these questions that every dog is an individual and its completely fine if they're not the social type, this isn't something we ever want to force on a dog. Forcing a dog whose fearful or aggressive to socialize can actually make the problem much worse.
If you do have a social dog or puppy, then think about the area they will be in and the dogs they will be interacting with. Depending on the size of the area and the amount of dogs there, it's possible that the situation could still be overwhelming even to the most social dog. The pros of dog parks are huge: there's a great deal of socializing that helps your dog become well mannered, your pup can get mental and physical exercise, and you can monitor the interactions and adjust the situation if needed. The cons though, can also be pretty big: dogs can spread diseases, viruses, fleas, ticks, etc all through close interaction with each other. There's also the possibility that your dog gets hurt by another dog there.
How to Make Your Experience Great
In order to give yourself the best experience possible, theres a few key things to do. First, make sure your dog is up to date on all their vaccinations, flea and tick medications, and that they are generally able to handle other dog's in their personal space. It's especially important to think about thing with puppies as their immune systems are not as developed as adults and they have a greater risk of catching something from another dog.
It's really crucial to pay attention during your visit to the park. This means full eyes on attention, not multitasking with phone calls or texting. It only takes a second for an interaction between dogs to become violent and dangerous. This is why you'll want to be vigilant about who your dog interacts with and what their owners are doing as well. Are they also watching their dog? Or are they busy writing an email on their phone? This can make an enormous difference if two pups were to get into an altercation.
What to Watch Out for at the Dog Park
Some of the hazards of the dog park have the potential to leave life-long scars on your dog. Not just in the physical sense, but in the sense that they will be observing and mimicking the behavior that they see. This holds true especially with younger puppies. They will learn both good and bad manners from the others they interact with so it's important to choose their playmates wisely.
Young dogs who have been attacked at a park tend to carry that experience with them throughout their life and this can create issues with anxiety and aggression down the road. Even simple behaviors like barking or whining will be picked up by certain dogs. The way they act with others during these experiences will shape the way they respond to other dogs in the future.